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Barron's NYCB Stock Falls Hard After Credit Downgrades

New York Community Bancorp’s stock losses deepened Monday after problems with commercial real estate loans prompted downgrades to its credit rating.

Most other regional bank stocks were maintaining their altitudes Monday, after having been pulled down last week by NYCB’s troubles.

On nearly five times its recent average daily trading volume, NYCB stock closed down 23%, at $2.73, in Monday trading. Depositors can take fright when they see investors losing confidence in a bank, but it is hard to assess whether the stock’s slide has affected NYCB’s deposit flows. Bank executives haven’t given an update on deposits since about a month ago.

“The fact that they haven’t soothed fears by providing an update on core deposits is leaving investors with more questions than answers,” said Wedbush analyst David Chiaverini, reflecting on the calls he was getting Monday. He was an early bear on NYCB stock, putting a Sell rating on it in November when the shares still traded for $9.

NYCB didn’t immediately respond to requests Monday for comment.

Investors’ hunger for information can pose a dilemma for a bank that’s in the spotlight.

“If you provide one update, then the market is going to want an update every time the stock sells off,” said Chiaverini. “If they aren’t providing incremental information, then people may assume the worst.” In last year’s panic over regional banks like PacWest Bancorp and Western Alliance Bancorp, those institutions may have done as much harm as good, with drumbeats of reassuring announcements.

Coming into Monday, NYCB had dropped 34% in the past month and 65% since the start of the year. Last week, NYCB—the lender perhaps most exposed to apartment buildings with rent controls in New York City—surprised markets by changing its CEO and saying it found “material weaknesses” in its loan-review process. It took a $2.4 billion charge to write down goodwill it had carried from past bank mergers.

In response, half a dozen stock analysts pulled their Buy ratings. Then late Friday, Fitch downgraded NYCB’s short- and long-term bonds to BB from BBB, putting it just below investment grade, with a Negative rating outlook. Moody’s had downgraded NYCB corporate bonds to junk last month, but dropped them further after Friday’s close, along with the deposit rating for the company’s Flagstar Bank unit.

If inexpensive deposits from retail savers leave NYCB, it can shore up its liquidity with brokered deposits and borrowing from the Federal Home Loan Bank. But those funding sources come at a higher cost for the bank, and would pinch NYCB’s net interest margin—that is, the spread between the interest it pays for funds and the interest it charges for loans.