After a spectacular run-up earlier this year, Norwest Corp. shares are not done yet, according to one Wall Street firm.
Henry C. Dickson of Smith Barney, Harris Upham & Co. on Thursday awarded the Minneapolis-based superregional an "outperform" rating, up from "neutral."
With Norwest "trading at a 33% discount to the Standard & Poor's 500 index, based on 1994 estimated earnings, we feel there is room for multiple expansion," Mr. Dickson said.
In late trading, Norwest shares were up 62.5 cents to $49.875. That is 18% below its peak of $56.12 on April 13, a decline typical of other bank stocks over the past two months.
Less of a Decline
But Norwest shares had previously soared 36.5%, marking it as one of the strongest stocks in the market this year. It surrendered only half that gain when banks slumped.
The stock has been such a strong performer that the Smith Barney analyst said the potential for profit-taking is among the drawbacks to fresh investing in the stock.
Mr. Dickson based his rating of "outperformance with low risk" on the expectation that Norwest will "continue reporting strong results and its operating performance levels will rank it among the best in the industry."
Estimated ROA 1.3%
He anticipates "annual earnings growth of 13% or more though 1995," with dividend growth at least as good.
He projects earnings of $4.05 a share this year and $4.60 next year. This implies return on assets of at least 1.3% and return on equity of 17.5%, he said.
Mr. Dickson's forecast is in line with expectations elsewhere around Wall Street. According to First Call Corp., the consensus estimates are $4.04 for this year and $4.60 next year.
Others' Projections Up
Elsewhere, Keefe Bruyette & Woods on April 26 raised its 1994 Norwest forecast to $4.50 from $4.40. Roulston & Co., Cleveland, on May 5 hiked its estimate to $4.65 from 4.60, and McDonald & Co., also of Cleveland, elevated its to $4.60 from $4.45 on June 6.
Mr. Dickson said he expects earning assets will grow less than 5% after adjustment for acquisitions, and fee income growth will also be modest.
The best source for a positive earning surprise is from a decline in noninterest expenses, he said, which are high relative to the industry.
Strong Nonbank Activities
Meanwhile, asset quality is "excellent" and Norwest's franchise is strong in several important areas. Mortgage banking operations, for example, are among the largest in the United States.
Norwest Financial Services, a consumer and commercial finance company, contributed 28% of the holding company's net income last year.
The subsidiary has reported increased earnings for 18 straight years and is currently expanding into Canada.
An Up Day for Banks
The overall bank stock market enjoyed a strong outing on Thursday, led by First Union Corp., which gained $1.50 to $46.375, First Union said it will sue the District of Columbia, which is trying to block its acquisition of Dominion Bankshares Corp. and First American Bankshares units in Washington.
Among other big gainers, Banc One Corp. was up $1 to $52.75, Wells Fargo & Co. rose $2.25 to $100.875, Nationsbank Corp. improved 75 cents to $47, Society Corp. advanced 62.5 cents to $31.375, and J.P. Morgan & Co. appreciated $1 to $67.50.
On the other side of the ledger, Fifth Third Bancorp slipped 75 cents to $53 after enjoying gains the previous day, and BankAmerica Corp. was down 50 cents to $43.875.