After sailing ahead for so long, major banks' stocks hit heavy weather recently. Smaller banks, which had trailed in their wake, have fared considerably better.

The Nasdaq market, home to most smaller banks' stocks, offers a clear picture. Nasdaq banks' issues have slipped 3.5% since that market peaked in mid-February, while the Standard & Poor's bank index, dominated by the larger industry players, has fallen 10.8%.

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