Best Bank Companies To Invest In Right Now

As energy producers continue their balancing act between oil and natural gas production, price swings have left two of the industry’s biggest producers scratching their heads. For the past few years, low natural gas prices have left these producers looking for more oil. Now, with the price of crude oil falling in the first quarter, it left both ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM  ) and Chevron (NYSE: CVX  )  staring at weaker revenue results from the year before.

Luckily for Exxon, its refining business helped pad margins despite the segments’ profits falling 2.6%. Overall, Exxon was able to grow its earnings by $50 million year over year. While that might not sound like a lot, because it’s an expert share repurchaser, this represented 6% earnings growth on a per-share basis.

Best Bank Companies To Invest In Right Now: Simmons First National Corp (SFNC)

Simmons First National Corporation is a multi-bank financial holding company. As of December 31, 2011, the Company had total loans of $1.7 billion, deposits of $2.7 billion and equity capital of $408 million. As of December 31, 2011, it owned eight community banks, which are located throughout Arkansas and conduct its operations through 88 offices, of which 84 are branches, or financial centers, located in 47 communities in Arkansas, Missouri and Kansas. Its community banks are supported by its subsidiary bank, Simmons First National Bank (SFNB or lead bank), which allows its community banks to provide products and services, such as a bank-issued credit card. As of December 31, 2011, SFNB had total loans of $0.9 billion and total deposits of $1.5 billion. Simmons First Trust Company N.A., a wholly owned subsidiary of SFNB, performs the trust and fiduciary business operations for SFNB and for the Company. Simmons First Investment Group, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of SF NB, is a broker-dealer and performs the broker-dealer operations for SFNB. Its subsidiary banks provide complete banking services to individuals and businesses throughout the market areas they serve. These banks offer consumer (credit card and other consumer), real estate (construction, single family residential and other commercial) and commercial (commercial, agriculture and financial institutions) loans, checking, savings and time deposits, trust and investment management services and securities and investment services. In September 2012, through its wholly owned bank subsidiary, Simmons First National Bank (SFNB), it acquired assets of Truman Bank of St. Louis from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (the FDIC). In October 2012, SFNB acquired Excel Bank of Sedalia from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. In November 2013, the Company acquired Metropolitan National Bank. Efffective November 25, 2013, the Company acquired Rogers Bancshares Inc.

Le nding Activities

During the year ended December! 31, 2011, the Company’s loan portfolio, excluding loans covered by Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) loss share arrangements, averaged $1.621 billion. As of December 31, 2011, total loans, excluding loans covered by FDIC loss share arrangements, were $1.580 billion. The components of the loan portfolio were loans to businesses (commercial loans, commercial real estate loans and agricultural loans) and individuals (consumer loans, credit card loans and single-family residential real estate loans).

Consumer loans consist of credit card loans, student loans and other consumer loans. As of December 31, 2011, consumer loans were $346.6 million or 21.9% of total loans. As of December 31, 2011, the student loan portfolio balance was $47.4 million. As of December 31, 2011, student loans were 3% of total loans. Real estate loans consist of construction loans, single family residential loans and commercial loans. As of December 31, 2011, real estate loans we re $1.001 billion or 63.4% of total loans. As of December 31, 2011, its construction and development (C&D) loans represent 7% of its loan portfolio and commercial real estate (CRE) loans (excluding C&D) represent 34% of its loan portfolio. Commercial loans consist of commercial loans and agricultural loans. As of December 31, 2011, commercial loans were $227.2 million or 14.4% of total loans.

Investment Activities

Securities within the portfolio are classified as either held-to-maturity, available-for-sale or trading. Held-to-maturity securities include any security for which management has the positive intent and ability to hold until maturity, are carried at historical cost, adjusted for amortization of premiums and accretion of discounts. As of December 31, 2011, held-to-maturity and available-for-sale investment securities were $525.4 million and $172.2 million. As of December 31, 2011, $312.8 million, or 59.5%, of the held-to-maturity securit ies were invested in United States Treasury securities and o! bligation! s of the United States government agencies, 60.0% of which will mature in less than five years. In the available-for-sale securities, $153.6 million, or 89.2%, were in the United States Treasury and the United States government agency securities.

