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On May 2, Zacks Investment Research upgraded TriCo Bancshares (TCBK - Snapshot Report) to a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

Why the Upgrade?

TriCo Bancshares has been witnessing rising earnings estimates on the back of strong first-quarter 2013 results. Moreover, this well-known commercial banking services provider delivered positive earnings surprises in 3 of the last 4 quarters with an average beat of 21.8%. The long-term expected earnings growth rate for this stock is 9%.    

TriCo Bancshares reported its first-quarter results on Apr 29 with earnings per share of 53 cents, substantially beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 33 cents by 60.6% and more than doubling from the year-ago earnings of 25 cents. Robust results for the reported quarter were primarily aided by higher non-interest income, reduced non-interest expenses and benefit from loan losses.

Non-interest income jumped 23.6% year over year to $10.2 million. Benefit from loan losses stood at $1.1 million as compared with the provision of $4.0 million in the prior-year quarter. Non-interest expense dipped 5.7% from the year-ago period to $21.6 million.

However, on the downside, net interest income decreased 1.9% to $24.6 million. The fall was primarily due to lower yield on loans and a decline in average balance in investments.

Credit quality continues to exhibit an improvement. Nonperforming originated loans were $54.8 million, waning 22.6% year over year. Net charge-offs for the quarter were $2.8 million compared with $4.9 million in the year-ago quarter.    

Following first-quarter 2013 results for TriCo Bancshares, the Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2013 increased 7.6% to $1.41 per share as 1 of the 4 estimates was revised higher over the last 7 days. For 2014, 1 out of the 4 estimates moved north over the same time frame, lifting the Zacks Consensus Estimate by 3.6% to $1.42 per share.

Other Stocks to Consider

Besides TriCo Bancshares, other stocks in the same sector with a Zacks Rank #1 include CU Bancorp (CUNB - Snapshot Report), Pacific Continental Corp. (PCBK - Snapshot Report) and Preferred Bank (PFBC - Snapshot Report).

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