Norwest Corp. shares got a renewed vote of confidence Monday after the company impressed Wall Street analysts and investors with its revenue prospects.
Management of the Minneapolis banking company asserted that 13% annual revenue growth is possible while keeping risks low, said Catherine Murray, banking analyst at J.P. Morgan & Co.
Chief executive Richard M. Kovacevich and other top officials made the forecast late last week during a three-day conference for institutional investors in Colorado Springs, the first such event staged by Norwest. Over 100 analysts and portfolio managers attended.
Upbeat discussions about bottom-line growth, management techniques, and application of new technologies prompted a number of analysts to talk up the company and its stock, which rose 25 cents, to $39.125.
"Norwest is clearly one of the best banks in the country," said Ben B. Crabtree, managing director for research at Dain Rauscher Wessels, Minneapolis. He termed the bank "extremely well positioned to maintain exceptional growth."
Ms. Murray said, "It is clear that Norwest continues to systematically, yet aggressively, pursue greater profitability."
Analysts and money managers said Norwest laid out a series of initiatives, including placing more products with customers, focusing on the most profitable accounts, and trouble-shooting to make lackluster accounts profitable.
Top management set a very definite tone, said Moshe A. Orenbuch, an analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., New York. He said the company "is fanatically dedicated to developing its people and executing against its strategic initiatives."
Elsewhere, banking and financial stocks endured a choppy market as investors scouted out safe havens amid fallout from the Asian economic crisis.
Citicorp shot up $3.75, to $153, after its soon-to-be merger partner, Travelers Group, announced an equity affiliation with Nikko Securities.
Bankers Trust moved in the opposite direction, down $2, to $121.50, on no discernable developments.
Analysts warned against reading too much into the slide, saying that Bankers Trust, while having exposure to volatile Asian markets, has been addressing the situation.
The Standard & Poor's bank index rose 0.38% and the Dow Jones industrial average 0.25%. The Nasdaq bank index lost 0.40%, and the S&P 500 rose 0.01%.
Smaller stocks fell as a group, taking many bank shares along. SouthTrust Corp. slipped $1.1875, to $39.375, and Union Planters Corp. was off $1.0625, to $57.4375.
Some market watchers attributed the slide in smaller issues to a trend: investors fleeing to more highly capitalized stocks that may hold up better in a bear market.
But other analysts pointed to the day itself. "People awoke to a mergerless Monday, and that could account for some of the movement," said Leslie A. Nelkin, banking analyst at Furman Selz.
One notable exception was Independent Bank Corp. of Rockland, Mass., whose shares soared 16.8%, to $21.75 in the last half hour of trading Monday. Trading volume reached over seven times daily average.
Sal DiMartino, bank analyst at Advest Group, said the activity could signal that the bank has decided to sell. The company unsuccessfully bid for Sandwich Bancorp, which on March 23 agreed to sell to 1855 Bancorp.
"There's been some takeover activity in their area that they've been unable to take part in, so they could well have decided that this is the time for them to sell," Mr. DiMartino said.