) --

Bank of America

(BAC) - Get Report

was the winner among the largest U.S. financial names on Wednesday, with shares rising 1.5% to close at $9.77.

The broad indexes ended with slight gains, after the Labor Department said Wednesday that initial unemployment claims for the week ended Nov. 17 fell 41,000 to 410,000 from the previous week's upwardly revised figure of 451,000. The four-week moving average was 396,250, an increase of 9,500 from the previous week's average of 386,750.

Continuing unemployment claims for the week ended Nov. 10 fell 30,000 to 3.337 million from the prior week's upwardly revised level of 3.367 million. Economists, on average, were expecting continuing claims to come in at 3.345 million, according to


The improved employment numbers followed the Census Bureau's report on Tuesday that housing starts increased to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 894,000 in October from a revised 863,000 in September.

While the broad market and Bank of America showed strength on the continued signs of a slow but strengthening economic recovery, most large-cap bank stocks were down heading into the Thanksgiving holiday, with the

KBW Bank Index


declining slightly to close at 48.42.

Bank of America's shares have now returned 76% year-to-date, following a 58% decline during 2011.

The shares trade for a 0.7 times their reported Sept. 30 tangible book value of $13.48, and for 10 times the consensus 2013 earnings estimate of 97 cents a share, among analysts polled by Thomson Reuters. The consensus 2014 EPS estimate is $1.27.

Bank of America and



are battling over the bond insurer's coverage of $6 billion in mortgage backed securities packaged by Countrywide Financial, before Countrywide was acquired by Bank of America in 2008. MBIA claims that Countrywide made misrepresentations to investors when the MBS were sold.

MBIA is trying to amend $329 million of its own bonds in order to prevent a possible default by its MBIA Insurance Corp. subsidiary from triggering a default for the parent company, which would force it to accelerate debt repayments.

Bank of America has offered to pay face value for the MBIA bonds, which trade at a significant discount. The deadline for investors to agree to MBIA's amendment is 5PM Eastern time on Wednesday.

MBIA's shares were up 12% to close at $8.08. Please see TheStreet's

extensive coverage

for more on the BAC/MBIA conflict, the bond amendment, and the trading implications for investors.

Stifel Nicolaus analyst Christopher Mutascio on Monday

upgraded Bank of America

to a "Buy" rating, with a price target for the shares of $11, saying that because of cost cuts, the company will see much greater earnings growth in 2014 than the other money center banks.

Mutascio estimates that Bank of America will earn 92 cents a share in 2013, followed by EPS of $1.20 in 2014.

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


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Written by Philip van Doorn in Jupiter, Fla.

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Philip W. van Doorn is a member of TheStreet's banking and finance team, commenting on industry and regulatory trends. He previously served as the senior analyst for Ratings, responsible for assigning financial strength ratings to banks and savings and loan institutions. Mr. van Doorn previously served as a loan operations officer at Riverside National Bank in Fort Pierce, Fla., and as a credit analyst at the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York, where he monitored banks in New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico. Mr. van Doorn has additional experience in the mutual fund and computer software industries. He holds a bachelor of science in business administration from Long Island University.