Bank stocks could-at least for the short term-benefit from the current selloff in technology shares.
Investors searching for a haven would do well to put their dollars into shares of financial institutions, some industry observers said.
"This is a great time for sector rotation into bank stocks," said Mark Allen Davis, director of research at the Bank Stock Group. Investors would find bargain prices in the sector, some observers said.
Bank shares typically trade at a 20% or 25% discount to the Standard & Poor's 500 index. But that gap has widened to as much as 50%, Mr. Davis said. "Financial institution shares are a great place to put a significant portion of equity dollars," he said.
Technology investors might welcome the switch to a more subdued group.
"Banks are among the safest investments out there," Mr. Davis said. "Not only do they have much less volatility, but they are much better value investments."
One portfolio manager said: "Common sense is not what's steering the technology market right now."
The comments came as the technology group was falling hard Friday. Some observers said the Internet group had been especially hyped and was due for a fall.
Though bank shares might benefit from investors' seeking an alternative to tech stocks, such a rally might be short-lived, some observers said.
"On a short-term basis, maybe," said Kevin Timmons, banking analyst at First Albany Inc. "But you would need to have a major unraveling before you have a sector rotation out of the technology."
At the same time, getting tech investors who are used to quick returns to embrace the bank sector might be a tough sell.
"Why would you want to buy a bank stock that would go up several dollars in a few months when the public perceives that you could buy a tech stock that could go up 50% virtually overnight?" Mr. Timmons asked.
So far, bank stocks have failed to see a significant pickup.
On Friday, the Standard & Poor's bank index added 0.04%, and the Dow Jones industrial average was unchanged at 9,304.24. The Nasdaq bank index was off 0.54%, and the S&P 500, 0.73%.
BankAmerica Corp. fell 43.75 cents, to $60.75, and Chase Manhattan Corp. $1.50, to $76.375. J.P. Morgan & Co. was up $1.25, to $102.125.
Among thrifts, Astoria Financial Corp. rose 37.5 cents, to $45.875, Golden West Financial Corp. slipped 56.25 cents, to $92, and Washington Mutual Inc. was down 31.25 cents, to $40.375.
Dime Bancorp, the largest thrift in the Northeast, lost 18.75 cents, to $24.3125.
Dime "is one of the cheapest stocks we cover," said NationsBanc Montgomery Securities analyst Caren Mayer, who rates the shares a "buy." They could reach $33 within 12 months, she said.
"The company is far more profitable today than in prior quarters," Ms. Mayer said. "We believe Dime's margin should continue to show improvement, especially in a scenario of lower mortgage bank activity."