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Fifth Third Hikes Dividend

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According to its capital plan under the 2012 Comprehensive Capital Analysis & Review (CCAR), Fifth Third Bancorp (FITB - Free Report) increased its dividend by 10% to 11 cents. The increased dividend will be paid on Apr 18, 2013 to shareholders of record as of Mar 29.

Further, following the approval of its capital plan under the 2013 CCAR, the company has proposed another dividend hike of 9% to 12 cents per share, which is subject to the approval of the board of directors. The increase may take place anytime between the second quarter of 2013 and the first quarter of 2014.

The company also announced a new share repurchase authorization of up to 100 million shares, replacing the previous authorization in 2012. The previous authorization had roughly 54 million shares outstanding.

Fifth Third’s capital plan for 2013 included potential share repurchases worth up to $984 million through the first quarter of 2014, along with additional incremental repurchases with any after-tax gains from the sale of Vantiv, Inc. .

The approval for the dividend hike justifies Fifth Third’s capital strength and will enhance investors’ confidence in the stock. This move represents fourth dividend increase post the dividend cuts made by Fifth Third during the financial crisis. The company had drastically slashed its dividend to 15 cents per share from 44 cents in June 2008 and further lowered it to a penny in December that year.

However, in March last year, the company raised it to 6 cents and again advanced it to 8 cents in September. Later, in October, the company upped it to 10 cents.

Going forward, Fifth Third remains well positioned to benefit from a recovering economy due to a diversified traditional banking platform. Its diverse revenue mix, improved credit quality and strong capital position serve as positive catalyst for the stock. However, the sluggish macro environment and stringent regulations are causes of concern.

Fifth Third currently carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). Other banking stocks that are performing better than Fifth Third include Meta Financial Group, Inc. (CASH - Free Report) and Flagstar Bancorp Inc. (FBC - Free Report) . Both the stocks carry a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

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