The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.

NEW YORK (

TheStreet

) -- Some of the big news in the markets this week concerns the

Financial Sector

, as banks are now attempting to reinstitute dividends if they are approved by the Federal Reserve. One question we have had here at the FRED Report (

www.thefredreport.com

) is: Is this a good time to buy the banks? This is a complex question and depends on your investment style and objectives. If one is a long-term investor, the answer is, possibly. If one is a performance-oriented trader, the answer is almost certainly, no.

To understand why we say this -- let's look at three charts. First, we look at the weekly chart of the OEF (iShares S&P 100 Index Fund ETF). This index carries a fairly heavy financial weighting. Notice it is approximately 5% above the April 2010 high. Next, we look at one of the stronger sectors, the XLY (SPDR Select Sector Consumer Discretionary ETF) and note that this sector is also above the April 2010 highs, in this case approximately 6% above that level. Last, we will look at the XLF (SPDR Select Sector Financial ETF).

We note that this sector is around 5% BELOW the April 2010 highs, fairly strong underperformance given the rally over the last few months

.

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When we examine the XLF, remember that it is made up of all types of financial stocks, and not just banks. We turn to the BKX, an index of bank stocks, and note that it is approximately 13% below the April 2010 highs.

One relatively bright spot in bank stocks is regional banks, as some of these were not affected by the banking crisis

.

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While bank stocks continue to be underperformers, some investors continue to be interested, particularly investors with a long-term time horizon. And, some banks stocks DO look better than others. A few follow below. First, look at JPM relative to BAC. 

JPM is much stronger on a relative basis, and is outperforming the BKX as well

. In the big money centers, another favorite is WFC, which is outperforming BKX as well.

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We have interest in a couple of regional banks. The first, STI, is performing slightly better than XLF, and much better than BKX. The second, RF, is likely a good speculation name. This stock is cheap, and Regions may have some fundamental issues, but the chart is interesting for those who are willing to assume above average risk.

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To conclude, right now bank stocks are underperforming, and how long this could continue is anybody's guess. However, for longer-term, patience investors, these stocks look to have some potential

.