The head of New York Community Bancorp (NYB) blames short-sellers — not its performance — for the nearly 5% slide in its shares Wednesday.

The $44 billion-asset company lost more than $300 million in market capitalization within 90 minutes of markets opening after it reported a sharper-than-expected margin contraction in the third quarter.

The swiftness of the decline and immense trading volume Wednesday indicated that many short-sellers had bet New York Community would report weak margins, said Joseph Ficalora, New York Community's president and chief executive.

"They act in concert, and they act on the same day," he said. "Unfortunately we had a very big float. It is something they are able to do."

The company estimates that about half its share sales in the first half hour of trading were by short-sellers closing out their positions, Ficalora said.

"A couple of stocks were going up. We could have been the convenient short," he said.

Its trading volume for the day was 10.2 million shares, up from 4.9 million a day earlier.

New York Community's net interest margin fell 13 basis points from the prior quarter and 16 basis points from a year earlier to 3.17% because of lower yields on loans and securities investments. Keefe, Bruyette & Woods had predicted the company would report a net interest margin of 3.19%.

Its shares closed at $13.92 Wednesday and finished Thursday at $13.90.

New York Community, which specializes in property mortgages on New York-area apartment buildings, deserved more credit for its quarterly results, he said.

Higher mortgage banking fees and increased prepayment income from business borrowers refinancing loans helped offset the squeeze low rates are putting on its margin, he said. Those are two income streams a lot of other large business property lenders do not have, he said.

Total loans increased at an annual pace of nearly 5%, to $31.2 million, and deposit costs declined 7 basis points from the trailing quarter, to 0.64%, because a batch of lower-cost deposits acquired in June from Aurora FSB.

Net income of $129 million fell 2% from the prior quarter and rose 7.5% from a year earlier.

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