) --

Bank of America

(BAC) - Get Report

on Wednesday was the loser among the largest U.S. financial names on Thursday, with shares declining 1% to close at $9.24.

The broad indexes ended with slight gains, after the National Association of Realtors reported that its pending home sales index rose by a smaller-than-expected 0.3% in September after falling 2.6% in August amid a decline in the Midwest by 5.8%. The consensus expectation among economists was for pending new home sales to rise 2.1% in September, according to NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun said that "home contract activity remains at an elevated level in contrast with recent years, but currently appears to be bouncing around in a narrow range," meaning that "only minor movement is likely in near-term existing-home sales, but with positive underlying market fundamentals they should continue on an uptrend in 2013."

The Labor Department reported Thursday that initial jobless claims in the week ended Oct. 20 totaled 369,000, declining by 23,000 from the previous week's upwardly revised figure of 392,000. The four-week moving average was 368,000, an increase of 1,500 from the previous week's revised average of 366,500. Continuing unemployment claims for the week ended Oct. 13 were 3.254 million, a decrease of 2,000 from the prior week's upwardly revised level of 3.256 million.

Deutsche Bank analyst David Bianco wrote Thursday morning that following the broad market declines on Tuesday and Wednesday, investors were at "a fair

S&P 500


entry point."

"Third quarter global deceleration has brought the worst earnings season since the recession," Bianco said, although "sales growth is actually respectable, given

foreign exchange headwinds, which should stop." According to the analyst, "on a current constituent basis (apples to apples), S&P 500 y/y sales growth should be 2-3%."

Bianco also said that "Banks and Tech are our preferred high dividend growth plays," although "the concern about what is likely to be ongoing net interest margin compression at banks is valid. Unless loan growth significantly accelerates, it will be hard for banks without capital markets exposure to grow EPS next year.

KBW Bank Index


on Thursday rose 1% to close at 49.70, with all but four of the 24 index components rising for the session.

Bank of America

Bank of America's shares have now returned 67% year-to-date, following last year's 58% decline.

The shares trade for 0.7 times their reported Sept. 30 tangible book value of $13.48, and for 10 times the consensus 2013 earnings estimate of 96 cents a share, among analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.

Atlantic Equities analyst Richard Staite on Wednesday

upgraded Bank of America

to an "Overweight" rating from "Equal Weight," while raising his price target for the shares by 50% to $12.00.

"After several years of disappointment, we believe that BAC has turned a corner and will see stronger pre-provision profitability in 2013," Staite said, "helped by lower costs and a strengthening housing market." Pre-provision earnings refer to earnings before a bank's quarterly provision for loan losses. At this point in the credit cycle, many banks are adding little to reserves each quarter, in order to "release" reserves to more appropriate levels as loan quality improves. This can distort earnings upward. Of course, if a bank sells nonperforming loans, it can also see a spike in one quarter's provision for reserves, which also distorts earnings.

State also said that Bank of America's net interest margin "trends look better than peers and capital ratios have improved significantly, making a capital return in 2013 a real possibility."

Over the coming year, Staite expects Bank of America "to shed the $10bn in abnormal costs associated with servicing delinquent mortgages," as the housing market continues to recover, and that the bank may settle "some" of its mortgage putback demands, "thus removing an overhang."

"We have assumed a one off $6bn charge that we include in our book value calculations," he said."

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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.