3 Reasons to Buy Huntington Bancshares

Banks come in various shapes and sizes, as do the stocks that represent them. One of the better performing bank stocks since the 2008 financial crisis is a relatively small bank that limits most of its operations to a handful of Midwestern states. Despite this limited operational area, Huntington Bancshares (NAS: HBAN) has managed to outperform many of its larger competitors, and this article will outline three reasons why I think this small bank from Ohio may deserve a spot in your portfolio.

1. Performance
While past performance is not an indicator of future success, Huntington Bank has recovered from the financial crisis that wreaked havoc on the market in 2008. Huntington spent much of 2011 recovering from this damage, and this recovery has continued throughout this year, with earnings up 21% during its most recent quarter. This earnings performance was driven primarily by an increase in noninterest income and a decrease in nonperforming assets, showing that it truly is the banking business performance that is driving its resurgence.

Though substantially down from its pre-crisis highs, it has recovered nearly 400% from lows reached in March 2009 after the dust had settled on the financial meltdown. Two banks of similar size, New York Community Bancorp (NYS: NYB) and Comerica (NYS: CMA) , also recovered nicely -- up 76% and 106%, respectively -- but their performance pales in comparison to Huntington's. The performance of New York Community was probably driven more by its 8% dividend yield than by anything else, while Comerica's recent surge could be due to the Federal Reserve granting approval for a dividend increase and substantial share repurchase.

2. Dividend
One reason Huntington has performed so well recently is its relatively generous dividend. While it is possible to find higher yields even within the financial sector, the most promising thing about its dividend is its potential for growth. During the past year, Huntington has returned only 26% of earnings to shareholders in the form of dividends, giving it plenty of room to grow over the next few years. And while its current yield of 2.5% may look paltry when compared to the 8.1% yield of New York Community Bank, it is much larger than both Citigroup and Bank of America, though the Federal Reserve has justifiably prohibited these large banks from raising their dividends because of capital requirements.

3. Limited operations
As a regional bank, Huntington limits itself to operations in the Midwest, operating 660 branches in Ohio, Michigan, western Pennsylvania, Indiana, West Virginia, and Kentucky. By limiting itself, it may miss out on some potential profits, but it also limits its exposure to some of the things that have led larger banks astray. You won't see many European bonds buried on its balance sheet, and the company is truly focused on the region in which it resides. In an effort to boost the flagging economies of the states in its region, it has committed $4 billion to the state of Ohio over the past three years to help small businesses, as well as an additional $2 billion in the state of Michigan.

Should you buy?
The three reasons outlined here are among the reasons why I have been keeping my eye on Huntington Bank over the past nine months or so. Within the banking industry, there are a lot of options, but I think Huntington Bank would be a great addition to any portfolio looking to gain from the continuing recovery of the banking industry. Click here to add it to your watchlist to keep an eye on any developments. If you are looking for another possible bank, look no further than our free report "The Stocks Only the Smartest Investors Are Buying." This report profiles another regional bank that has the attention of Warren Buffett and other super investors like him. Get your free copy while it's still available.

The article 3 Reasons to Buy Huntington Bancshares originally appeared on Fool.com.

Fool contributor Robert Eberhard holds no position in any company mentioned. Follow him on Twitter, or click here to see his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Citigroup, Huntington Bancshares, and Bank of America. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

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