By Amanda Alix | September 21, 2012
For well-nigh 20 years now, the Motley Fool has been here to help you invest better and smarter, using spot-on analysis and a razor-sharp wit. To celebrate Worldwide Invest Better Day on September 25, we are taking some time to get back to the basics -- of investing, that is. In that spirit, I have rounded up some sweet financial sector stocks that have been showing some real sparkle and promise lately.
Without further ado, let me introduce you to the focus of this particular article: Ambitious Midwest regional, Huntington Bancshares (Nasdaq - HBAN).
Huntington Bancshares, headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, has a market cap of nearly $6 billion and a network of over 650 branches that reaches into Michigan, Pennsylvania, Indiana, West Virginia, and Kentucky. This network surely helped earlier this year when Huntington stepped in to take on the $818 million in assets and nearly $748 million in deposits of failed Fidelity Bank of Dearborn. Huntington has been upfront about wanting to expand in Michigan, and last month was mentioned as a possible buyer for Citizens Republic Bancorp (NYSE - CRBC). Citizens had hired JPMorgan Chase (NYSE - JPM) to help find interested parties for such a scenario, though no acquisition has materialized.
Very recently, Huntington was in analysts' sights, with different results. The bank's shares dropped after a downgrade by Bernstein Research, in which the analysis claimed that Huntington, BB&T (NYSE - BBT), and SunTrust (NYSE - STI) have essentially attained their heights, and won't go any higher, considering the interest rate environment. The next day, Credit Suisse named Huntington its top pick, based upon increased loan demand and growth in the Midwest, the bank's superior expense management, and increased fee income. Considering the concrete issues weighed in the second analysis, I think I would put more faith in Credit Suisse's opinion. Like Huntington, BB&T and SunTrust also turned in very nice Q2 numbers recently, and all three have seen their stock prices soar over the past year.
Huntington is in expansion mode and seems to managing its growth quite well. The bank hasn't been able to reach the lofty dividend rates of 2008, but recently announced a $0.04 per share dividend, which is an improvement over the past three years. As the economy revs up, Huntington can only improve its outlook -- despite interest rate pressures that affect the entire sector.
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