NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The bank stocks continue to be laggards following the disappointing 1Q results, a flurry of management missteps (think Bank of America's (BAC) capital change) and the flat yield curve. Since the March 21 high, the KBW Bank Index is off 6.8% with the regionals down 8.9% and the money centers off 4%. Keep in mind the S&P 500 is up 1.1% in that same timeframe - so there's been serious relative and absolute underperformance over the last few months. There have been some pockets of decent results but these have been pretty much few and far between. One regional bank that has caught my eye for a catch up trade is SunTrust Bank (STI). I like its regional exposure to the southeast - one of the fastest growing areas in the country, the cost structure improvements and above average loan growth.
Based in Atlanta, Georgia, STI is the 8th largest bank in the U.S. with $173 billion in assets. It offers what other large regionals do - a wide array of financial products in deposit and credit services, capital markets and investment management to both institutional and retail clients. It has a concentrated regional focus in the southeast with the top 5 market share in Florida, Georgia, Virginia, Tennessee, and Washington D.C. Florida is its most important region, accounting for 21% of total revenue, 19% of total loans and a third of its total deposit base. While this was one of the hardest regions of the country hit during the most recent downturn it also offers possibly the greatest upside growth potential. Florida has seen an average nonfarm payroll growth over the past decade of 16% vs. the 1% national average. The most recent March figures showed 3% nonfarm payrolls - the highest rate since mid-2006 and that compares to the national average of 1.7%. Georgia and Virginia have also seen above average growth relative to the national average and population growth also exceeds the rest of the country.