NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Bank of America ( BAC) shares are likely to post gains in 2011, TheStreet's readers declared overwhelmingly in a recent poll. More than 70% of the readers polled by TheStreet believe Bank of America will finish 2011 between $15 to $30, compared to nearly 15% who believe it will finish between $10 TO $15, 7% who believe it will finish between $30 to $40, and about 4% each who see it finishing either above $40 or below $10. Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan had better hope they're right; the patience of investors, not to mention a newly reconstituted board of directors, is not likely to last long. Nearly any way you slice it, Bank of America was a lousy stock to own in 2010, having lost 11.42% through Tuesday, Dec. 28, as concerns on everything from litigation over the bank's acquisition of Merrill Lynch to so-called interchange fees to sloppy mortgage backed securities underwriting and foreclosure practices to fears over a potential bombshell from WikiLeaks hammered the shares. While you could say that many of these problems weren't Moynihan's making, other companies with major legacy issues fared far better in 2010. Indeed, 2010 was a year when many beaten down stocks recovered in a big way. Look at Citigroup ( C), which gained 44.41%, or AIG ( AIG), which saw its shares nearly double. Even Morgan Stanley ( MS), whose new CEO James Gorman also inherited a company in need of a major overhaul, appeared set to outperform Bank of America, as the shares had lost just 6.55% in through Tuesday. Bank of America shares also underperformed the industry leaders in the banking sector in a year when shares of healthier financial companies were out of favor. While investors did not appear to see dramatic upside potential for Goldman Sachs ( GS)and JPMorgan Chase ( JPM), those stocks nonetheless appear headed to finish the year either flat or with modest gains. And financial sector exchange traded funds like the Financial Select Sector SPDR ( XLF) or the SPDR KBW Bank ETF ( KBE) also appear headed for solid gains this year, as does the Standard and Poor's 500 index, which was up 12.85% through Tuesday. Maybe this all bodes well for Bank of America in 2011. After all, many of the issues it is dealing with impact its competitors as well. Most analysts seemed to believe the most serious risk Bank of America faced in 2011 was over potential "putbacks" of mortgage backed securities created from home loans extended by Countrywide Financial, which Bank of America acquired in 2008.
An influential report last year from Compass Point Research and Trading put Bank of America at the top of the list of companies exposed to MBS putbacks, with $35.2 billion of potential losses related to the issue. However, JPMorgan Chase, Deutsche Bank ( DB) and Goldman Sachs each have between $10 billion-$23 billion of exposure themselves, according to the report. But Bank of America put many of those concerns to rest when it reached a settlement with Fannie Mae ( FNMA.OB)and Freddie Mac ( FMCC.OB)for just $2 billion. While other claims remain outstanding, many analysts saw the settlement as an indication earlier predictions had been far too bearish, and Bank of America's stock rallied sharply on the news. Bank of America shares also got hammered in July after it took a $7 billion to $10 billion charge related to legislation known as the Durbin Amendment that will cut into so-called interchange fees that banks charge to merchants in exchange for processing debit card transactions. While credit card companies like Visa ( V), Mastercard ( MA) American Express ( AXP) have sold off on this issue, it doesn't appear to have hit other banks nearly as hard as Bank of America, suggesting either that investors are underestimating the impact on other big banks, or that Bank of America may be too pessimistic about the affect the law will have on its bottom line. But maybe Bank of America is due for even more trouble in 2011. While many analysts seem to be dismissing the Wikileaks threat as a phantom, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, while not confirming Bank of America is the target, has said he has enough dirt to potentially spur a major investigation and possibly a CEO resignation. -- Written by Dan Freed in New York.