Though it may seem longer, it was just three years ago - on Dec. 5, 1996 - that Alan Greenspan posed his famous question, asking whether "irrational exuberance" was detectable in stock prices.

"Fed Chairman Pops The Big Question" was the headline in the next morning's Wall Street Journal. After a volatile session, the Dow Jones industrial average closed that day at 6,381.94. The blue chip stocks of the Dow average have since gained 69% to hover near the 11,000 mark. But over the same period, bank stocks have considerably outdone blue chips.

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