Sources of Fund

Deposits are the Company’s source of funding for earning assets and are developed through its network of 84 financial centers. It offers a range of products designed to attract and retain customers with a continuing focus on developing core deposits. Its core deposits consist of all deposits excluding time deposits of $100,000 or more and brokered deposits. As of December 31, 2011, core deposits comprised 86.5% of its total deposits. As of December 31, 2011, its total deposits were $2.65 billion. As of December 31, 2011, non-interest bearing transaction accounts were $532.3 million. As of December 31, 2011, interest bearing transaction and savings accounts were $1.240 billion. As of Decem ber 31, 2011, it had $20.6 million of brokered deposits.

As of December 31, 2011, Federal funds purchased and securities sold under agreements to repurchase were $114.8 million. As of December 31, 2011, its other short-term borrowings, consisting of the United States Treasury Tax and Loan (TT&L) Notes and short-term Federal Home Loan Bank (FHLB) borrowings were $272,000. As of December 31, 2011, its long-term debt was $120.8 million. As of December 31, 2011, the outstanding long-term debt balance includes $89.9 million in FHLB long-term advances and $30.9 million of trust preferred securities.

Advisors’ Opinion:

  • [By Tim Melvin]

    Finally, Simonds First National Corp. (Nasdaq: SFNC) is a Midwestern bank with 96 branches in Arkansas, Missouri, and Kansas. The stock has been strong this year, but CEO George Makris thinks there is additional upside ahead for the shares.

  • [By CRWE]

    Simmons First National Corporation (Nasdaq:SFNC) reported, through its wholly-owned bank subsidiary, Simmons First National Bank (“SFNB”), that it has expanded into the St. Louis, Missouri market by acquiring approximately $282 million in assets of Truman Bank of St. Louis from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (the “FDIC”).

Best Bank Companies To Invest In Right Now: Strategem Capital Corp (SGE)

Strategem Capital Corporation (Strategem) is a Canada-based company. It is a publicly-traded merchant bank involved in acquiring interests in and developing companies. The Company takes early debt and/or equity positions in such emerging growth companies. As of December 31, 2009, the Company is focused on companies that explore or develop precious or base metals. Advisors’ Opinion:

  • [By Corinne Gretler]

    ThyssenKrupp AG (TKA) slumped 9.3 percent after Germany’s largest steelmaker raised 882.3 million euros ($1.21 billion) through a share sale. Standard Chartered Plc lost 8.1 percent. Sage Group (SGE) Plc, the U.K.’s biggest software maker, rose 6.8 percent after reporting revenue growth that exceeded analysts’ estimates. AZ Electronic Materials SA surged 43 percent after Merck KGaA (MRK) agreed to buy it for about 1.6 billion pounds ($2.6 billion).

Best Bank Companies To Invest In Right Now: Comerica Inc (CMA)

Comerica Incorporated (Comerica) is a financial services company. Comercia operates in four segments: the Business Bank, the Retail Bank, Wealth Management and the Finance Division. As of December 31, 2011, Comerica owned two active banking and 49 non-banking subsidiaries. The Company’s Business Bank meets the needs of middle market businesses, multinational corporations and governmental entities by offering products and services, including commercial loans and lines of credit, deposits, cash management, capital market products, international trade finance, letters of credit, foreign exchange management services and loan syndication services. On July 28, 2011, Comerica acquired Sterling Bancshares, Inc. (Sterling), a bank holding company.

The Company’s Retail Bank includes small business banking and personal financial services, consisting of consumer lending, consumer deposit gathering and mortgage loan origination. In addition to a range of financial services provided to small business customers, this business segment offers a range of consumer products, including deposit accounts, installment loans, credit cards, student loans, home equity lines of credit and residential mortgage loans.

