But what the banks really want to see is a parallel rise in interest rates, which will require the Fed to raise the short-term federal funds rate, which has been locked in a target range of zero to 0.25% since late 2008.  The federal open market committee his said repeatedly that it expects this "highly accomodative" policy to remain in place at least until the U.S. unemployment rate drops below 6.5%.  The unemployment rate improved to 7.0% in December from 7.3% in November.

The following chart shows the performance of Regions Financial's stock over the past 12 months against the KBW Bank Index and the S&P 500:

RF Chart
RF data by YCharts

- - Written by Philip van Doorn in Jupiter, Fla.

>Contact by Email.
Philip W. van Doorn is a member of TheStreet's banking and finance team, commenting on industry and regulatory trends. He previously served as the senior analyst for TheStreet.com Ratings, responsible for assigning financial strength ratings to banks and savings and loan institutions. Mr. van Doorn previously served as a loan operations officer at Riverside National Bank in Fort Pierce, Fla., and as a credit analyst at the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York, where he monitored banks in New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico. Mr. van Doorn has additional experience in the mutual fund and computer software industries. He holds a bachelor of science in business administration from Long Island University.

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