NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Bernstein Research published a list on Friday of its top picks among U.S. financials. The analysts highlighted one name from each of the four sectors its covers: Brokers, life insurance, mid-cap banks and large-cap banks.

Financial stocks had a mixed year in 2010, with lots of companies that held up relatively well during the crisis underperforming one that didn't. Big outperformers, for example, were AIG ( AIG) and Citigroup ( C), two of the biggest recipients of government bailouts during the crisis.

The Financial Select Sector SPDR ( XLF) underperformed the S&P 500 slightly during 2010. The popular financial sector exchange-traded fund rose 9.76% in 2010, excluding dividends, while the S&P 500 earned 11.64%.

Initially this disparity is difficult to understand. iShares U.S. Dow Jones Insurance ( IAK), an exchange traded fund that tracks the insurance sector, rose 16.23%, handily beating the S&P. The SPDR KBW Bank ( KBE) exchange traded fund, tracking large-cap banks, and SPDR KBW Regional Banking ( KRE), which follows smaller names, both handily outperformed the Financial Select Sector SPDR.

But a look at the top holdings of the exchange traded funds appears to offer an easy explanation. The Financial Select Sector ETF has JPMorgan Chase ( JPM) as its top holding, accounting for 9.02% of the fund. JPMorgan earned just over 1% in 2010. Its number three holding was Bank of America ( BAC), which accounts for 8.12% of the fund. Bank of America shares lost 12.51% in 2010. Citigroup, shares of which gained 41.18% in 2010, makes up only 6.52% of the Financial Select Sector ETF.

SPDR KBW Regional Banking, by contrast, has Citigroup as its largest holding, comprising more than 11% of the fund. JPMorgan is a distant second, accounting for just 8.51% of the KBW-branded fund.

Year to date, both the KBW large cap bank fund and the more diversified Financial Select Sector are outpacing the S&P 500, though the KBW regional ETF and the iShares Dow Jones insurance ETF are lagging the S&P.

Here, then, are Bernstein's top four picks.

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