Stifel Financial (SF) surprised Wall Street last week with its$575 million agreement to buy KBW(KBW).

Stifel has been on an upswing. Last week it posted third-quarter income of $37.7 million, 69% higher than a year earlier. New hires and preparations for an anticipated wave of bank mergers have fueled its investment banking arm, which ishaving its best bank mergers and acquisitions results since 2007.

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