Anticipating a brighter future for bank stocks, PNC Investment Management and Research has added Comerica Inc. and First Chicago Corp. to its Primary Focus List.

Both banking companies were awarded "market performer" investment ratings.

PNC analyst Charles M. Vincent said putting them on the short list was a way for his unit to keep its powder dry. "If we anticipate increasing our exposure to an industry within a given period of time, we add companies to our coverage - so that we are ready to pull the trigger whenever the right moment arrives," he said Tuesday.

"At some point we expect to upgrade this industry, and so we want to have some good names on hand," he said, noting that "the banks have been through a bear market for nearly two years."

But the general upgrading of banks will not occur until interest rates have clearly peaked.

"We will defer to the Federal Reserve," he said. "When they go from a tightening mode to neutral we will want to own the banks, but we do not expect a sustained rally before that."

PNC Investment Management is currently recommending only two banks for purchase, BankAmerica Corp. and NationsBank Corp.

Comerica, based in Detroit, had good results last year because of both good loan growth and a lower loan loss provision. the analyst said. In 1994, it earned $3.28 a share versus $2.85 a year earlier. Mr. Vincent expects Comerica to earn $3.34 a share this year.

"In the early 1990's, the company's earnings were under pressure due to a difficult acquisition," Mr. Vincent noted, referring to Comerica's merger with Manufacturers National Corp., Detroit.

Comerica, which has assets of $32 billion, operates in Michigan, Illinois, Texas, California, and Florida.

Mr. Vincent sees First Chicago as a possible takeover candidate, for the same reasons that former rival Continental Bank Corp. was acquired by BankAmerica Corp. last year.

"Someone a bit overweighted on the retail side might see First Chicago in the same light, as opportunity to strengthen the commercial side," he said.

Mr. Vincent expects First Chicago, with assets of $68 billion, to earn $6.60 this year. That is down from $6.88 last year because the analyst does not expect as much trading activity this year.

Bank stocks were generally mixed in Tuesday's market, with the glaring exception of AmSouth Bancorp., Birmingham, Ala.

AmSouth was ahead $2.50 to $31.625 in late trading, a gain of over 7%, on rumors that it may soon be bought by NationsBank, Charlotte, N.C. Volume in the shares was heavy.

The activity was apparently sparked by Dan Dorfman, a CNBC television commentator, who said sources told him AmSouth might be sold for $45 a share, or $2.6 billion.

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