The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights:Simon Property Group, PNC Financial Services Group, SunTrust Banks, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of

The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights:Simon Property Group, PNC Financial Services
          Group, SunTrust Banks, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America

PR Newswire

CHICAGO, Aug. 13, 2013

CHICAGO, Aug. 13, 2013 /PRNewswire/ announces the list of stocks
featured in the Analyst Blog. Every day the Zacks Equity Research analysts
discuss the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets.
Stocks recently featured in the blog include  theSimon Property Group,
Inc.(NYSE:SPG-Free Report), The PNC Financial Services Group,
Inc.(NYSE:PNC-Free Report), SunTrust Banks, Inc.(NYSE:STI-Free Report),
JPMorgan Chase & Co.(NYSE:JPM-Free Report) and Bank of America
Corp.(NYSE:BAC-Free Report).


Today, Zacks is promoting its ''Buy'' stock recommendations. Get #1Stock of
the Day pick for free.

Here are highlights from Monday's Analyst Blog:

Simon Property Upgraded to Buy

On Aug 8, Zacks Investment Research upgradedSimon Property Group,
Inc.(NYSE:SPG-Free Report) to a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). The upgrade of this
retail real estate investment trust (REIT) came on the back of
better-than-expected second-quarter 2013 results.

Why the Upgrade?

Consistent with its winning streak, Simon Property came up with a solid
operating performance during the second quarter and easily outpaced funds from
operations (FFO) estimates. Quarterly FFO per share was up 11.6% year over
year and beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate by 1.93%, primarily due to an
increase in minimum rent, overage rent and occupancy.

In particular, significant portfolio restructuring activity has been steering
Simon Property to strengthen its footprint on national and international
levels. It has been active in capitalizing on growth opportunities in some of
the top global markets, with a focus on enhancing its Premium Outlets
portfolio. As part of this strategy to expand in upscale locations across the
world, recently Simon Property opened its first Premium Outlet Centre in
Toronto, Canada.

Prompted by its strong fundamentals, Simon Property raised its FFO growth
outlook for the second time in the year. The upward revision of the guidance
also boosts investors' confidence.

The stronger-than-anticipated results triggered an uptrend in the Zacks
Consensus Estimates, as analysts became more constructive on the stock's
future performance. This is evident from the movement witnessed in the Zacks
Consensus Estimate that rose 0.7% to $8.73 for 2013 and 0.3% to $9.36 per
share for 2014 in the past 30 days.

Additionally, the long-term earnings growth forecast for the company is 6.88%.
Hence, the favorable estimate revisions, driven by positive second-quarter
results and expansion efforts made way for the upgrade in the rank.

Banks Face Mortgage-Related Inquiry

The probe into the operation of banks with regard to their mortgage-related
practices before the financial crisis continues. Now, it is the turn ofThe
PNC Financial Services Group, Inc.(NYSE:PNC-Free Report) andSunTrust Banks,
Inc.(NYSE:STI-Free Report) to face regulatory inquiry.

In their latest quarterly filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission
(SEC), both PNC Financial and SunTrust revealed that they face
mortgage-related investigations from various regulators.

PNC Financial disclosed that the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Consumer
Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) are probing into the mortgage pricing
practices of the company as well as National City Corporation – acquired by
PNC Financial in 2008. The allegations include discrimination against
protected borrowers. Under the federal law, lenders can be prosecuted for
practices that discriminate based on race, color and religion, among others.

Additionally, PNC Financial revealed that it has received a subpoena for
information related to foreclosures from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the
Southern District of New York. The primary information being sought is claims
for foreclosure expenses related to the loans insured or guaranteed by Fannie
Mae or Freddie Mac.

For SunTrust, the investigation relates to processing of mortgage-modification
applications under the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP). The Office
of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program
(SIGTARP) and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Virginia
are together probing the company's loan-modification procedures during

These regulators allege that SunTrust failed to properly process loan
modification applications of mortgages owned by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
These agencies accuse the company of misleading borrowers with regard to
timelines and other features of the HAMP modification procedure.

Notably, these are among several other lawsuits that PNC Financial and
SunTrust face related to their conduct preceding the financial crisis. Given
this, at the end of second-quarter 2013, both these companies anticipate legal
losses of $400 million each, exceeding their existing litigation reserves.

PNC Financial and SunTrust are the latest banks to reveal that their mortgage
practices are under investigation by various law enforcement agencies. Last
week,JPMorgan Chase & Co.(NYSE:JPM-Free Report) disclosed that it faces
investigation by the DOJ and the SEC over the sale of risky residential
mortgage backed securities (RMBS). Notably, the DOJ and the SEC have already
filed 2 separate civil lawsuits againstBank of America Corp.(NYSE:BAC-Free
Report) related to the sale of RMBS worth $850 million in 2008.

Following the completion of the investigation, if banks are prosecuted, it
will inevitably lead to a further rise in litigation costs and affect the
banks' images as well as financials.

Though the overall impact from such lawsuits is yet to be evaluated, these
measures are somewhat reassuring as they are aimed at restraining
mortgage-related malpractices. Most importantly, such measures will likely
impart the much needed transparency to banking procedures concerning the sale
of mortgages.

Currently, PNC Financial carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy), while SunTrust carries
a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold)

Today, Zacks is promoting its ''Buy'' stock recommendations. Get #1Stock of
the Day pick for free.

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