Increasingly, economists see reason for bank stock investors to hope that interest rates are about to reverse course, ending a six-month erosion of their stock's value - and possibly leading to a rally in the second half of the year.

They point to a recent run-up in yields on Treasury securities, saying bonds typically react this way in anticipation of Federal Reserve rate increases - the next Fed meeting is Feb. 2 - then level off and eventually begin to subside after the central bank swings into action. Besides that, rates often rise in the first quarter of the year, for both technical and fundamental reasons, and then gradually slip lower.

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