Another Bullish Call on Bank Stocks, ETFs

With the Federal Reserve just days away from possibly raising interest rates for the first time in nine years, it is not surprising that investors continue embracing financial services stocks and the relevant exchange traded funds.

It also is not surprising that market observers continue lavishing bullish praise on the second-largest sector weight in the S&P 500 ahead of the possible rate hike.

For bank exposure, ETF investors have a number of options to choose from, including the SPDR S&P Regional Banking ETF (NYSEArca: KRE), iShares U.S. Regional Banks ETF (NYSEArca: IAT) and PowerShares KBW Regional Bank Portfolio (NYSEArca: KBWR). These regional bank ETFs all include greater tilts toward smaller banks.

Additionally, the SPDR S&P Bank ETF (NYSEArca: KBE) and PowerShares KBW Bank Portfolio (NYSEArca: KBWB) lean toward larger companies. KBWB follows a market cap-weighted index, which make the index heavy on prominent banking names. KBE, on the other hand, tracks an equal-weight indexing methodology, so the ETF will include a greater tilt toward mid-cap banks. [4 Reasons to be Optimistic about Bank ETFs]

“In the past, bank stocks underperformed the overall market while the Fed raised short-term interest rates. That’s because rising short-term interest rates, combined with stable long-term rates, have almost always led to narrower net interest spreads, which is the profit rate that banks make on loans. Once the Fed has finished hiking short-term rates, however, long-term rates have typically risen, leading to wider net interest rate spreads, and bank stock outperformance,” according to a note from S&P Capital IQ posted by CNBC.

KRE, the largest regional bank, is the more correlated to changes in interest rates than the Financial Select Sector SPDR (NYSEArca: XLF), the largest financial services ETF.