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Small Cap Regional Banks Surge on Volume

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- MBT Financial (MBTF - Get Report) was among a handful of small cap regional banks stocks surging on a spike in volume Friday.

MBT Financial shares rallied 63.1% to $3.18 after the bank posted a first-quarter profit of 2 cents a share, compared to a single analyst's estimate the bank would lose 29 cents a share in the quarter. Volume topped 1.34 million shares, compared to the 50-day average daily volume of 42,000, according to the Nasdaq.

MBT Financial is the latest in a string of small-cap regional banks that have surprised with quarterly results. For instance, Dearborn Bancorp (DEAR) said late Tuesday that it swung to a first-quarter profit of 15 cents a share from a year-ago loss of 81 cents a share.

Both MBT Financial and Dearborn were only two of several small-cap bank names that were experiencing a sharp share price increase on massive volume. For example, Crescent Banking (CSNT) surged 172% to $2.23, as volume of 1.68 million was more than 70 times normal.

"We've been seeing better earnings from bigger regionals, like Fifth Third and SunTrust, so perhaps traders who dabble in these names are hoping for the same type of turnaround," says Robert Pavlik, chief market strategist with Banyan Partners. "The situation facing these financial companies certainly has improved."

Pavlik, who does not cover or follow regional banks closely, also speculates that these bank stocks, which have a low float, could be rallying due to short squeezes. "If you get any type of movement in names with shorts, they get squeezed out. If a squeeze gets going, you typically get a tremendous run-up," he adds.

Among other regional banks up on above-average volume, Integra Bank (IBNK) was up 46.3% to $1.58, FPB Bancorp (FPBI) gained 39.6% to $2.19, FNB United Corp. (FNBN) added 29.2% to $2.17, and Frontier Financial Corp. (FTBK) advanced 22.5% to $2.89.

Also, United Western Bancorp (UWBK) rose 22.8% to $2.05, Western Alliance Bancorp (WAL - Get Report) rallied 21.3% to $8.90, Pacific Capital Bancorp (PCBC) was up 16.7% to $5.10, and BankAtlantic Bancorp (BBX - Get Report) was higher by 15.6% to $2.89.

-- Written by Robert Holmes in Boston.

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