Book Profits on These Community Bank Stocks Now

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- There are hundreds of community banks that are publicly traded, so why take the risk of investing in banks that are overexposed to commercial real estate loans or to construction & development loans?

There are 385 regional and community banks in the ABA Community Bank Index (ABAQ). Today I am profiling 14 names that have exposure to CRE loans.

Among these 14 bank stocks, two are rated strong buy by my Web site, www.ValuEngine.com, and eight are rated buy.

Even so, I am recommending that investors in these community banks book profits now. My reason is that these names have too much exposure to CRE and/or C&D loans, and these data are not factored into ValuEngine's ratings or those of any other stock-screening service with which I'm familiar.

ValuEngine ratings are based upon data from filings related to quarterly earnings reports. Real estate loan exposures are submitted in separate quarterly filings to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

"Bank-Failure Friday" returned last week as the FDIC closed two community banks. The 48th bank failure for 2012 was a privately held bank in Tampa Bay, Heritage Bank of Florida, which had too much exposure to CRE loans, with a risk ratio of 776% of risk-based capital. (The regulatory guideline is 300%.)

The 49th bank failure of the year was publicly traded Citizens First National Bank ( PNBC) of Princeton, Ill., which had a CRE risk ratio of 881% of risk-based capital. This bank is also known as Princeton National Bancorp.

PNBC shares were trading at 17 cents at Friday's close, so a failure was priced into this community bank. PNBC did not become overexposed to CRE loans until the first quarter of 2010 when its risk ratio increased to 336%. This red flag put the bank stock on the ValuEngine list of problem banks. Subscribers to my ValuEngine FDIC Evaluation Report could have learned about this overexposure with the stock still trading at more than $7.00. Selling then would have been a much better strategy than watching the stock decline to zero.

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