Wachovia Corp. and TCF Financial rose on buyback announcements, but investors were warned to temper their enthusiasm.
Both companies face revenue growth issues that share repurchases cannot fully remedy, analysts emphasized.
Wachovia gained $1.75 a share, to $81, after announcing plans to buy almost 6% of its shares outstanding, or 12 million. TCF was up $1.1875, to $29.875, after disclosing a program buy up to 5%, or 4.5 million shares, in open market or private transactions.
Share repurchase programs, like those the companies unveiled Tuesday, are meant to signal that shares are a good investment. But the buybacks also aim to dress up profits, since earnings are spread over fewer outstanding shares.
The moves by Wachovia and TCF came as the companies are experiencing a slowing in top-line growth, analysts said.
"This speaks to the whole revenue growth issue," said Nancy A. Bush, an industry analyst who follows Wachovia for Ryan, Beck & Co. "It's getting harder and harder," she said, to consistently produce gains of 10% or more.
Wachovia, with $65 billion of assets, has found earnings diluted by its spate of acquisitions, including Central Fidelity in Virginia, Ms. Bush said.
Indeed, Wachovia's stock valuation, which used to be among the richest of regional banks, has slipped back into line with the group average.
"While credit quality is intact, we're no longer quite so sure about the predictability" of larger-than-average earnings gains, Ms. Bush said.
The same holds true for TCF Financial, a $9.7 billion-asset institution whose shares were removed from the Goldman, Sachs & Co. recommended list Monday and not reinstated after Tuesday's buyback announcement.
Michael S. Hodes, banking analyst at Goldman, said that TCF's stock must carry the prospect of 10% to 20% better appreciation than the rest of the market to stay on the list, and that right now the consistency is not there.
He reduced his 1998 earnings per share estimate by 2 cents, to $1.90 per share, and his 1999 estimate by 5 cents, to $2.15.
The past several quarters "confirm an ebbing of momentum," said Mr. Hodes, who now rates the shares "market outperform."
For instance, he said, TCF has used one-time measures such as branch sales to help meet earnings goals.
But TCF also got an upgrading Tuesday, to "attractive," from "outperform," by Joseph Duwan, a banking analyst at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc., New York.
Shares that slumped Monday on Mr. Hodes' downgrading have been oversold, and the buyback should also help TCF, Mr. Duwan said.
Mr. Duwan said TCF's earnings growth has slowed, partially from de novo branch openings in Chicago, but said the bank is well positioned and management has the ability to create "a powerhouse" institution.
The action occurred as rallies in technology and energy stocks spilled over to bank issues.
The Standard & Poor's bank index gained 0.42%, and the Dow Jones industrial average added 1.35%. The Nasdaq bank index rose 0.53%, and the S&P 500 was up 1.48%.
Analysts expect see-sawing in the days ahead, at least until second- quarter results are reported.
"It's hard to tell day to day what's going to happen," said Marni Pont O'Doherty, another analyst at Keefe Bruyette.
Banks' second-quarter earnings should come in around 12% higher, twice the gain pegged for the Standard & Poor's 500, and that could supply a lift, Ms. O'Doherty said.