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5 Bank Stocks Ready to Rise With the Housing Recovery: UBS

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Regional banks with major exposure in Western markets "stand to benefit the most" from the continued increase in home prices, according to UBS analyst Greg Ketron.

On Tuesday, the S&P Case-Shiller national composite Home Price Index showed a third-quarter gain of 3.6% year over year, while prices were up 2.2% from the second quarter. Diving further into the recent data, Ketron said in a report later on Tuesday that "Western markets showed the most improvement with Las Vegas (+3.0%) and Phoenix (+2.9%) leading all metro-statistical areas (MSAs) over the past two months," while "Detroit was also up 2.9%." None of the MSAs showed home price declines.

S&P Dow Jones Indices said that home prices rose for a "sixth straight month" nationally. Looking just at the September results, the Case-Shiller Home Price Index showed declines in five of the 20 MSAs, all on the East Coast or in the Midwest.

Of course, with its legacy mortgage risk from its acquisitions of Countrywide Financial in 2008 and Merrill Lynch in 2009, Bank of America (BAC) has quite a bit riding on the housing recovery. In its quarterly 10-Q filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Bank of America reported that total unresolved mortgage repurchase claims against the company had risen to $25.5 billion as of Sept. 30, from $12.6 billion at the end of last year.

Bank of America still hasn't resolved its long-running dispute with Fannie Mae over the government sponsored mortgage giant's mortgage putback claims, but the eventual resolution of that problem, along with a continued recovering in national home prices, should bode well over the long haul.

While some analysts think investors should steer clear of Bank of America until the Fiscal Cliff is resolved, it's also important to note that among the "big four" U.S. banks, the company is expected to see the greatest year-over-year earnings improvement in 2014. The consensus 2013 earnings estimate for Bank of America among analysts polled by Thomson Reuters is 97 cents, while the consensus 2014 EPS estimate is $1.27.

Turning back to regional housing trends, Ketron said that "generally speaking, Western banks and Midwest banks have led" his firm's month-to-month and year-over-year weighted rankings of home price increases within their geographic footprints.

Ketron reiterated his "positive view of regional banks," saying that the group trades at an average of 1.5 times tangible book value, and for an average of 10.4 times his firm's 2013 earnings estimates, and that "we continue to see value in regional banks as leverage to an improving economy and housing markets, market share gains, and lower regulatory burdens serve as key levers."

Here are the five regional bank stocks with "larger Western footprints" that Ketron says have the "most leverage" to improving home prices, ordered by ascending upside implied by UBS price targets.

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