Wealth Management offers products and services consisting of fiduciary services, private banking, retirement services, investment management and advisory services, investment banking and brokerage services. This business segment also offers the sale of annuity products, as well as life, disability and long-term care insurance products. The Finance segment includes Comerica’s securities portfolio and asset and liability management activities. This segment is engaged in managing Comerica’s funding, liquidity and capital needs, performing interest sensitivity analysis and executing strategies to manage Comerica’s exposure to liquidity, interest rate risk and foreign exchange risk.

The Other category includes discont inued operations, the income and expense impact of equity an! d cash, tax benefits not assigned to specific business segments and miscellaneous other expenses of a corporate nature. In addition, Comerica delivers financial services in its four markets: Midwest, Western, Texas and Florida. The Midwest market consists of Michigan, Ohio and Illinois. The Western market consists of the states of California, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado and Washington. California operations represent the the Western market. The Texas and Florida markets consist of the states of Texas and Florida, respectively. Other Markets include businesses with a national perspective, Comerica’s investment management and trust alliance businesses, as well as activities in all other markets, in which Comerica has operations, except for the International market. The International market represents the activities of Comerica’s international finance division, which provides banking services to foreign-owned, North American-based companies and to international operations of North American-based companies.

Advisors’ Opinion:

  • [By Marc Bastow]

    Dallas, Texas-based financial services company Comerica (CMA) raised its quarterly 12% to 19 cents per share, payable on Apr. 1 to shareholders of record as of Mar. 14.
    CMA Dividend Yield: 1.59%

  • [By Jim Jubak]

    Today’s financial service sector reports include regionals Sun Trust Bank (STI) and Comerica (CMA), plus Wall Street’s Morgan Stanley (MS).

    Full disclosure: I don’t own shares of any of the companies mentioned in this post in my personal portfolio. When in 2010 I started the mutual fund I manage, Jubak Global Equity Fund, I liquidated all my individual stock holdings and put the money into the fund. The fund may or may not now own positions in any stock mentioned in this post. The fund did not own shares of any stock mentioned in this post as of the end of December. For a full list of the stocks in the fund, see the fund’s portfolio here. For more of Jim’s posts and picks check out his free site here or his subscription site here.

Best Bank Companies To Invest In Right Now: FirstMerit Corporation(FMER)

FirstMerit Corporation operates as the bank holding company for FirstMerit Bank, N.A. that provides a range of banking, fiduciary, financial, insurance, and investment services to corporate, institutional, and individual customers in northern and central Ohio, and western Pennsylvania. The company?s commercial business offers commercial term loans, revolving credit arrangements, asset-based lending, leasing, commercial mortgages, real estate construction lending, letters of credit, cash management services, and other depository products. Its retail business provides various financial products and services, including consumer direct and indirect installment loans, debit and credit cards, debit gift cards, residential mortgage loans, home equity loans and lines of credit, fixed and variable annuities, and ATM network services, as well as deposit products comprising checking, savings, money market accounts, and certificates of deposit. The company?s wealth business provides a sset management, private banking, financial planning, estate settlement and administration, and credit and deposit products and services. FirstMerit Corporation also offers trust and investment services, including personal trust and planning, and investment management; retirement plan services; retail mutual funds, other securities, variable and fixed annuities, personal disability and life insurance products, and brokerage services; and private banking services, including credit, deposit, and asset management solutions. As of December 31, 2009, it operated a network of 160 full service banking offices and 182 ATMs. The company was founded in 1855 and is headquartered in Akron, Ohio.

Advisors’ Opinion:

  • [By Tim Melvin]

    The year ahead should be a great one for the smaller bank stocks. Larger regionals like Huntington Bancorp (HBAN) and Capital Ban Financial (CBF) have made it clear they intend to grow by acquisition in the years ahead. Banks like First Merit (FMER) and First Merchants (FRME) have done deals in the past year and are open to doing more to increase their market share and footprints. This should be the year the floodgates open and we see the first wave of merger activity in small banks.

