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Bank Stock Investors: Ignore Mortgage Settlement (Update 3)

Updated with market close information.

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Investors should ignore Thursday's foreclosure settlement.

The $25 billion settlement between federal regulators, 49 states' attorneys general, and the largest loan servicers -- including Bank of America (BAC - Get Report), JPMorgan Chase (JPM - Get Report), Wells Fargo (WFC - Get Report), Citigroup (C - Get Report), and Ally Financial -- removes some headline risk for the banks, while providing some cash to millions of consumers who lost their homes, but the banks were already substantially reserved for their immediate $5 billion cash payout, and the loans subject to principal write-downs as part of the settlement, had already been substantially marked-down by the banks.

Not surprisingly, Bank of America is the largest participant in the settlement, to the tune of $11.8 billion. While that's a huge number, the company said that "The financial impact of the settlements is not expected to cause any additional reserves to be taken over those made during 2011."

The settlement does nothing to alleviate Bank of America's mortgage putback risk, mainly resulting from the purchase of Countrywide Financial in 2008, but also from the Merrill Lynch acquisition. The putback claims -- including the Federal Housing Agency's massive suit against 17 lenders in September -- could take years to work out. Then again, Bank of America "ended 2011 with $15.9 billion reserved to address potential representations and warranties mortgage repurchase claims."

Bank of America did say that the "$1 billion in refinancing assistance" it would provide under the settlement "is expected to be recognized as lower interest income in future periods as qualified borrowers pay reduced interest rates on loans refinanced."

So, whatever your previous opinion on Bank of America was, prior to the settlement, it would appear that nothing really has changed, other than the probable reduction of breathless headlines, bashing the company and its competitors for foreclosing on borrowers who haven't been paying what they agreed to pay.

Bank of America's shares have rallied 47% year-to-date, through Friday's close at $8.107, after sliding 58% in 2011.

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For truly long-term investors, who can commit for several years, Rochdale Securities analyst Richard Bove things that Bank of America will be a big winner, saying on Wednesday that the company has eventual "$3 in earnings power there," supporting a share price of $30 in three to four years.

For investors with a shorter-term outlook, Wells Fargo analyst Matthew Burnell maintained his "Market Perform" rating on Bank of America, but reduced his 2012 earnings estimate to 60 cents a share from 75 cents, and his 2013 estimate to a dollar from $1.25, because of the company's warning on lower net interest income because of the refinancing and principal forgiveness under the settlement.

The shares trade for 0.7 times tangible book value a, according to HighlineFI, and for 11 times the consensus 2012 earnings estimate of 71 cents a share, among analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.

Interested in more on Bank of America? See TheStreet Ratings' report card for this stock.
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