Our contrarian thesis in regional bank stocks has played out well in the past few weeks, as other investors are beginning to see that these companies are under-appreciated, under-priced, over-hated and over-shorted.
The iShares Regional Banks (NYSE: IAT) ripped higher by more than 8% in the past week alone. And I still think that many of these stocks have a long way to go, since fair value in some cases is 2x, 3x, and even 5x higher than current levels.
Super-regional southern bank Regions Financial Corp. (NYSE: RF), for instance, traded as high as $32.50 in 2007, then fell as low as $2.27 in 2009 - a decline of 93% in just two years. RF's recovery has gotten off to a much slower start than peers like U.S. Bancorp (NYSE: USB) because it made a lot more iffy loans along the Gulf coast. But over the past six months, it has become clear that super-low interest rates will allow RF to build enough reserve against losses. Additionally, other distressed-debt firms are stepping up to take problem mortgages off their hands.