Best Bank Companies To Invest In Right Now: Oberbank AG (OBV)

Oberbank AG is an Austria-based commercial regional bank. The Company provides products and services for individual customers, as well as for corporate customers. It divides its operations into four segments: Corporate Customers, Private Customers, Financial Markets and Others. The Company offers credit and debit cards, current and saving accounts, investment services, electronic banking services, as well as financing, leasing, investment and real estate services. It operates through numerous offices in Austria, Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia. The Company’s major shareholder is CABO Beteiligungsgesellschafts mbH with a stake of 32.54%. Advisors’ Opinion:

  • [By Tom Aspray]

    The monthly chart of SPY, along with its on-balance volume (OBV), paints a much different picture. The monthly OBV moved above its WMA in August of 2012, line 1, and continues to suggest strong accumulation of this ETF.

  • [By Tom Aspray]

    The high in August 2013 (point 2) just reached the 38.2% Fibonacci retracement resistance from the high at $174.07. This, therefore, was a key level of resistance. As prices declined from the highs, the daily on-balance volume (OBV) began a new downtrend and by October the OBV was acting weaker than prices.

Best Bank Companies To Invest In Right Now: Bank Rakyat Indonesia Persero Tbk PT (BKRKY)

PT Bank Rakyat Indonesia (Persero) Tbk (the Bank) is an Indonesia-based financial institution. It is engaged in banking activities and its products and services include savings, loans, credits, treasury products and investment banking. It provides service to micro, small and middle enterprise (SME). Besides that, the Bank also engages in providing consumer finance as well as e-banking services which can be accessed by Internet, telephone, Short Message Service (SMS) and other e-channel service such as Cash Deposit Machine (CDM), Electronic Data Capture (EDC), and KiosK. The Bank’s subsidiaries are PT Bank BRISyariah, PT Bank Agroniaga Tbk and BRIngin Remittance Co. Ltd. The Bank has an international branch in Cayman Islands and two representative offices in New York and Hong Kong. Advisors’ Opinion:

  • [By Holly LaFon]

    Bank Rakyat Indonesia (BKRKY) (Persero) Tbk PT, a leading commercial bank and microfinance lender in Indonesia, declined in the third quarter. Recent stock performance was largely attributable to a significant drop in the Indonesian Rupiah. While we believe the company’s fundamentals and competitive position remain sound, the country suffered a larger than expected deterioration in its current account deficit, leading to a weaker currency and higher interest rates, which negatively impacted its local equity market. (Michael Kass)

Best Bank Companies To Invest In Right Now: National Bank Holdings Corp (NBHC)

National Bank Holdings Corporation (NBH), incorporated in June 2009, is a bank holding company. Through Bank Midwest, N.A. (Bank Midwest), NBH’s primary business is to offer a range of traditional banking products and financial services to both its commercial and consumer customers, located in Kansas, Missouri and Colorado. The Company offers an array of lending products to cater to the customers’ needs, including, but not limited to, small business loans, equipment loans, term loans, asset-backed loans, letters of credit, commercial lines of credit, residential mortgage loans, home equity and consumer loans. It also offers traditional depository products, including commercial and consumer checking accounts, non-interest-bearing demand accounts, money market deposit accounts, savings accounts and time deposit accounts and cash management services. As of December 31, 2011, it operated a network of 103 full-service banking centers, with the majority of those banking cent ers located in the Kansas City region and Colorado. On October 21, 2011, the Company acquired selected assets and assumed selected liabilities of Community Banks of Colorado, a state chartered bank based in Greenwood Village, Colorado, from the FDIC, which included 36 full-service banking centers in Colorado and four in California.

Lending Activities

NBH’s loan portfolio includes commercial and industrial loans, consumer loans, commercial real estate loans, residential real estate loans and agricultural loans. As of December 31, 2011, approximately 61.5% of the Company’s total portfolio was variable rate loans, approximately 38.5% of the total loan portfolio was fixed rate loans and less than 1.6% of its total loan portfolio was unsecured. As of December 31, 2011, of the loans it had originated, approximately 35.1% were variable rate loans and approximately 64.9% were fixed rate loans.

