September 10, 2008 / 4:03 PM / 11 years ago

UPDATE 1-RESEARCH ALERT-KBW downgrades 8 banks on valuation

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Sept 10 (Reuters) - Keefe, Bruyette & Woods downgraded at least eight U.S. banks on valuation and said bank operating environment remained challenging, amid slowing economic growth, credit contraction and capital constraints.

The federal takeover of the mortgage giants should maintain some liquidity in the housing market and allow mortgage rates to fall modestly, but it will not create a quick turnaround in the fundamental challenges facing large-cap banks, KBW wrote.

The brokerage, which cut its ratings on Huntington Bancshares Inc (HBAN.O), Marshall & Ilsley Corp MI.N and Synovus Financial Corp (SNV.N) to “underperform” from “market perform,” said it was cautious on regional banks that are more exposed to credit risks and may need to raise capital and/or reduce their dividend.

It also downgraded Bank of America Corp (BAC.N), BB&T Corp (BBT.N) and SunTrust Banks Inc (STI.N) to “underperform” from “market perform.”

KBW lowered its ratings on Comerica Inc (CMA.N) and Fifth Third Bancorp (FITB.O) to “market perform” from “outperform,” citing valuations that were in-line with the brokerage’s price targets, but added that these banks will not need additional capital.

The brokerage said it continues to be positive on banks that are not expected to require additional capital to support credit costs and raised Regions Financial Corp (RF.N) to “outperform” from “market perform.”

It noted that Regions’ recent dividend cut saves nearly $200 million per quarter. Regions, in July, slashed its quarterly dividend 74 percent to preserve capital.

KBC maintained its “underperform” rating on Wells Fargo & Co (WFC.N) and its “outperform” rating on National City Corp NCC.N and Sovereign Bancorp Inc SOV.N. (Reporting by Vidya L Nathan in Bangalore; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

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