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FBR lowers Regions, SunTrust to 'neutral'

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FBR lowers Regions, SunTrust to 'neutral'

Downgrades

* FBR Capital Markets' Steve Moss downgraded Regions Financial Corp. and SunTrust Banks Inc., both to "neutral" from "buy."

Moss attributed the change to valuations and "lower for longer" loan growth trends. Loan growth at the large-cap regional banks is particularly slower, the analyst commented, due to exposure to higher paydowns from capital markets activity. However, it may be offset by net interest margins propped up by deposit prices and strong credit.

Moss lowered Birmingham, Ala.-based Regions' price target by a dollar to $16. He maintained Atlanta-based SunTrust's price target at $62. Both incorporate the benefit of a corporate tax cut.

Initiation

* Raymond James has initiated coverage of FB Financial Corp.

Daniel Cardenas rated the stock "outperform" and gave it a $41 target price. The stock closed at $37.93 on Oct. 9.

The analyst expects the Nashville, Tenn.-based company's post-merger deposit base to be about 80% low-cost. At 41 basis points, it would be roughly half the peer group's average.

FB Financial is likely to stay acquisitive, but organic loan growth on its own is projected to reach 8% to 10% in 2018 and 2019. The company's growth, Cardenas pointed out, "has not come at the expense of profitability." Return on average assets stood at 1.36% in the first half, up from 0.64% in 2012. For 2018, it may reach 1.53%.

Dropped coverage

* And D.A. Davidson has discontinued coverage of Los Angeles-based CU Bancorp, in advance of its acquisition by PacWest Bancorp. Their merger is expected to close Oct. 20.

Analyst Gary Tenner had a "neutral" rating on the stock.