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10 Buy Rated Regional Bank Stocks (Update 3)

Updated with new comments and ratings downgrades for Trustmark, from Morgan Keegan analyst Ebrahim Poonwala and KBW analyst Brian Klock, and additional comment on F.N.N. Corp., from FBR analyst Bob Ramsey.

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- TheStreet Ratings has identified 10 buy-rated regional bank stocks, with strong capital, consistent earnings, and competitive long-term performance.

While sell-side analysts have been pushing bargain bank stocks trading at low multiples to book value and earnings, TheStreet Ratings places its emphasis on long-term total returns, as well as revenue trends and capital strength and dividends, while also considering short-term performance, financial stability and volatility.

The list is limited to names with average daily trading volume of over 50,000 shares.

Not all of these companies have announced their fourth-quarter results, but looking back for the five most recently reported quarterly results for each, only one company has had one "bad quarter" over the past year, with a negative operating return on average assets (ROA), according to data supplied by SNL Financial.

In fact, except for that one quarter, the most recent 50 quarters reported by the group show ROA exceeding 0.70%.

The group of 10 regional banking names discussed here has also, for the most part, made money for investors over the past five years, while most of the best-known banking names have been losers, because of the credit crisis that began in 2008.

Here's a quick look at how earnings performance over the past year, and five-year total returns, stack up among the "big four" U.S. bank holding companies:

  • Shares of Bank of America (BAC) closed at $7.25 Monday, rising 30% year-to-date, but with a negative five-year total return of 84%. As the company has struggled to digest its disastrous purchase of Countrywide Financial in 2008, Bank of America has posted net losses for two of the past five quarters, and its highest ROA over the past year was 1.08% in the third quarter, when the bottom line reflected numerous one-time pre-tax items, including $4.5 billion in positive fair value adjustments on structured liabilities, Debit valuation adjustments (DVA) of $1.7 billion, a $3.6 billion gain from the sale of shares in China Construction Bank, and on the negative side, $2.2 billion in investment write-downs.
  • JPMorgan's shares were up 14% year-to-date to close Monday at $37.66. The stock's five-year total return was a negative 16%. Over the past five quarters, JPMorgan's ROA has ranged from 0.66% to 1.06%.
  • Citigroup's (C) shares closed Monday at $29.85, rising 13% year-to-date, but with a very painful negative five-year total return of 94%. The company's ROA has ranged from 0.25% to 0.76% over the past five quarters.
  • Wells Fargo (WFC) has been the gold standard among the "big four," with an ROA ranging between 1.13% and 1.30% over the past five quarters. The shares closed at $30.92 Monday, rising 12% year-to-date, but the five-year total return was a negative 3%.

Of course, the regional bank holding companies listed here trade much higher against forward earnings estimates and book value than the "big four" and most of the better known large regional banks do.

You're paying for quality. It's a different approach than most of the analysis out there follow, providing investors with food for thought.

Here are the 10 actively traded bank stocks rated highest by TheStreet Ratings:

Stock quotes in this article: BAC, C, JPM, WFC, FNB, TRMK, PB, ORIT, FFBC, CBU, FFIN, BOKF, HOMB, LKFN 

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