Thrift stocks fared better than bank stocks Thursday after new economic data revived investor jitters about interest rates.
The government's estimate of second-quarter growth in the gross domestic product was revised to 4.8%, from 4.2%, and new home sales rose 7.9% in July - the biggest gain since February - causing a selloff in the bond and stock markets.
Economist Scott Brown of Raymond James & Associates, St. Petersburg, Fla., said he expects the anxieties in the market to worsen as investors wait for the "make it or break it payroll numbers" that are due next Friday.
But on Thursday, thrift stocks generally held their ground as banks shares - many of which have been breaking 52-week highs - fell back.
Analyst Thomas O'Donnell of Smith Barney Inc., who covers large savings and loans, said thrifts weathered Thursday's economic news better than banks.
At midday, Mr. O'Donnell noted that "40% of the thrifts were down, 20% were flat and 40% were up.
"Thrifts are very attractive right now because they are less susceptible to short-term interest rates," he added. "They already had their credit quality problems and are on the mend."
Mr. O'Donnell said he expects thrifts to report strong earnings in the third quarter after many hit or exceeded earnings expectations in the second quarter.
Among thrifts, Great Western Financial Corp. shares rose 12.5 cents to $24.50; H.F. Ahmanson & Co., fell 37.5 cents to $25 and Washington Mutual Inc., jumped 18.7 cents to $36.125.
Meanwhile, the Standard & Poor's bank index and Nasdaq bank index fell 1.18% and .34%, respectively. The Dow Jones industrial average also declined 1.13%, while the S&P 500 fell 1.12%.
Chase Manhattan Corp. shares fell $1.25 to $75.875; BankAmerica Corp., dropped $1.125 to $78.75; and Mellon Bank Corp., fell $1 to $54.75.
Summit Bancorp shares also fell $1.50 to $37.75 after it announced on Thursday that it would acquire B.M.J. Financial Corp.
Mortgage banks responded tepidly to thriving housing market on Thursday.
Because short-term interest rates have increased and long-term rates have decreased, profits for mortgages companies which generally market fixed-rate loans, has slowed, said analyst Ed Mullane of New Japan Securities.
"In the early 1990s when you had low short-term interest rates and high long-term interest rates, these mortgages companies were able to make a lot of money ... so even though housing numbers may have improved, fears that shorter-term interest will be heading higher puts a cap on how high these stock prices will go." he said.
Analyst Richard Strauss of Goldman Sachs & Co. agreed that mortgage companies are interest-rate sensitive, but pointed out some have made themselves less vulnerable to high interest rate environments by expanding into other businesses.
The stock of Countrywide Credit Industries "has been very strong as of late even though rates have been going up, because 50% of its business comes from servicing, which spins off of higher revenues in an higher interest rate environment," he said.
Countrywide shares fell only 12.5 cents to $24.75. North American Mortgage Co. declined 12.5 cents to $17.50; ContiFinancial Corp. shares fell 75 cents to $28.125 and Resource Bancshares Mortgage Group was up 25 cents to $12.25.