The Company originates commercial and indust rial loans and leases, including working capital loans, equi! pment loans and other commercial loans and leases. As of December 31, 2011, approximately 98.2% of its commercial and industrial loans were secured. As of December 31, 2011, it had $372.0 million in commercial and industrial loans and leases outstanding, comprising approximately 16.3% of its total loan portfolio. During the year ended December 31, 2011, it originated and closed $26.7 million of commercial and industrial loans, which was approximately 18.8% of total loans originated for portfolio investment during that period.

The Company offers a range of consumer loans, including loans to banking center customers for consumer and business purposes, to meet customer demand and to increase the yield on its loan portfolio. As of December 31, 2011, it had $74.3 million in consumer loans outstanding, comprising 3.3% of its total loan portfolio. Its real estate loans consist of commercial real estate loans and residential real estate loans. Commercial real estate loa ns (CRE) loans, consist of loans to finance the purchase of commercial real estate, loans to finance inventory and working capital that are secured by commercial real estate and construction and development loans. Its CRE loans include loans on 1-4 family construction properties, commercial properties such as office buildings, strip malls, or free standing commercial properties, multi-family and investor properties and raw land development loans.

Residential real estate loans consist of loans secured by the primary or secondary residence of the borrower. These loans consist of closed loans, which are typically amortizing over a 10 to 30 year term. It also offers open-ended home equity loans, which loans are secured by secondary financing on residential real estate. As of December 31, 2011, it had a total of $522.4 million in outstanding residential real estate loans, comprising 22.9% of its total loan portfolio. Agricultural loans consist of loans to farmers and other agricultural businesses to finance agricultural produ! ction.

Source of Fund

NBH’s offers a range of deposit products to the customers, including checking accounts, savings accounts, money market accounts and other deposit accounts, including fixed-rate, fixed maturity retail time deposits ranging in terms from 30 days to five years, individual retirement accounts, and non-retail time deposits consisting of jumbo certificates greater than or equal to $100,000. As of December 31, 2011, the Company’s deposit portfolio was comprised of 13.4% non-interest bearing deposits and 55.0% time deposits. Its deposits are primarily obtained from areas surrounding its banking centers.

Financial Products and Services

In addition to traditional banking activities, the Company provides other financial services to the customers. It includes Internet banking, wire transfers, automated clearing house services, electronic bill payment, lock box services, remote deposit capture services, courier servic es, merchant processing services, cash vault, controlled disbursements, positive pay and cash management services (including account reconciliation, collections and sweep accounts).

The Company competes with UMB, Commerce, US Bank, Bank of America, Valley View, Capitol Federal, Central Bancompany, CCB Financial Corp, Enterprise Financial Services Corp, Wells Fargo, FirstBank, JPMorgan Chase, U.S. Bank, Bank of the West, KeyBank, Alpine Bank, Compass Bank, Vectra Bank, First National Bank of Colorado and Zions Bank.

Advisors’ Opinion:

  • [By Shauna O’Brien]

    On Tuesday, Goldman Sachs reported that it has downgraded National Bank Holdings Corp (NBHC) to “Sell.”

    The firm has cut its rating on NBHC from “Neutral” to “Sell,” and has given the company a $21 price target. This price target suggests that the stock will remain flat at its current price of $20.94.

    An analyst from the firm commented: “While we believe that NBHC can grow EPS longer term as it leverages its $400mn of excess capital (above 10% tier 1 leverage), with shares trading at 1.1x TBV, we see limited upside in the near-term without any strategic M&A.”

    Looking ahead, the firm has maintained its FY2013 EPS estimate of 26 cents. For FY2014 and FY2015, estimates have been maintained at 57 cents and $1.88.

    National Bank Holdings shares were mostly flat during pre-market trading Tuesday. The stock is up 10% YTD.

