NYCB shares surge after top executives disclose stake purchases

By Manya Saini and Niket Nishant

(Reuters) -New York Community Bancorp’s shares closed up nearly 17% on Friday after top executives disclosed they had bought stock in the U.S. lender.

NYCB has taken steps to boost investor confidence in recent days after its shares lost around 50% since Jan. 31, when it posted a surprise quarterly loss and slashed its dividend.

Purchases by NYCB executives totaled more than $850,000 combined, regulatory filings published on Friday showed. The filings gave no details beyond the name of the purchaser, the number of shares and their value.

Among the buyers were NYCB’s newly appointed Executive Chairman Alessandro DiNello, who bought 50,000 shares for around $209,480, the filings showed. Peter Schoels, a director, purchased 100,000 shares for $414,750.

Market participants tend to track the trading activity of executives, as investors believe the insiders could have a clearer view of the company’s outlook.

“If insiders purchase a material number of shares, it provides a signal to the outside world that the insiders aren’t worried,” said Eric Compton, director of technology equity research at Morningstar. “In banking, confidence can be the difference between making it and not making it.”

The bank’s shares closed at $4.90, up 16.9%.

DiNello, who was appointed executive chairman earlier this week, on Wednesday said NYCB would take steps to reduce its exposure to the troubled commercial real estate (CRE) sector, including considering the sale of loans in its CRE portfolio.

Michael Ashley Schulman, a partner and chief investment officer at Running Point Capital Advisors, said the purchases could indicate that executives believe NYCB’s current share price may not reflect the bank’s actual condition.

“On the other hand, one might say that their … share purchases can be seen as a relatively cheap option to help rescue their $3.2 billion market cap bank, their employees, depositors, and their current ownership stake,” he said.

The bank did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the purchases.

The share purchases come a day after Morningstar downgraded NYCB’s credit rating due to “outsized” CRE exposure. Rating agencies Fitch and Moody’s had already cut their NYCB ratings.

The sell-off in NYCB’s shares has stirred contagion concerns as investors feared potential defaults of CRE loans would hurt the balance sheets of several regional banks.

The KBW Regional Banking Index, a key index to gauge investor sentiment toward the sector, has fallen more than 10% so far this year. It was up 1.85% on Friday. The S&P 500 closed up 0.6% at a record high.

(Reporting by Manya Saini and Niket Nishant in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Arasu Kannagi Basil; Editing by Ira Iosebashvili, Mark Porter and Chris Reese)