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Bull of the Day

We are upgrading our recommendation on Hilltop Holdings, Inc. (HTH) to Outperform based on its fourth quarter earnings that modestly surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate, based on a higher-than-expected top line that benefited from improved premiums, investment income and net realized gain coupled with lower-than-expected expenses.

Hilltop's capital position remains sound along with a risk-free balance sheet that lays scope for efficient capital deployment. This is also evident from the new share buyback program, fostering shareholders' confidence in the stock.

Overall, Hilltop should continue to tread ahead with its strategic approach in order to capitalize on the opportunities that the markets provide on stabilization. Our six-month price target is $10.00 per share, reflecting about 0.8x our book value estimate of $12.33 per share at September 30, 2012. This target price implies an expected total return of 15.9% over that period.

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