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It's Time to Bail on Bank Stocks

There was a time when bank stocks actually looked like good investments. And many, having racked up big gains over the past two years, proved to be just that.

But sadly, U.S. banks no longer offer the value and profit-making potential they did immediately following the financial collapse. In fact, they're actually heading for what could be a catastrophic decline.

Let me explain.

On February 18, 2009, I wrote a piece that said bank stocks should not be written off.

I observed at the time that the best U.S. banks had huge business strengths that were not fully undermined by the financial crisis. So I advised investors buy shares of the best among them.

As it turns out, that recommendation may have been too timid.

That is, most bank stocks - including some of the weakest and least investment-worthy - have surged since my article's publication.

Even following a lukewarm second quarter and last week's market meltdown, the top six banks - Citigroup Inc. (NYSE: C), Bank of America Corp. (NYSE: BAC), JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM), Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC), Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (NYSE: GS), and Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS) - are in a relatively impressive position.

Take a look for yourself:

  • Goldman Sachs stock is up about 22%.
  • Bank of America is up 30%.
  • JPMorgan is up about 49%.
  • And Wells Fargo is up 55%.
Only Citigroup, down about 13%, and Morgan Stanley, down 20%, have seen their stock plunge.

But in light of this remarkable run up, and the disastrous pitfalls that lie ahead, now is the time to bail on bank stocks.

Margins are narrowing, government regulation is increasing, and the outlook for big deals is drying up.

In other words: The risks related to bank stocks are as present as they ever were - just the profitability is missing.

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