Best Bank Companies To Invest In Right Now: Commercial Bancshares Inc (CMOH)

Commercial Bancshares, Inc. is a financial holding company. The Company’s banking subsidiary, The Commercial Savings Bank (the Bank), is engaged in the business of commercial and retail banking, with operations conducted through its main office and branches located in Upper Sandusky, Ohio and neighboring communities in Wyandot, Marion and Hancock counties. The Bank provides customary retail and commercial banking services to its customers, including acceptance of deposits for demand, savings and time accounts, individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and servicing of such accounts; commercial, consumer and real estate lending, including installment loans, and safe deposit and night depository facilities. Commercial Financial and Insurance Agency, LTD is its wholly owned subsidiary. The Bank also owns a 49.9% interest in Beck Title Agency, Ltd.

Lending Activities

The Bank grants residential, installment and commercial loans to customers located prim arily in the Ohio counties of Wyandot, Marion and Hancock and the surrounding area. Commercial loans are primarily variable rate and include operating lines of credit and term loans made to small businesses primarily based on the ability to repay the loan from the cash flow of the business. Commercial real estate loans are primarily secured by borrower-occupied business real estate, and are dependent on the ability of the related business to generate adequate cash flow to service the debt. Residential real estate loans are made with primarily variable rates and are secured by the borrower’s residence. As of December 31, 2011, approximately 75.5% of the Company’s loan and lease portfolio consisted of commercial, construction and commercial real estate loans.

Investment Activities

Securities are classified as available for sale. Securities available for sale are carried at fair value. The securities available for sale include obligations of the U nited Sates Government and federal agencies, obligations of ! state and political subdivisions, and mortgage-backed securities. As of December 31, 2011, total securities available for sale were approximately $24.5 million, which included approximately $4.06 million of obligations of the United Sates Government and federal agencies, approximately $14.3 million of obligations of state and political subdivisions, and approximately $6.4 million of mortgage-backed securities.

Sources of Funds

As of December 31, 2011, the Company had approximately $259.1 million of deposits, which included approximately $ 38.1 million of noninterest-bearing demand, approximately $103.7 million of interest-bearing demand, approximately $ 86.9 million of savings and approximately $ 30.2 million of time deposits $100,000 and greater. As of December 31, 2011 the Company had no borrowings with Federal Home Loan Banks (FHLB).

Advisors’ Opinion:

  • [By Doug Hughes]

    Commercial Bancshares (CMOH) operates as the holding company for The Commercial Savings Bank, with just over $300,000 in assets and $259,000 million in loans. This small, but very strong bank had 5% loan growth last year and net charge-offs of just 0.23%.

Best Bank Companies To Invest In Right Now: Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd (ANEWF)

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited (ANZ) provides a range of banking and financial products and services to retail, small business, corporate and institutional clients. The Company conducts its operations in Australia, New Zealand and the Asia Pacific region. It also operates in a range of other countries, including the United Kingdom and the United States. The Company operates on a divisional structure with Australia, International and Institutional Banking (IIB), New Zealand, and Global Wealth and Private Banking. As of September 30, 2012, the Company had 1,337 branches and other points of representation worldwide, excluding automatic teller machines (ATMs). In September 2012, it sold its remaining shareholding in Visa Inc. In May 2013, the Company ceased to be substantial holder in respect of ING Private Equity Access Limited. Advisors’ Opinion:

  • [By MARKETWATCH]

    LOS ANGELES (MarketWatch) — Australia stocks enjoyed early Monday gains after an advance for commodities and U.S. stocks since the last session, with a relatively good reception for earnings. The S&P/ASX 200 (AU:XJO) improved by 0.4% to 5,376.30, with miners tracking gains in gold and copper. Rio Tinto Ltd. (AU:RIO) (RIO) added 1.3%, and Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. (AU:FMG) (FSUMF) traded 1.1% higher, while gold miners Newcrest Mining Ltd. (AU:NCM) (NCMGF) and Kingsgate Consolidated Ltd. (AU:KCN) (KSKGF) rallied 2.2% and 4.7%, respectively. Banks rose after Wall Street shares climbed on Friday, with National Australia Bank Ltd. (AU:NAB) (NAUBF) up 1% and Australia & New Zealand Banking Group (AU:ANZ) (ANEWF) adding 0.9%, though Commonwealth Bank of Australia (AU:CBA) (CBAUF) dropped 2.4% as it traded without rights to its latest dividend. Coal transport firm Aurizon Holdings Ltd. (AU:AZJ) (QRNNF) tacked on 2.1% as its fiscal first-half underlying profit increased 18%, though net profit f

