The SPDR S&P Regional Banking ETF (NYSEArca: KRE), the largest regional bank exchange traded fund, has recently given back the bulk of its 2018 gains, but some analysts remain enthusiastic about the prospects for regional banks over the course of this year.

Rising interest rates are seen helping U.S. banks and the related ETFs. The Federal Reserve is expected to raise interest rates again this year after doing so three times in 2017. The financial services sector could be working its way into a period of long-term out-performance. The recent rally in the sector could still be in the early innings, according to some market observers.

In a recent note Stephens’ Terry McEvoy “writes that fundamental trends for the group in the first three months of the year make him more positive ahead of earnings season, which is set to kick off next week,” reports Teresa Rivas for Barron’s.

More Good News for Bank ETFs

Higher interest rates would help widen the difference between what banks charge on loans and pay on deposits, which would boost earnings for the financial sector. Regional banks are among the stocks most positively correlated to rising interest rates because higher rates improve net interest margins.

“Commercial loan volume picked up toward the end of the quarter, and although deposit betas—how much banks raise their rates as a percentage of the Federal Reserve’s rate increase—likely rose in the quarter, they were largely in line with company forecasts, McEvoy writes,” according to Barron’s.

Related: U.S. Sector ETFs for a Rising Rate Environment

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