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On May 11, Zacks Investment Research upgraded First Pactrust Bancorp, Inc. (BANC - Snapshot Report) to a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

Why the Upgrade?

First Pactrust Bancorp has been witnessing rising earnings estimates on the back of strong first-quarter 2013 results. This regional banking services provider has delivered a 400.0% earnings surprise in the quarter. Further, the long-term expected earnings growth rate for this stock is 15.0%.

The company reported its first-quarter 2013 results on May 8 with earnings per share of 5 cents, easily beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 1 cent. This compared favorably with the prior-quarter loss of 30 cents.

Robust results were primarily aided by higher non-interest as well as net interest income, and lower provision for loan losses. However, higher expenses were among the negatives.

Net interest income came in at $15.4 million, up 3.5% from the prior quarter. Non-interest income jumped 12.3% sequentially to $17.9 million. Provision for loan losses decreased to $2.2 million as compared with $3.5 million in the prior quarter.

However, on the downside, non-interest expense rose 2.1% from the prior quarter to $29.6 million.

Credit quality continued to improve. Non-accrual loans were $16.5 million, falling 28.1% sequentially. Net charge-offs were $0.6 million, down from $1.4 million in the prior quarter.

Following first-quarter results, the Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2013 increased 8.3% to 78 cents per share over the last 30 days. For 2014, the Zacks Consensus Estimate rose by 2.4% to $1.42 per share.

Other Stocks to Consider

Other stocks in the same sector with a Zacks Rank #1 include Preferred Bank (PFBC - Snapshot Report), TriCo Bancshares (TCBK - Snapshot Report) and American National Bankshares Inc. (AMNB - Snapshot Report).

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