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Sandler O'Neill, Rafferty Capital upgrade SunTrust

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Sandler O'Neill, Rafferty Capital upgrade SunTrust

Upgrades

* Rafferty Capital Markets analyst Dick Bove upgraded Citizens Financial Group Inc. and SunTrust Banks Inc.

Bove upgraded Providence, R.I.-based Citizens Financial to "buy" from "hold," and also increased his price target to $39 per share from $28 per share. The analyst noted that the company has a "series of growth opportunities that have yet to be fully exploited," even though the company is trading at a premium to its peers. In addition, Bove highlighted the company's partnerships with the fintech company SoFi to generate student loans and Apple Inc. on the retail unsecured side of the business. He believes the company is able to derive benefits from these partnerships.

Bove upgraded Atlanta-based SunTrust Banks to "buy" from "hold," and also increased his price target to $63 per share from $47 per share. The analyst expects the economy to grow, which he thinks will increase banks' valuations. For economic growth, Bove is considering possible tax cuts, expected increased fiscal stimulus and possible tariffs that will be applied to selective companies to increase manufacturing in the United States. He thinks SunTrust Banks will be a "standout investment" in this environment.

* Sandler O'Neill & Partners LP Stephen Scouten raised his investment rating for SunTrust Banks to "buy" from "hold" and increased his price target to $62 from $59. The analyst upgraded his rating following the company's fourth-quarter earnings release for 2016. After the company's earnings conference call, Scouten believes the company will be able to grow its net interest margin and control its expense base better than previous expectations.

* J.J.B. Hilliard W.L. Lyons LLC analyst Andrew Stapp upgraded Winston-Salem, N.C.-based BB&T Corp. to "buy" from "neutral," based on valuation. The analyst also increased his 12-month price target to $51 from $50. The company's management noted that there has been an improvement in customer sentiment. In addition, based on the December 2016 Fed rate hike, management thinks the company will be able to see an 8-basis-point to 10-basis-point increase in its net interest margin in the first quarter.

Furthermore, the company plans to ask to increase its total payout ratio to approximately 100% in its upcoming Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review plan submission.

Downgrades

* Compass Point Research & Trading LLC analyst Scott Valentin downgraded Birmingham, Ala.-based Regions Financial Corp. to "neutral" from "buy" and increased his price target to $15 per share from $14.50 per share. The analyst noted that the company's fourth-quarter 2016 earnings were higher than his projections, but Regions Financial's guidance was lower than his expectations, specifically low-single-digit loan and deposit growth and flattish noninterest expense.