(Updates with more details, closing prices)
By Caroline Valetkevitch
NEW YORK, Sept 20 (Reuters) - U.S.-listed shares of European banks have been hit hard by selling over the past two months, and investors are likely to remain cautious about piling into that area soon.
The euro zone's debt crisis continues to unfold, and the effect on European banks, which are seen having the biggest exposure to the debt problems, is largely uncertain, strategists said.
In the latest sign that some progress is being made in efforts to contain the debt crisis, Greece on Tuesday promised further cuts to its bloated public sector before a second conference call with its international lenders, whom Athens must persuade to extend more loans to avoid bankruptcy next month. For details, see [ID:nL5E7KK0I3]
"Eventually we're going to see that some of these prices are bargain prices," with European bank ADRs, said Bryant Evans, who runs the all-ADR Cozad Asset Management International Equity Income Portfolio for Cozad Asset Management, in Champaign, Illinois.
But the situation is challenging for investors. "It's been a little difficult getting my arms around exactly who is in the most trouble and whose price is enough to make it attractive," he said.
However, non-European banks, which also have suffered some big declines, may offer attractive buys for investors right now, he and other strategists said.
Evans said he especially likes bank ADRs that pay a dividend, including Bank of Montreal (BMO.N) and Chile's Corpbanca BCA.N. investors should consider Latin American and Canadian bank ADRs when seeking bargains, he said.
Bank of Montreal was down 0.5 percent at $58.71 on the day, and down 10 percent since July 22, roughly when the recent U.S. stock market slide began. Corpbanca shares rose 3 percent to $20.25 on the day, but are down 12 percent since July 22.
Among other non-European bank ADRs, shares of Royal Bank of Canada (RY.N) were up 0.5 percent at $47.29 on the day, but down 15.1 percent since July 22. Shares of Brazil's Banco Bradesco S.A. (BBD.N) closed down 0.8 percent at $16.41 on the day and are down 14.7 percent since July 22.
By comparison, shares of Deutsche Bank (DB.N), down 0.7 percent at $33 on the day, have lost about 40 percent since July 22.
Likewise, shares of Barclays Plc (BCS.N), down 0.7 percent at $9.60 on the day, are off 38 percent since July 22.
"It's too soon to judge the investment merits of European banks, but it's reasonable to think European governments will not permit a financial collapse," said Charles Lieberman, chief investment officer of Advisers Capital Management, LLC in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey. "Adverse effects on non-European banks should be relatively muted, so I'm more comfortable investing in non-European banks, notably U.S."
While bank ADRs were mixed, the overall ADR market was modestly higher.
The BNY Mellon index of leading American Depositary Receipts .BKADR ended down 0.04 percent, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index .SPX fell 0.2 percent.
The BNY Mellon index of leading European ADRs .BKEUR added 0.4 percent, while the BNY Mellon index of leading Asian ADRs .BKAS slipped 0.6 percent.
The BNY Mellon index of leading Latin American ADRs .BKLA dropped 0.9 percent. (Reporting by Caroline Valetkevitch; Editing by Jan Paschal and Leslie Adler)