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TheStreet Open House

Why MBIA Is A Dangerous Stock: Street Whispers

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- MBIA (MBI) appears to have a strong case in its legal battle against Bank of America (BAC), though that may not be enough, and, like many "back from the dead" stocks, investors would be wise to exercise caution.

MBIA shares gained 4.7% Thursday, and at one point were up much more than that, as Reuters and Bloomberg reported on a day-old research report from Creditsights' Rob Haines that repeated one of several wild guesses BTIG Research's Mark Palmer had made a few days earlier.

That wild guess proved wrong, we learned after the market closed, and it appears MBIA shares will open sharply lower Friday. (Another one of Palmer's guesses proved correct.)

A quick refresher on what's at stake. MBIA claims Bank of America owes it several billion dollars because of faulty mortgage backed securities it sold and which MBIA insured. Bank of America, meanwhile is using every legal means at its disposal to fight MBIA--from challenging a split up of the company, to trying to run out the clock on the insurer in the hope it will run out of cash and stop fighting, to other, more complex maneuvers such as fighting over bonds the company has issued and is trying to amend.

Only a small number of analysts cover MBIA. The three whose research I have seen regularly--BTIG's Palmer, Creditsights' Haines and Harry Fong of MKM Partners, are all bulls.

While publishing analysts tend to be bullish in general, they may be particularly so when it comes to a company like MBIA that much of Wall Street has written off as highly speculative. Many analysts who used to follow MBIA dropped coverage after the crisis left it reeling from its massive exposure to subprime mortgage bonds it insured.

That led other analysts, such as BTIG's Palmer, to take a fresh look. However, if analysts don't see promise in a company that is struggling for survival, they aren't likely to start covering it. As a result, there are few if any bears who are thinking carefully about MBIA (or other such highly speculative stocks, for that matter) and sharing their views with the public.

The bullish analysts make solid arguments. They follow the extensive court proceedings and take the judges' temperatures. They note that a giant like Bank of America would not fight so hard if it didn't believe it was vulnerable and the stakes were high. They calculate how much cash MBIA has left and decide it has enough to keep fighting for a while. They urge investors to buy the bonds, taking a loss if necessary, to profit on the stock.

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