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Financial Funds Rally on Banks' Results

Stocks in this article: C GS BAC

TSC Ratings provides exclusive stock, ETF and mutual fund ratings and commentary based on award-winning, proprietary tools. Its "safety first" approach to investing aims to reduce risk while seeking solid outperformance on a total return basis.

Financial-services funds rallied this week as banks including Citigroup (C) and Goldman Sachs (GS) reported better-than-expected quarterly results, helping company shares rebound from declines of as much as 90%.

The stalling of so-called cram-down legislation in the U.S. Senate may help banks extend gains. The law would enable bankruptcy judges to rewrite all aspects of a troubled loan. Without sufficient votes, the cram-down may be watered down to cover fewer loans or given an early sunset date if a compromise can be reached at all. Ratings

For the five trading days through Thursday, the average financial-sector fund we track gained 2.5%, excluding inverse funds that sell short banks, real estate investment trusts, insurance companies and brokerage firms. It was the best-performing industry group.

Citigroup, up 32% in the five days, recorded a first-quarter profit of $1.6 billion. Ironically, the same mark-to-market accounting philosophy forcing banks to take losses on securities held required Citigroup to book $2.5 billion in unrealized gains on the drop in market value of its own outstanding debt. Goldman Sachs had better-than- expected earnings as a surge in trading revenue outweighed asset writedowns.

The best-performing financial fund this week is the First Trust Financial AlphaDEX Fund (FXO), gaining 8.6%. On top of Citigroup, other holdings include E*Trade Financial (ETFC), up 69%; Huntington Banchares/OH (HBAN), up 54%; and Protective Life (PL), up 19%. Bank of America (BAC) added 8.3% for the week. Bank of America is expected by analysts to report stronger lending from its Countrywide Financial unit when it reports first-quarter earnings on April 20.

The only top-performing financial fund listed below rated as a "buy" is the Jennison Financial Services Fund (PUFBX), benefiting from an international mix of financial institutions. Top-name holdings include UBS (UBS), up 13%; BNP Paribas (BNPQF), up 9.5%; AXA (AXA), up 6.2%; and Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD), up 4.8%.

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