Investors were scratching their heads over Chase Manhattan Corp. on Tuesday after the stock received hot and cold reviews on successive days.
Shares closed at $74.75, off $2.25, after Credit Suisse First Boston removed the stock from its focus list. The action came after shares rose $1.50 on news that Salomon Smith Barney named Chase its top bank pick.
The episode served as extreme example of the confusion that can result when researchers with essentially the same information draw significantly different conclusions.
Stock buyers say that at the very least they end up scrambling as shares react to each new assessment.
"As far as the analysts being right, it's not important," said Miles P.H. Seifert, chairman and chief investment officer of Grey, Seifert & Co., a unit of Legg Mason Inc. "All they're doing is trying to create volume and commission income."
Michael Mayo, the Credit Suisse First Boston analyst who downgraded Chase, said he acted solely on a reevaluation of the company's fundamentals.
He said Chase Manhattan "is in a strategic box," its superiority compromised by the recent crop of megamergers.
The company to some degree retains a "civil service mentality," Mr. Mayo said. He pointed to the latest proxy statement, which sets bonus goals for "leadership development and work force diversity"-at the possible expense of capital management.
Mr. Mayo said that Chase is also sending an inconsistent message, extolling streamlining efforts while operating in a top-heavy manner by billing Walter Shipley and Thomas G. Labrecque as equal partners in the top slot.
Surer steps and "more transformation" are needed if Chase is to regain ground in consumer banking and other areas where other companies are making dramatic strides, Mr. Mayo said. "If Chase doesn't make any moves and their competitors do, they fall behind on a relative basis."
The assessment is a rare pullback by Mr. Mayo, who is bullish on the banking industry and acted as a cheerleader for Chase this year when other analysts were less optimistic.
Mr. Mayo and colleague Bradley Ball on Tuesday took the stock off the firm's focus list, where it had been since February, and downgraded shares to "buy" from "strong buy."
"Doing nothing has a cost," Mr. Mayo said.
The appraisal runs counter to sentiments expressed the day before by Salomon Smith Barney analyst Henry "Chip" Dickson. Mr. Dickson's recommendation led Salomon to place Chase on its list of the 15 hottest publicly traded companies.
By placing Chase in a group that includes International Business Machines and WalMart Stores, Salomon said the banking company was positioned to outperform 2,400 other companies the firm tracks.
Chase's shares were dropping while many banks, especially money-center banks, were marking a second day of gains. Citicorp rose $2.125, to $160.0625, and J.P. Morgan popped $4.125, to $122.6875.
The Standard & Poor's bank index rose 0.17% and the Dow Jones industrial average lost 0.07%. The Nasdaq bank index dipped 0.13% and the S&P 500 was down 0.23%.
Westcorp, a California thrift that has had some difficulty with subprime auto loans, was up $1.9375, or 9%, to $15.75. A company spokeswoman said there were no corporate developments to account for the action, though the company is reporting second-quarter figures next week.