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On Jan 2, 2014, Zacks Investment Research upgraded United Community Banks, Inc. (UCBI - Snapshot Report) to a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

Why the Upgrade?

United Community Banks has been witnessing rising earnings estimates driven by announcement of the impending TARP repayments and strong third-quarter results. Moreover, this bank holding company has a long-term earnings growth rate of 8.0%.

On Dec 30, 2013, United Community Banks declared it has received regulatory approval for redemption of $180 million in Series B preferred stock issued under the U.S. Treasury's TARP Program and $16.8 million in Series A and Series D preferred stock. Notably, the company completed the first phase of this plan by redeeming $75 million of the TARP preferred stock on Dec 27, 2013, and plans to redeem the remaining balance of $105 million by mid-Jan 2014.

On Oct 24, 2013, United Community Banks declared third-quarter earnings of 21 cents per share, which beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate by 10.5%. Better-than-expected results were attributable to top-line growth and decline in operating expenses. Moreover, the company witnessed a year-over-year surge in loan and deposits and credit quality improved as well.

The Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2013 increased nearly 1% to $4.47 per share over the last 90 days. For 2014, the Estimate surged 22.0% to $1.11 per share over the same time frame.

Other Stocks to Consider

Other bank holding stocks worth considering include First Bancorp (FBNC - Snapshot Report), State Bank Financial Corporation (STBZ - Snapshot Report) and First NBC Bank Holding Company (NBCB - Snapshot Report). All these carry a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

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