NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Commerce Bancshares(CBSH) - Get Report, Hancock Holdings (HBHC) , Northwest Bancshares(NWBI) - Get Report and Zions Bancorp(ZION) - Get Report are the best investment candidates among the 364 components of the ABA Nasdaq Community Bank Index, because they are in a good position to increase construction and development loans to community developers and homebuilders as they recover from the credit crunch.

Before banks began to fall like dominoes in 2008 the ABA bank index was limited to 500 publicly traded banks. There was a waiting list of banks wanting to become"members. After many bank failures, mergers and banks simply closing, the community bank index now has just 364 components.

The banks chosen for analysis here are among 11 index components with trading volume of more than 400,000 shares per day. Four of these remain overexposed to commercial real estate loans, which includes construction and development loans, and thus are not in position to increase such lending.

Three have been increasing their assets via mergers or taking over banks that have failed, and thus are likely to be more involved in combining resources before considering significant increases in construction and development lending.

According to data from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the community banks profiled here have healthy real estate loan pipelines.

Commerce Bancshares increased its total assets by 4.1% in 2014 to $23.9 billion and trimmed its C&D loan portfolio by just 0.7% to $403 million. The bank's exposure to CRE loans totals 129% of risk-based capital, which is well below the regulatory guideline of 300%.

Hancock Holdings increased its total assets by 5.1% in 2014 to $20.6 billion and increased its C&D loan portfolio by 24% to $1.09 billion. The bank's exposure to CRE loans totals 220% of risk-based capital, which is below the regulatory guideline of 300%.

Northwest Bancshares had a 1.3% slippage in total assets in 2014 to $7.8 billion, and it increased its C&D loan portfolio by 72% to $222 million. The surge in real estate lending keeps the bank's exposure to CRE loans manageable at 161% of risk-based capital, well below the regulatory guideline.

Zions Bancorp increased its total assets by 3.4% in 2014 to $57.2 billion and decreased its C&D loan portfolio by 5.4% to $2.5 billion. The bank's exposure to CRE loans totals 265% of risk-based capital, below the regulatory guideline. That gives the bank room to increase real estate lending.

Before providing the performance measures and trading guidelines for these four community banks, here's the weekly chart for the ABA bank index.


Courtesy of MetaStock Xenith

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The weekly chart for the ABA bank index (237.50) is consolidating the crash of 2008, which actually began in December 2006 for community banks. The index plunged 66% from a high of 315.05 to a March 2009 low of 108.55. The horizontal dashed lines in blue are the Fibonacci retracement levels of the crash.

The ABA bank index has been trading back and forth around its 61.8% retracement level of 236.33 since November 2013. Below is the 50% retracement at 211.96, with the 200-week simple moving average (green line) rising at 192.70.

Commerce Bancshares $41.69) is down 4.1% year to date and set its 2015 low at $39.62 on Jan. 16. From low to a high of $42.92, the stock is up 8.3% with a weekly chart that shifts to positive given a close this week above the stock's key weekly moving average at $41.89.

Investors looking to buy Commerce Bancshares should enter a good 'til canceled limit order to buy on weakness at an annual technical level of $38.83.

Investors looking to reduce holdings on strength should enter a good 'til canceled limit order to sell at a semiannual technical level of $44.29.

Hancock Holdings ($29.01) is down 5.5% year to date and set its 2015 low at $24.96 on Jan. 21. From low to a high of $42.92, the stock is up 24% with a weekly chart that shifts to positive given a close this week above the stock's key weekly moving average of $29.09.

Investors looking to buy Hancock should enter a good 'til canceled limit order to buy on weakness at a monthly technical level of $27.12.

Investors looking to reduce holdings on strength should enter a good 'til canceled limit order to sell at a quarterly technical level of $33.71.

Northwest Bancshares ($11.73) is down 6.4% year to date and set its 2015 low at $11.52 on Feb. 20. The weekly chart is negative but oversold with the stock's key weekly moving average at $11.92.

Investors looking to buy Northwest Bancshares should enter a good 'til canceled limit order to buy on weakness at a monthly technical level of $10.98.

Investors looking to reduce holdings on strength should enter good 'til canceled limit orders to sell at semiannual and quarterly technical levels of $13.54 and $14.20, respectively.

Zion Bancorp ($27.24) is down 4.5% year to date and set its 2015 low at $23.72 on Jan. 30. From low to a high of $27.24, the stock is up 15% with a weekly chart that's positive with its key weekly moving average at $26.52.

Investors looking to buy Zion Bancorp should enter a good 'til canceled limit order to buy on weakness at a semiannual technical level of $26.10.

Investors looking to reduce holdings on strength should enter a good 'til canceled limit order to sell at a quarterly technical level of $35.89.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.