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The larger regional banks are showing signs of growing loan demand in their quarterly results, pointing to an improving U.S. economy. While consumer and industrial lending have been bright spots for U.S. regional banks, demand for new mortgages has remained relatively lackluster. Recently, larger U.S. regional banks like SunTrust Banks (NYSE:STI), PNC Financial (NYSE:PNC) and US Bancorp (NYSE:USB) showed loan growth and improving credit quality in their quarterly earnings reports. The regional bank stocks are looking like great opportunities for investors seeking high-yield stocks. Here is a discussion of potential high yield buys in the banking sector.

New York Community Bancorp, Inc. (NYB) operates as a multibank holding company for New York Community Bank and New York Commercial Bank, which offer banking products and services in New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Florida, and Arizona. It primarily engages in generating deposits and originating loans. NYB is trading at $13.00 with a 7.69% dividend yield. NYB has maintained a constant $0.25 dividend per quarter since 2004. NYB is not a dividend growth stock but the high dividend yield is worth a look at this time.

NYB reported GAAP earnings of $117.7 million, or $0.27 per diluted share, for the three months ended December 31, 2011, and $480.0 million, or $1.09 per diluted share, for the twelve months ended at that date. NYB also reported its earnings on a non-GAAP basis. In the three months ended December 31, 2011, the Company generated non-GAAP operating earnings of $117.0 million, or $0.27 per diluted share, and non-GAAP cash earnings of$127.2 million, or $0.29 per diluted share. In the twelve months ended December 31, 2011, NYB generated operating earnings of $464.4 million, or $1.06 per diluted share, and cash earnings of $535.3 million, or $1.23 per diluted share.

Commenting on the company's results, President and Chief Executive Officer Joseph R. Ficalora stated, "Our solid fourth-quarter performance speaks to our resilience--one of the vital features of our overall business strategy. Notwithstanding the volatility of market interest rates, and the high level of unemployment, we originated more than $5 billion in loans, including $2.4 billion of loans for investment, while also improving the quality of our assets, recording solid earnings, and maintaining our capital strength.

First Financial Bancorp (NASDAQ:FFBC) operates as the holding company for First Financial Bank, National Association that provides commercial banking, and other banking and banking-related services. FFBC is trading at $16.63 with a 7.58% dividend yield. FFBC dividends have rebound from $0.10 per quarter in 2010, to the most recent $0.31 in 1st-quarter 2012, a 210% increase in 5 quarters.

First Financial Bancorp has reported a net income available to common shareholders of $17.94 million, or $0.31 per diluted share, for the fourth quarter ended December 31, 2011, compared with $14.30 million, or $0.24 per diluted share, for the fourth-quarter ended December 31, 2010. Net income available to common shareholders for the twelve months ended December 31, 2011, was $66.74 million, or $1.14 per diluted share, compared with $57.39 million, or $0.99 per diluted share, for the twelve months ended December 31, 2010.

Claude Davis, President and CEO, commented, "During 2011, we maintained a prudent balance between capitalizing on growth opportunities and focusing on the execution of our community bank business model. We produced solid and consistent earnings throughout the year driven by a continued focus on operating efficiency, implementation of deposit rationalization strategies and lower credit costs. As a result, our diluted earnings per common share totaled $0.31 for the fourth quarter and $1.14 for the year, representing increases of 29.2% and 15.2%, respectively, over the comparable periods in 2010."

Park National Corporation (NYSEMKT:PRK) operates as a bank holding company that engages in the commercial banking and trust business. It accepts deposits for demand, savings, and time accounts, as well as services these accounts. PRK is trading at $69.66 with a 5.46% dividend yield. PRK has been a steady dividend payer over more than 10 years.

Park National Corporation has reported a net income available to common shareholders of $11.74 million, or $0.76 per diluted share, for the fourth quarter ended December 31, 2011, compared with a net loss available to common shareholders of $4.87 million, or $0.32 per diluted share, for the fourth quarter ended December 31, 2010. Net income available to common shareholders for the year ended December 31, 2011, was $78.88 million, or $5.12 per diluted share, compared with $52.29 million, or $3.45 per diluted share, for the year ended December 31, 2010.

"Ohio's results continue to be exceptional. Our successful community banks in Ohio represent the great majority of our organization, and we look forward to continuing our tradition of service excellence coupled with consistent performance in 2012," said Park Chairman C. Daniel DeLawder. "The pending sale of the Vision Bank operations, which we expect to conclude in the first quarter of 2012, allows us to concentrate fully on our operations in Ohio and our powerful earnings engine as we move forward."

For investor seeking dividend growth, BankUnited (NYSE:BKU) just increased its dividend 21%. BankUnited, Inc. operates as the holding company for BankUnited that provides various banking products and services to consumers, and commercial and middle-market businesses. BKU is trading at $23.00 with a 2.9% dividend yield. More dividend boosts are likely as operating results improve.

BKU posted a higher quarterly profit that beat analyst estimates helped by improved loan demand and said it expects growth in its loan portfolio to continue. New loans at the Florida-based bank led by John Kanas more than tripled to $1.7 billion as of Dec 31, from $548.9 million a year ago. BKU announced that its Board of Directors has declared a quarterly cash dividend of $0.17 per common share, an increase of $0.03, or 21%, from the previous quarterly dividend of $0.14 per common share. The dividend will be payable on April 16, 2012, to stockholders of record at the close of business on April 2, 2012.

Source: Best Solid-Yielding Stocks In The Banking Sector