Thrifts, which outperformed banks last week in a generally slow market environment, continued their upswing in trading Monday.
The group picked up after the Federal Reserve Board cut rates by 50 points Wednesday even as shares of banks fell. The American Banker thrift index was up 0.7% Monday, after rising 1.2% last week. Its index of 225 banks rose 0.91% and its index of the top 50 banks 0.79%. Analysts said they continue to view thrifts as safe investments. Kevin Szocik of Keefe, Bruyette & Woods raised his estimates for Golden West Financial Corp. in Oakland, Calif., by 15 cents a share, to $4.40, for 2001 and reiterated his outperform rating.
He said that increase is a direct response to the Fed interest rate cut, which means lower funding costs and better profit margins for thrift companies.
Golden West rose 58 cents Monday, or 1.04%, to $56.60.
Meanwhile, sector analyst Francois Trahan at Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. kept Washington Mutual Inc. on his attractive list. Shares of the Seattle thrift company rose 7 cents, or 0.14%, to $50.48. Citigroup Inc. rose 84 cents in trading Monday after a research note by Merrill Lynch research analyst Judah Kraushaar said the company is planning to restructure its loan syndication business. The restructuring offers an opportunity to sharply cut loans held on balance sheet, Ms. Kraushaar said in a note to clients Monday.
Citigroup shares rose 1.51%, to $56.30.
Several other banking companies have been looking into ways to change their loan syndication business, with some, including Wachovia Corp., indicating that they may only participate in future syndicated credits that have ties to existing corporate clients.
Claire M. Percarpio, an analyst at Janney Montgomery Scott in Philadelphia, initiated coverage for Wachovia with an accumulate rating. She said the Winston-Salem, N.C., company is trading at one of the lowest multiples among large-cap banking companies, providing an attractive franchise and showing that outsiders credit quality concerns perhaps have been overblown.
The stock has run up significantly in the past month after having been knocked down in June on concerns about credit quality, Ms. Percarpio wrote in her research report.
She also said Wachovia could become an acquisition target soon, which could give its stock price a 30% boost. The company postponed an annual investor conference that was supposed to be held two week ago, Ms. Percarpio and other analysts said. That could mean it is about to announce a merger or a major strategic redirection that conceivably could include selling its credit card business or shrinking its commercial banking business.
Wachovia rose 31 cents, or 0.46%, to $67.30, well below Ms. Percarpios target price of $78.