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Wells Scores Upgrade Ahead of Report

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Another analyst has gotten more bullish on Wells Fargo (WFC - Get Report), suggesting investors purchase the stock ahead of Wells' first-quarter earnings report.

Collins Stewart analyst Todd Hagerman lifted his rating on Wells shares to buy from hold on Monday, saying its "cheap earnings multiple will find new life" once the firm beats expectations on April 21, when the results are announced. He's expected the company to post earnings of 50 cents a share for the March quarter versus Wall Street's current consensus estimate of 41 cents a share for the period.

Hagerman believes there are several factors at play that will boost Wells' shares, including better-than-expected credit metrics, and its proven ability to out-earn even its internal estimates. He estimates that Wells is trading at about eight times its estimated 2012 earnings vs. an average of 12 times 2012 earnings for its large-cap peers.

"[Wells Fargo] continues to trade at a significant discount ... - a discount that we believe is unwarranted given the superior projected profitability in the coming quarters," Hagerman says.

Hagerman isn't the only analyst on the Street who's betting on further upside. Of the 29 analysts covering the firm, 14 rate it a buy or strong buy, and 10 rate it a hold. The current median 12-month price target on the stock is $33. Hagerman has a $31.37 target, and he expects Wells to earn $2.15 per share for all of 2010, which is also better than the average analyst view of $1.89 a share.

Wells stock is up 16% so far this year, part of a broader bank-stock rally. In midday trading, its shares were up 0.5% at $31.52.

-- Written by Lauren Tara LaCapra in New York.

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