New York thrift stocks surged Tuesday in an otherwise lackluster market on the news of Roslyn Bancorp's rich $1.1 billion proposal to buy T R Financial Corp.
Shares of T R Financial jumped 12.94% on heavy volume but did not approach the 43% premium to market that Roslyn's offer represents. Roslyn's stock dipped 14.71%.
Investors spent most of Tuesday chasing the shares of every other New York thrift that traded.
Shares of Reliance Bancorp, Dime Community Bancorp, and Queens County Bancorp jumped as much as 2.5% in a post-holiday session one trader dubbed the "quietest of the quiet."
The Standard & Poor's bank index slipped 1.72%, and the Dow Jones industrial average fell 1.65%. The Nasdaq bank index, which is heavily populated by thrifts, also fell 1.43%. The S&P 500 declined 1.43%.
"There is just a general lack of interest," one trader said. "Most investors are still on vacation or playing golf."
Clearly, however, some investors were in the market, making bets on thrifts.
Reliance's shares climbed 81.25 cents, to $38.625; Dime Community Bancorp's stock was up 37.5 cents, to $28.625 and Queens County's shares were up 37.5 cents, to $44.375. Flushing Financial Corp. shares were flat, at $26.875. Investors have spent the last 12 months bidding up the stock on merger speculation, analysts said.
Analysts urged investors on. Thrift analyst Salvatore J. DiMartino of Advest Inc., Hartford, Conn., told investors in a report issued Tuesday morning that he expects "more deals to be announced before Labor Day."
Two New York thrifts he encouraged investors to buy were Dime Community and Flushing Financial.
"New York City in general and Long Island in particular are overbanked, and we believe that New York City is fertile ground for further consolidation," Mr. DiMartino wrote.
Trends spurring the next wave of deals include more competition in the metropolitan area, lack of revenue growth opportunities, technology concerns, and an increasing number of mutual conversion thrifts that need to make acquisitions because they are overcapitalized, Mr. DiMartino noted.
The analyst acknowledged that though almost any combination of thrifts is likely to work, some of the more likely include a long-rumored marriage of Dime Bancorp and GreenPoint Financial Corp.; Queens County acquiring Haven Bancorp, and Dime Community with Flushing Financial.
Analyst Martin S. Friedman of Friedman Billings, Ramsey & Co., Arlington, Va., said he believes that Astoria Financial Corp. and Dime Bancorp "are more a fit than ever before," because the companies "have complementary businesses and are now of similar size" after Astoria's acquisition of Long Island Bancorp.
Other combinations include a possible three-way deal among Astoria Financial Corp., Staten Island Bancorp., and Flushing Financial.
A host of scenarios are possible, Mr. Friedman said, not least the prospect that Astoria and North Fork Bancorp., a commercial bank based in Melville, N.Y., will continue their aggressive buying of rival thrifts.