Bank stocks drifted lower with the market Tuesday as the Dow Jones industrial average receded from the 10,000 mark and the Federal Reserve met expectations by doing nothing to change interest rates.
"Bank stocks tend to rally in the days leading up to the announcement and then drop back a bit when there is no action," said Eric Rothmann, a banking analyst at Stephens Inc., of the reaction to the Fed meeting.
The Fed gave no guidance on its bias, an indication that no action on rates is anticipated. Though stable rates are thought to be favorable to banks, analysts don't expect bank stocks to get much of a lift.
"There's a potential that many institutions will simply match earnings, not exceed them as they've been doing," Mr. Rothmann said. He also noted that there has been little in the way of merger activity to boost shares.
Bank stocks "are a bit fatigued right now," said Nancy Bush, a banking analyst at Ryan, Beck & Co. "It's hard to see any wonderful piece of positive news that will send people back to financial institution shares in droves.
"From a credit-quality perspective there is nothing looming on the horizon, but recoveries tend to diminish over time," Ms. Bush said.
For the day, the Standard & Poor's bank index shed 1.63%, and the Dow Jones industrial average was off 0.93%. The Nasdaq bank index dipped 1.49% and the S&P 500 was off 0.72%.
Shares of Citigroup Inc. ended unchanged after trading up modestly for most of the day.
Adam Klauber, a banking analyst at Cohran, Caronia Securities in Chicago, raised his 1999 earnings per share estimate for Citigroup to $3.80, from $3.60, and his 2000 estimate to $4.35, from $4.25.
"The outlook for Citigroup has improved" in the favorable economic operating environment, Mr. Klauber said, "and a business restructuring should produce near-term tangible results. Citigroup should begin to produce earnings upside surprises, as various business segments begin to recover from depressed 1998 levels."
Mr. Klauber raised his 1999 revenue estimate for Citigroup's Salomon Smith Barney unit to $1.6 billion, from $1.4 billion, "to reflect strength in investment banking and a more normal trading environment."
He also said "a stable environment in Asia and less volatile Eastern European markets should enhance earnings" in Citigroup's corporate emerging-market and global relationship divisions.
Shares of PNC Bank Corp. were off 75 cents, to 55.875, despite positive comments by Carla D'Arista, a banking analyst at Friedman, Billings, Ramsey & Co.
"PNC is experiencing an improving growth rate in the regional bank, which has been a challenge in the past," Ms. D'Arista said. Momentum in the regional bank is linked to success in a marketing campaign that combines innovative products, service guarantees, and creative marketing, she said.
Though net interest income is expected to remain relatively flat at PNC, noninterest income is likely to benefit from strength in such fee-based businesses as asset management, mutual fund processing, mortgage servicing, and brokerage, Ms. D'Arista said.