Shares of Compass Bancshares of Birmingham, Ala., fell despite a rising market Tuesday as investors dumped shares because of concerns about margin compression.

Investors became jittery after Marni Pont O'Doherty, an analyst at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc., said in a note to clients said that she expects Compass' margins to compress by five basis points in the first quarter and perhaps another five basis points over the course of the year.

She cut her first-quarter operating profit estimate to the consensus of 49 cents a share and her recommendation to "market performer" from "buy."

At one point during the day Compass' shares were down more than 3%. The stock closed down 62.5 cents, or 0.33%, at $18.625.

Ms. Pont O'Doherty also reduced her full-year estimates by a nickel, to $2.05 for 2000 and to $2.25 for 2001.

Concerns about the revenue outlook and the uncertainty about a bad loan "will keep a lid on the stock, which is now trading at a slight premium to its Alabama-based peers."

Ms. Pont O'Doherty also pointed out that a $15 million retailing credit - believed to be Just For Feet, a Birmingham seller of apparel and footwear - became a nonperforming asset in the fourth quarter. She said a chargeoff of this credit remains a possibility but probably not in the first quarter.

The analyst said she expects the company's net interest income and fee income to decline in the first quarter.

Ms. Pont O'Doherty said Compass is offsetting the revenue pinch by cutting expenses.

Elsewhere, shares of banks regained ground after Monday's selloff, with a boost from Goldman Sachs Group chief investment strategist Abby Joseph Cohen, who reiterated her stance that the financial sector was attractive.

The American Banker index of the 50 largest banks rose 1.01%, while its index of 225 banks rose 0.79%. Gainers for the day included Bank One Corp. $2.50, or 7.81%, to $34.50; SunTrust $1.75, or 2.98%, to $60.4375; and Northern Trust Corp. $3.1875, or 5.08%, to $65.875.

In a note to clients, Mr. Cohen said investors should keep 17% in financial stocks, which is above the 13% weighting the industry has in the Standard & Poor's 500. She also said that investors should keep 35% in technology and communications services stocks, which account for almost 43% of the S&P 500.

Ms. Cohen's comments helped bank stocks, but dampened enthusiasm for industrials and technology stocks. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.81% and the technology-heavy Nasdaq fell 2.51%.

The strategist told clients to cut the percentage of their assets invested in stocks to 65%, from 70%, and raise their position in cash by 5%.

In a March 16 note, the bullish strategist said investors were rotating out of the technology stocks into banks. "Financial stocks seem notably undervalued and should be overweight in portfolios," she said in that note.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.