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Regional Bank Stocks: Pick With Care

The failure of IndyMac has terrified some investors about regional banks. Sandler O'Neill banking analyst Kevin Fitzsimmons is "very cautious right now."

"In the time since (the failure of) IndyMac...you've seen the group basically perform like a 'V': You've seen a lot of panic, and the group take a steep dive down, and then, since they started reporting earnings, you've seen the group take a steep climb up," he told CNBC.

For those determined to put their money into regional bank stocks, Fitzsimmons suggests a "barbell" approach.

"Look at either safe havens, or names that you think are cheap enough, and have good franchises underlying them," he said.

Recommendations:

One bank on his list is Colonial BancGroup.

"Colonial BancGroup is based down in Florida, and they're really right in the heat of what's deteriorating right now, in terms of the residential construction exposure," he said. "They're really trying to address the problems quickly over the next few quarters; we think that's a decent stock for someone that has patience."

He also has a pick at the "safe haven" end of the spectrum, Porter Bancorp.

"Porter is based in Louisville, Kentucky," he said. "That is a market that has held up very well; you're still actually seeing housing growth there, and it never really had the speculative type of activity that's hurting a lot of the markets like Florida and Atlanta."

Fitzsimmons is less enthusiastic about Regions Financial.

"They did cut their dividend, and I think that was a bit of a relief, that they're helping their capital out from that sense, but...investors are still very nervous that they may have to, at some point, come to raise capital in a dilutive fashion," he explained.

Disclosures:

Colonial BancGroup, Porter Bancorp, and Regions Financial are investment-banking clients of Fitzsimmons' firm.

Colonial BancGroup also receives non-investment banking securities-related services from the firm.

Fitzsimmons' firm currently acts as a market maker in the securities of Porter Bancorp.

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