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NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- When it comes to the regional banks, "the time is now," Jim Cramer told Lindsey Bell at TheStreet.com Thursday.

He said the expectations have been set very high at the big banks including Citigroup ( C) and Bank of America ( BAC), but it is the regional banks that are putting up the numbers.

Cramer said many investors and analysts are focused on a single metric, net interest margin, but that's only one of many matrices that matter. He said that as with any business sales matter, growth matters and more loans matter, all of which the regionals banks have.

That's why KeyCorp ( KEYB) remains a favorite for Cramer's charitable trust, Action Alerts PLUS . Cramer also recommended BB&T ( BBT) and First Horizon ( FHN) as other strong players.

As for Citigroup, Cramer said he was a fan of Vikram Pandit but it appears Citi is pulling back from Pandit's strategy at the very time it should be pushing it forward.

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-- Written by Scott Rutt in Washington.

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At the time of publication, Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS had a position in KEY.

Jim Cramer, host of the CNBC television program "Mad Money," is a Markets Commentator for TheStreet.com, Inc., and CNBC, and a director and co-founder of TheStreet.com. All opinions expressed by Mr. Cramer on "Mad Money" are his own and do not reflect the opinions of TheStreet.com or its affiliates, or CNBC, NBC Universal or their parent company or affiliates. Mr. Cramer's opinions are based upon information he considers to be reliable, but neither TheStreet.com, nor CNBC, nor either of their affiliates and/or subsidiaries warrant its completeness or accuracy, and it should not be relied upon as such. Mr. Cramer's statements are based on his opinions at the time statements are made, and are subject to change without notice. No part of Mr. Cramer's compensation from CNBC or TheStreet.com is related to the specific opinions expressed by him on "Mad Money."

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