Analysts downrated Chase Manhattan Corp. and SunTrust Banks Inc. Tuesday - a sign of uncertainty that the recent rally in bank stocks will last.
Lawrence W. Cohn of Paine-Webber Inc. downrated Chase, the nation's sixth-largest bank holding company, to "hold" as it approached his $44-a-share target price. Chase had risen 12.5 cents a share Monday, to a 52-week high of $40, but fell 75 cents, to $39.25, Tuesday after news of Mr. Cohn's action.
Dennis Shea of Morgan Stanley & Co. downrated SunTrust to "hold" because the superregional's stock had virtually reached his target of $50. Monday, SunTrust had gained 37.5 cents, to close at $49.625, or less than a dollar off its 52-week high. It closed down 37.5 cents Tuesday, at $49.25.
The downratings reflect a growing feeling among analysts that the bank sector is due to cool off after an extended period in which it outperformed the broader market.
The American Banker index of 225 bank stocks rose 8.04% during the past four weeks, while the Dow Jones industrial average was up only 3.57%.
"It is a reasonable time to take some profit if the banks keep performing as well as they have done," Mr. Shea said.
While the SunTrust downrating was Mr. Shea's first in 1994, he had indicated late last year that he might pare more banks from his buy list after downrating AmSouth Bancorp., Wachovia Corp., and Banc One Corp.
Two weeks ago, Lehman Brothers Inc.'s Mark T. Lynch also downrated SunTrust, as well as Boatmen's Bancshares, for exceeding his price targets.
"To continue recommending stocks that are hitting new highs ... [analysts] have to find new reasons for getting enthusiastic," he said Tuesday. "We are still bullish," he added, but that does not "mean we are as bullish as we were three months ago."
Bank stocks outperformed the market by 14% during the last 12 months, with regionals faring far better than the money-centers, Mr. Lynch said.
Mr. Cohn said he calculated his target price for Chase stock while using a price/earnings ratio of just eight - or about half the ratio for the market in general - and projecting 1994 earnings per share of $5.25.