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Although financials were the worst-performing sector in 2011, if you're looking to pick up some names in banking, here are some ideas to get you started.

We ran a screen on the financial sector for stocks seeing the most significant net insider buying over the last six months. Insiders, such as members of the board and upper management, can buy company shares if they are optimistic on the company's outlook. When a company sees net purchases from insiders, it indicates high optimism from those that know the company best.

Interactive Chart: Press Play to compare changes in analyst ratings over the last two years for the top six stocks mentioned below. Analyst ratings sourced from Zacks Investment Research.‬

We also created a price-weighted index of the stocks mentioned below, and monitored the performance of the list relative to the S&P 500 index over the last month. (To access a complete analysis of this list's recent performance, click here.)

Do you think these stocks will outperform like insiders expect? Use this list as a starting point for your own analysis.

List sorted by net insider purchases as a percent of share float.

1. General Growth Properties Inc. (GGP): Operates as a real estate investment trust in the United States. Market cap of $14.25B. Net insider shares purchased over the last six months at 160.46M, which is 20.18% of the company's 795.28M share float. The stock has lost 0.39% over the last year.

2. Sterling Financial Corp. (STSA): Operates as the bank holding company for Sterling Savings Bank that provides various banking products and services to individuals, small businesses, commercial organizations, and corporations in the United States. Market cap of $1.05B. Net insider shares purchased over the last six months at 840.93K, which is 5.93% of the company's 14.17M share float. This is a risky stock that is significantly more volatile than the overall market (beta = 2.2). The stock has lost 12.98% over the last year.

3. Hudson Pacific Properties, Inc. (HPP): Operates as a vertically integrated real estate company. Market cap of $474.82M. Net insider shares purchased over the last six months at 1.21M, which is 5.48% of the company's 22.08M share float. The stock has had a good month, gaining 11.69%.

4. The Howard Hughes Corporation (HHC): A real estate investment and development company, engaging in managing, developing, and leasing commercial, residential, and mixed-use real estate. Market cap of $1.68B. Net insider shares purchased over the last six months at 1.23M, which is 4.45% of the company's 27.72M share float. The stock is a short squeeze candidate, with a short float at 6.35% (equivalent to 14.03 days of average volume). The stock has lost 18.92% over the last year.

5. Everest Re Group Ltd. (RE): Underwrites reinsurance and insurance in the United States, Bermuda, and international markets. Market cap of $4.57B. Net insider shares purchased over the last six months at 1.25M, which is 2.88% of the company's 43.41M share float. The stock has gained 2.26% over the last year.

6. American International Group, Inc. (AIG): Operates property and casualty insurance networks worldwide and conducts activities in the U.S. life insurance and retirement services industry. Market cap of $45.71B. Net insider shares purchased over the last six months at 6.98M, which is 2.87% of the company's 243.40M share float. This is a risky stock that is significantly more volatile than the overall market (beta = 3.43). The stock has lost 50.51% over the last year.

7. Webster Financial Corp. (WBS): Operates as the holding company for the Webster Bank that provides various banking and financial products and services in southern New England and eastern New York State. Market cap of $1.85B. Net insider shares purchased over the last six months at 2.05M, which is 2.85% of the company's 72.08M share float. Might be undervalued at current levels, with a PEG ratio at 0.79, and P/FCF ratio at 6.73. The stock is a short squeeze candidate, with a short float at 5.57% (equivalent to 7.76 days of average volume). The stock has gained 8.06% over the last year.

8. Saul Centers Inc. (BFS): Operates as a real estate investment trust in the United States. Market cap of $690.22M. Net insider shares purchased over the last six months at 196.64K, which is 2.46% of the company's 7.99M share float.

9. Central Pacific Financial Corp. (CPF): Operates as the bank holding company for Central Pacific Bank that provides commercial banking services to businesses, professionals, and individuals in Hawaii. Market cap of $541.08M. Net insider shares purchased over the last six months at 515.50K, which is 2.33% of the company's 22.16M share float. Might be undervalued at current levels, with a PEG ratio at 0.71, and P/FCF ratio at 6.53. The stock has lost 59.5% over the last year.

10. Chesapeake Lodging Trust (CHSP): REIT Hotel/Motel Industry. Market cap of $513.60M. Net insider shares purchased over the last six months at 604.0K, which is 2.10% of the company's 28.72M share float. The stock has lost 11.33% over the last year.

11. Equity One Inc. (EQY): Engages in the ownership, management, acquisition, renovation, and development of neighborhood and community shopping centers in the United States. Market cap of $1.97B. Net insider shares purchased over the last six months at 900.0K, which is 1.57% of the company's 57.30M share float. The stock is a short squeeze candidate, with a short float at 9.96% (equivalent to 6.87 days of average volume). The stock has lost 1.89% over the last year.

12. Ladenburg Thalmann Financial Services Inc. (LTS): Provides a range of financial services primarily to corporate and institutional clients, and high net-worth individuals in the United States. Market cap of $450.18M. Net insider shares purchased over the last six months at 957.50K, which is 1.21% of the company's 79.16M share float. It's been a rough couple of days for the stock, losing 6.82% over the last week.

13. KKR Financial Holdings LLC (KFN): Operates as a specialty finance company with expertise in a range of asset classes. Market cap of $1.56B. Net insider shares purchased over the last six months at 1.14M, which is 0.73% of the company's 157.03M share float. This is a risky stock that is significantly more volatile than the overall market (beta = 2.57). The stock has gained 1.04% over the last year.

14. RLI Corp. (RLI): Underwrites property and casualty insurance primarily in the United States. Market cap of $1.55B. Net insider shares purchased over the last six months at 96.75K, which is 0.56% of the company's 17.27M share float. The stock is a short squeeze candidate, with a short float at 8.41% (equivalent to 12.95 days of average volume). The stock has gained 51.39% over the last year.

15. Inland Real Estate Corp. (IRC): Engages in the ownership, operation, and development of shopping centers and single-tenant retail properties in the Midwest region of the United States. Market cap of $690.17M. Net insider shares purchased over the last six months at 430.92K, which is 0.50% of the company's 86.92M share float. The stock has lost 7.4% over the last year.

16. Solar Capital Ltd. (SLRC): A business development company specializing in investments in leveraged companies, including middle market companies. Market cap of $813.60M. Net insider shares purchased over the last six months at 115.0K, which is 0.41% of the company's 27.91M share float. The stock has lost 1.33% over the last year.

17. Colony Financial, Inc. (CLNY): Focuses on acquiring, originating, and managing commercial mortgage loans and other commercial real estate-related debt investments. Market cap of $522.77M. Net insider shares purchased over the last six months at 121.03K, which is 0.41% of the company's 29.85M share float. The stock is a short squeeze candidate, with a short float at 11.17% (equivalent to 14.62 days of average volume). The stock has had a good month, gaining 11.11%.

18. Virtus Investment Partners, Inc. (VRTS): Provides investment management products and services to individuals and institutions in the United States. Market cap of $478.18M. Net insider shares purchased over the last six months at 20.50K, which is 0.37% of the company's 5.60M share float. The stock has gained 65.99% over the last year.

Insider data sourced from Yahoo! Finance; all other data sourced from Finviz.

Source: 18 Financial Stocks Being Bought Up By Insiders