  • [By MARKETWATCH]

    LOS ANGELES (MarketWatch) — Australian stocks shimmied lower in early Tuesday trade, with earnings news moving the share prices of some major names. The S&P/ASX 200 (AU:XJO) moved off a flat open to trade down 0.1% at 5,218.50 after rising 1.1% the previous day. Financial blue chip Macquarie Group Ltd. (AU:MQG) (MCQEF) lost 2.7% following the release of its operational update, with broker BBY telling Dow Jones Newswires that the quarterly statement was very similar to its previous update, signaling no change to earnings expectations. Shares of Cochlear Ltd. (AU:COH) (CHEOF) , the world’s top hearing-implant maker, snapped 9.1% lower after the firm posted a larger-than-expected 73% drop in profit from a year earlier. However, Australia & New Zealand Banking Group (AU:ANZ) (ANEWF) managed to rise 0.5% after reporting a quarterly profit gain of more than 20% with fewer non-performing loans. Meanwhile, further gains for gold overnight lifted Newcrest Mining Ltd. (AU:NCM) (NCMGF) by 1.3%, Evolution Mining Ltd. (AU:EVN) (CAHPF) by 2.5% and St. Barbara Ltd. (AU:SBM) by 3%. On the downside for miners, Paladin Energy Ltd. (AU:PDN) (PALAF) lost 2.5% as selling surfac

  • [By MARKETWATCH]

    LOS ANGELES (MarketWatch) — Australia stocks rose early Thursday, with miners leading the way higher after a positive production report from Rio Tinto Ltd. (AU:RIO) (RIO) , while overall sentiment got a lift from U.S. gains overnight. The S&P/ASX 200 (AU:XJO) improved by 0.6% to 5,274.30, with shares of Rio Tinto rising 2.2% after reporting record high iron-ore shipments for 2013 and a sold gain for copper output. Rio’s peers also advanced, with BHP Billiton Ltd. (AU:BHP) (BHP) up 1.7%, Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. (AU:FMG) (FSUMF) ahead by 3.2%, and Oz Minerals Ltd. (AU:OZL) (OZMLF) adding 2.4%. Among the gold producers, Newcrest Mining Ltd. (AU:NCM) (NCMGF) surged 7.2% as J.P. Morgan raised its rating on the shares to overweight from neutral. Banks weren’t as lucky, however, with Australia & New Zealand Banking Group (AU:ANZ) (ANEWF) down 0.3%, while Westpac Banking Corp. (AU:WBC) (WEBNF) and Commonwealth Bank of Australia (AU:CBA) (CBAUF) lost 0.7% each as Citibank downgraded the trio t

  • [By MARKETWATCH]

    LOS ANGELES (MarketWatch) — Australian stocks edged lower Thursday, as a mostly soft lead from the U.S. markets helped weigh on the S&P/ASX 200 (AU:XJO) , which lost 0.2% to 5,306.40. Mining stocks moved mostly lower as a rising dollar depressed some key commodity prices overnight, with Oz Minerals Ltd. (AU:OZL) (OZMLF) down 1%, Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. (AU:FMG) (FSUMF) off 1.5%, and Newcrest Mining Ltd. (AU:NCM) (NCMGF) 1.1% lower. The big four banks all started lower as well, with Australia & New Zealand Banking Group (AU:ANZ) (ANEWF) and Commonwealth Bank of Australia (AU:CBA) (CBAUF) down 0.2% each, while National Australia Bank Ltd. (AU:NAB) (NAUBF) lost 0.4%, and Westpac Banking Corp. (AU:WBC) (WEBNF) fell 0.5%. Retailers were mixed ahead of retail-sales data due out later in the day, as Harvey Norman Holdings Ltd. (AU:HVN) (HNORY) fell 0.5% and Myer Holdings Ltd. (AU:MYR) lost 0.7%, while David Jones Ltd.