For those investors who follow the financial sector, this week provides a smorgasbord of information. JPMorgan Chase kicked things off two weeks ago, with megabanks Citigroup, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America reporting last week.

Not to be forgotten, some smaller regional banks also report their quarterly results this week. As the name suggests, regional banks tend to limit operations to smaller regions of the country, and thus are not as exposed as some of their larger cousins to the troubles in Europe or investment banking.


Average Est. EPS

Actual EPS


Regions Financial (NYSE: RF) $0.06 ($0.11) (283.3%)
Trustmark Corporation (Nasdaq: TRMK) $0.41 $0.38 (7.3%)
UMB Financial (Nasdaq: UMBF) $0.61 $0.58 (4.9%)
WesBanco (Nasdaq: WSBC) $0.44 $0.40 (9.1%)

Source: Yahoo! Finance and company press releases.

Some earnings highlights
After positive earnings the past two quarters, Regions Financial experienced a loss due to some one-time charges. The biggest impact was from a $731 million loss by Morgan Keegan & Co., the company's investment and brokerage division. Without this loss, net income before taxes would have been $120 million. Earlier this month, Regions announced that they would be selling Morgan Keegan to Raymond James Financial (NYSE: RJF) for $930 million. Unfortunately, it may have been a quarter too late to prevent a loss for the year. Keep an eye out for the big red flag at Synovus.

Though Trustmark missed estimates for the fourth quarter, the entire year was a good one for the Mississippi bank. Nonperforming assets were down 17.5% for the year, total deposits were up 7.4%, and the bank felt healthy enough to acquire two banks during the year. The bank also announced its $0.23 per share quarterly dividend.

UMB's fourth-quarter miss did not prevent the bank from posting record income for the year, surpassing $100 million for the first time in history. Even though nonperforming loans were up slightly for the quarter, the bank, with only 0.52% of assets classified as nonperforming, is dramatically better than the industry, which averages 3.82%.

WesBanco is a leading bank in the mid-Atlantic region. As with Trustmark and UMB, missing earnings' expectations in the fourth quarter did not keep the West Virginia bank from increasing net income for the year. President and CEO Paul Limbert said that WesBanco improved earnings "through increased net income, interest income, lower operating expense, and a lower provision for credit losses compared to 2010." This included a 9.8% decrease in nonperforming loans during the year.

Opportunities in regional banks
I like the potential of regional banks personally, but they may not be for everyone. Earnings are just one thing to consider when choosing an investment, so view these results as a small piece of a much larger puzzle. In fact, a bank similar to the ones here is featured prominently in our brand-new free report "The Stocks Only the Smartest Investors are Buying." To find out which one it is, get your copy today before it's too late.