* Bridgewater betting big against surging bank sector
* Cr. Valtellinese, BPER Banca, UniCredit see more shorts
* Most markets, some rivals sanguine ahead of elections
By Simon Jessop, Maiya Keidan and Danilo Masoni
LONDON/MILAN, Feb 2 (Reuters) – A group of hedge funds have stepped up bets against a string of Italian banks, taking a contrary stance against a sector and broader market on the rise ahead of an election which could yet rattle investors.
The negative stance, shown in positioning data filed with the regulator, is at odds with business morale – at a decade high as a slow economic recovery gathers pace – as well as debt markets, where there is no sign of sovereign stress ahead of the March 4 vote.
Italian banking stocks – a proxy for the health of the wider Italian economy, have risen 11 percent so…