NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Financial sector investment bank Sandler O'Neill proclaims itself "more bullish than we have been in many years," in a 2011 outlook its team of analysts published Monday.

Though the report was light on specific stocks, we'll take a look at Sandler's latest research on several stocks that have been popular with our readers in the pages that follow.

Sandler's analysts gave "overweight" ratings to six of the seven sectors they cover, with only property and casualty and life insurance getting a "market weight" rating. Sandler's analysts have "buy" ratings on 36% of the stocks they follow, compared to 29% at the start of last year and just 20% in January 2009.

"As we enter 2011, we can't help but feel as if the New Year will be a good one for financial services stocks," the report states.

Looking at the asset manager stocks, analyst Michael Kim sees three broad trends driving outperformance in the sector, he indicates in Sandler's report. Kim sees equities outperforming bonds given likely rising interest rates and credit risk, among other factors. Kim also points to the need to shore up pension plans, and for baby boomers to beef up their individual retirement accounts.

Regional bank analysts Joe Fenech, Kevin Fitzsimmons and Scott Siefers urge investors to focus on "stronger, high quality names," in 2011, something they tended not to do in 2010, as we can see from the list of worst-performing CEOs.

As for the broker dealers and so-called "money center banks," a group that includes some of the largest financial companies in the U.S., like Bank of America ( BAC), Citigroup ( C) and JPMorgan Chase ( JPM), Sandler argues bigger risk appetites among investors and increased initial public offering and merger and acquisition activity will help drive profits.

As for a sector Sandler dubs "eFinance," analyst Rich Repetto was especially bullish on exchange stock CME Group ( CME) and Intercontinental Exchange ( ICE).

Explaining their "mixed" outlook on insurers, analysts Paul Newsome and Edward Shields write that even though multiples are low by historical standards, they fear many insurers will not be able to raise prices enough to reverse that recent trend.

As for real estate investment trusts, a dearth of new supply in commercial real estate should drive returns in the sector, writes Sandler analyst Alexander Goldfarb. The biggest risk to Goldfarb's bullish outlook comes from the possibility that interest rates should rise faster than the REITs are able to grow their net operating income.

As for the specialty finance sector, analyst Michael Taiano sees several "potential takeout targets," including CIT Group ( CIT), CapitalSource ( CSE), Sallie Mae ( SLM) and Discover Financial Services ( DFS).

Again, Sandler's broad outlook contained fairly little discussion of specific stocks, but here is a look at what Sandler has said lately about some of the financial stocks that are most popular with TheStreet's readers.

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