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On Aug 21, Zacks Investment Research upgraded WesBanco Inc. (WSBC - Snapshot Report) to a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

Why the Upgrade?

WesBanco has been witnessing rising earnings estimates on the back of strong second-quarter 2013 results. Moreover, this well-known financial services provider delivered positive earnings surprises in 3 of the last 4 quarters with an average beat of 9.3%. The long-term expected earnings growth rate for this stock is 5%.

WesBanco reported its second-quarter results on Jul 23 with earnings per share of 58 cents, beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 52 cents by 11.5% and year-ago earnings of 45 cents by 28.9%. Robust results for the reported quarter were primarily aided by elevated total revenues and lower provisions for credit losses, partially offset by higher expenses.

Total revenues surged 11% year over year to $63.7 million. This upsurge reflected growth in net interest income, fee income and gain on sale of mortgage loans. Provision for credit losses substantially declined 83% year over year to $1.0 million.

However, on the downside, expenses increased 9.4% to $39.5 million, as compared with the prior-year period. Higher salaries and wages along with elevated employee benefits primarily drove the increase.

Earlier this week, WesBanco announced a 5.3% increase in its quarterly cash dividend. The increased dividend of 20 cents per share will be paid on Oct 1, 2013 to shareholders of record on Sep 13, 2013. Notably, this latest rise in dividend is the second increase this year representing an annualized 11.1% increase during 2013.

Following second-quarter 2013 results, the Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2013 increased 7.1% to $2.26 per share on the back of 5 of the 7 upward revisions, over the last 30 days. For 2014, the Zacks Consensus Estimate advanced 6.9% to $2.32 per share with 5 of the 7 estimates moving north over the same time period.

Other Stocks to Consider

Besides WesBanco, other Southeast banks with a Zacks Rank #1 include Farmers Capital Bank Corporation (FFKT - Snapshot Report), Home Bancshares, Inc. (Conway, AR) (HOMB - Snapshot Report) and First M&F Corporation .

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