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Tuesday's Bank Stocks: Prepping for 'Santa Claus rally'

Westbury, N.Y.-based New York Community Bancorp Inc.'s stock closed lower Tuesday, Dec. 20, following the announcement that the company and Lake Success, N.Y.-based Astoria Financial Corp. have mutually agreed to terminate their merger.

At market close, New York Community Bancorp slipped 3.18% to $16.75. Astoria Financial managed to rebound from a lower midday, and gained 0.50% to $18.17.

Bank stocks, along with the broader markets, ended the day in positive territory. The SNL U.S. Bank Index gained 1.49% to 540.29, and the SNL U.S. Thrift Index dipped 0.04% to 973.96. In broader markets, the Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.46% to 19,974.62, the S&P 500 gained 0.36% to 2,270.76 and the Nasdaq composite index jumped 0.49% to 5,483.94.

Michael Antonelli, an institutional equity sales trader and managing director at Robert W. Baird & Co., said markets are prepping for another "Santa Claus rally," or the increase in stock prices that often occurs around the holidays.

"The Santa Claus rally starts in earnest pretty soon here," he said. "Seasonal trade kicks in during the last few weeks. Most fund managers kind of make some end-of-year decisions and [get] geared up for the next year. Usually, the markets end pretty strong, and they tend to buy to level themselves out risk-wise."

Antonelli said market observers continue to watch as the Dow "flirts with 20,000." Otherwise, he said it was a slow market day with no economic data released to sway the market.

"All we're seeing today are low volumes and low-client interest," he said. "We're kind of running down the clock at the end of the year. Financials are still benefiting from the postelection exuberance."

Among large-caps, Wells Fargo & Co. gained 1.59% to $56.10, Citigroup Inc. increased 1.91% to $60.80, Bank of America Corp. added 1.02% to $22.71 and JPMorgan Chase & Co. jumped 1.29% to $86.53.

Among other notable movers, Texas Capital Bancshares Inc. jumped 3.97% to $81.20, First BanCorp. gained 5.80% to $6.93, Customers Bancorp Inc. added 4.35% to $36.43, Valley National Bancorp rose 3.48% to $11.90, F.N.B. Corp. increased 2.92% to $16.20 and Yadkin Financial Corp. advanced 2.82% to $34.65.

In thrifts, Bank Mutual Corp. added 5.00% to $9.45.

Market prices and index values are current as of the time of publication and are subject to change.