OVER the past year banking stocks, particularly blue chips such as HSBC Holdings and Hang Seng Bank, have enjoyed a tremendous run, but analysts think there are still good investment opportunities available. Much of this optimism is based on strong earnings growth, the resurgence of property markets in Hongkong and China and the healthy margins between savings and loan rates. Nomura Research banking analyst Richard Faregrieve said strong demand for mortgages, trade finance, syndicated loans and commercial loans all meant good news for the banks. ''In a growing economy, banks will profit from that,'' he said, adding the sector was now catching its breath before it started to move up again. Mr Faregrieve is enthusiastic about HSBC, which rebounded this week after a modest decline during the previous two weeks. HSBC closed up 50 cents yesterday at $69.50. He is encouraged by the bank's strong international operations in Britain, Australia and the United States. ''It appears that all cylinders are firing at the right time,'' he said. ''If everything falls into place, they could earn a lot of money.'' Vicker Ballas analyst Stella Fung said while some investors might be disappointed that earnings growth could be less vibrant this year, the banking sector would still compare favourably with other sectors. ''Most banks will get at least 20 per cent in earnings growth,'' she said. Ms Fung said HSBC led the blue-chip selections because it was more diversified with earnings from around the world. She said concerns about the company's involvement in a large stock scandal in India were overblown because she did not expect it to take a large loss provision. Among the smaller banks, Ms Fung said Dah Sing represented excellent value because the acquisition of Wing On Bank earlier this year would boost earnings by 60 per cent and increase its market share. ''It has promising growth potential and should be re-rated in the market,'' she said. Seapower Securities analyst Alfred Hung said First Pacific Bank also offered interesting investment potential because of its links to China's Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations and Trade, which signed an agreement on Tuesday to acquire a 33.75 per cent stake in the company. In fact, the non-index banking counters have attracted a lot of attention recently from investors. In the past month Union Bank climbed 12.6 per cent to $6.70, Ka Wah Bank rose 36.3 per cent to $5.25 while First Pacific jumped 33.8 per cent to $2.45.