Shares of Finova Group Inc. sank further Tuesday, continuing a long slide that began in March when the finance company's chief executive officer, Sam Eichenfield, resigned.
Since then, the stock has lost 76.9%. It reached $9.50 on May 11, stabilized in early summer, then dropped to $9 on Thursday, when Moody's Investors Service downgraded the Phoenix company's bonds to the junk category. Michael T. Vinciquerra of Raymond James & Associates of St. Petersburg, Fla., reiterated his "buy" rating for Finova, following a 22.1 % drop in the company's share price last week. Shares fell 25 cents Tuesday, or 3.28% to close at $7.375.
The stock's current price provides an opportunity "to step in," but the risk for investors is still high, because asset quality problems that surfaced in the first and second quarters are not resolved, and analysts do not have sufficient insight into the books to evaluate Finova's loan policy.
Finova's second-quarter earnings fell to $42 million, or 69 cents per share, from $53.7 million, or 83 cents per share, in the same period last year. The company added $38.8 million to its provisions for credit losses, after adding $17 million during the first quarter.
Now the main problem for Finova is to raise capital and to issue more profitable loans, Mr. Vinciquerra said.
Robert M. Schwartzberg, an analyst at Friedman, Billings, Ramsey & Co., who has a "accumulate" rating on the stock, said investors overreacted to the news of the debt downgrade. "Finova is now trading below its liquidation value," he said.
Investors are concerned about the size of Finova's loans, particularly after a large loan write-off in the first quarter, Mr. Schwartzberg said.
Mark C. Alpert of Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown said that it remains a mystery why Mr. Eichenfield left. The management took "eyes off the ball in underwriting loans" in the health care, transportation, and real estate sectors, he said. Finova is still solvent, he said, and might be a good buy for a bank.
Banking stocks rallied Tuesday as the Federal Open Markets Committee, as expected, left the overnight bank lending rate at 6.5%. The American Banker index of top 50 banks was up 1.73%; the index of 225 banks rose 2.08%.
"I can't remember a Fed decision that was so widely expected," said Fred Price, a principal at Sandler O'Neill & Partners. The central bankers responded to data that suggest a soft landing for the economy, he said.
Mr. Price said that he is confident that the Federal Reserve will not change the rates this year, but that it would not hurt banks' shares much if the Fed does act.
Charles H. Blood, director of markets strategy at Brown Brothers Harriman & Co., said there is still a possibility that growth may pick up. The Fed's decision at its next meeting on Oct. 3 will depend on consumption, which could increase if wealth continues to grow, he said.
Mr. Blood said the Fed clearly left an option for rate increases in the fall when it said, "The risks are weighted mainly toward conditions that may generate heightened inflation pressure in the foreseeable future."