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Romney Attacks May Weigh on Bank Stocks: KBW

Dan Freed

Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, and other financial companies may see some softness in their shares in the coming weeks as Republican presidential candidates step up their anti-bank rhetoric in an attempt to challenge front-runner Mitt Romney, according to a research note published Wednesday by Keefe Bruyette & Woods Washington analyst Brian Gardner.

While Romneynarrowly defeated Rick Santorum in Tuesday's Iowa caucuses, the result showed the race remains wide open, with Ron Paul finishing a close third and Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich each winning more than 10 percent of the vote.

Others who have shown a willingness to attack the banking industry, such as Jon Huntsman, are staying in the race, counting on strong showings in New Hampshire and South Carolina to rescue their candidacies.

"Over the first few months of the campaign, most of the candidates have avoided attacking Romney," writes Gardner. "We think that is going to change now as we expect Huntsman, Gingrich, Perry, and Santorum will now directly confront and challenge Romney in New Hampshire and South Carolina."

While Gardner does not expect the Iowa results to have a market impact and he does not expect a "major market impact," from the ongoing campaigning, he argues "investors should be prepared for Wall Street and especially the private equity industry to become part of the campaign narrative."

Romney was a founding partner of Bain Capital and financial companies rank prominently among his top donors. Goldman Sachs , Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley are Romney's top three donors, with Barclays, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase also ranking in the top 10, along with fund manager H.I.G. Capital, according to

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