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Cramer: Favor the Regionals Over the Big Banks

Tickers in this article: BAC BBT C KEY PNC

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Lindsey Bell: We're in the midst of bank earnings season. On Thursday we got a handful of reports, one of which was Bank of America (BAC) . The top line was short, but they still beat earnings. The stock is down about 3% on Thursday . Were expectations too high going into this?

Jim Cramer:

And stock was up more than 100% last year.

Lindsey Bell:


Jim Cramer:

Best performance in the Dow, so expectations were clearly high. I'm a fantasy football fanatic and there's a guy by the name of BenJarvus Green-Ellis. He's a running back for the Bengals. He's also known as The Law Firm, and it looks like if you look at the third line of Bank of America, they're talking about legal expenses. Here's my thesis. It's time to scale back on what I regard as a very crowded money center trade. We can talk about Citigroup(C) being the same way.

JPMorgan(JPM) , they've been the darlings, OK? And then invest heavily in the regional banks. They are putting up numbers that tell me to stop looking at this net interest margin, start talking about growth stocks. I mean, when you have a growth stock, yes, net interest margins are really important, but so are sales. I mean, net interest margin in a bank, that's a fulcrum thing. That's a metric, but sales matter.

Expansion down the road matters. Construction loans matter. The idea that a city's business might be turning or a state, that matters. And that's what's happening, whether it's because of the unemployment numbers we got or because we're through the fiscal cliff, or maybe it's that the debt ceiling won't be that big of an issue. The regionals are where it's at. We have been buying KeyCorp(KEY) for I would tell you right now, I said this to Stephanie Link this morning, my co-portfolio manager, Key may be the most undervalued stock that we own in the portfolio. There is going to be a switch out of the money centers. We did trim back Wells Fargo (WFC) ourselves.

Wells Fargo being more of a regional money center, but it is a money center, and into a company like PNC(PNC) , which didn't even have a good quarter, but the stock is flying. BB&T(BBT) had very big compression net interest margins, but the stock is flying. I don't think Key is going to have a compression net interest margin. Key's going to be blessed on all cases, but this is where the action is. It's time. You're in Citi, you have had a big gain, time to go. You're in Bank of America, you've had a big gain, cut it in half. You find a regional you're comfortable with, OK? Huntington Bank (HBAN) , Key, BBT, First Horizon (FHN) , ticker FHN, you find a regional you're comfortable with and you buy it right here, right now.

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