NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Bank of America ( BAC) will report its first-quarter earnings before the market opens Friday, and any further negativity bodes well for long-term investors.The political and regulatory pile-on against large banks continued yesterday, with cease and desist orders against the main banking subsidiaries of Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase ( JPM), Citigroup ( C), Wells Fargo ( WFC), PNC Financial ( PNC), U.S. Bancorp ( USB) and others, as the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve added their two cents on robosigning of mortgage foreclosure documents and other loan servicing problems, that were widely covered by the media last year and have already been addressed by the large banks. The risk from mortgage buybacks has already been addressed repeatedly by the large mortgage players, and additional risks disclosed on Friday by Bank of America are expected to be relatively light, compared to $4.1 billion provision mortgage repurchase claims in the fourth quarter, which included $3.0 billion for claims by Fannie Mae ( FNM.F)and Freddie Mac . Still, further extraordinary losses on the mortgage front, including the coming regulatory fines related to the cease and desist orders announced Wednesday, will make for some nice headlines and possibly additional pummeling of the stock, which was down 29% for the 52-week period ended Wednesday, when Bank of America's shares closed at $13.27. Investors will also be keying in on any discussion of dividends by CEO Brian Moynihan, after the company's initial plan to boost its dividend in the second half of this year was rejected by the Federal Reserve in March. Bank of America plans to submit a revised plan to regulators. With signs of economic improvement, and Bank of America's leading mortgage position -- not to mention the Merrill Lynch division's tremendous opportunities when securities underwriting eventually picks up -- investors are looking at a historic opportunity to load up in advance of a long-term run-up in the shares. Granted, we could have said this a year ago and the stock hasn't been a good one for day traders, but for patient long-term investors who believe in the economic recovery, the stock looks like a winner. Matthew Burnell of Wells Fargo has an "outperform" or buy rating on Bank of America, although he tempered his enthusiasm late in March with a "more cautious outlook," and valuation range of $17 to $19 a share, as the shares were removed from Wells Fargo's "Priority Stock List" as a result of reduced confidence in the U.S. economy and "a slower future trajectory of dividend improvement."
Even the low end of Burnell's valuation range would represent a 28% gain for an investor. The analyst said that Bank of America's "current valuation sits at a cyclically low level and below less diversified peers," and that the company's "normalized earnings power is among the strongest" in its peer group. One veteran Wall Street analyst called the shares "stupid cheap," with a forward price-to-earnings ratio of 7.5, based on Wednesday's close and a consensus 2012 earnings estimate of $1.79 a share among analysts polled by FactSet. Bank of America's shares trade for the lowest forward P/E of the "big four" U.S. banks, all of which appear cheaply priced by this measure. Among the big four, the next cheapest is JPMorgan - widely considered the "gold standard" among large U.S. banks, with its relatively strong performance through the credit crisis - trading for 8.3 times the consensus 2012 EPS estimate of $5.62, based on Wednesday's closing price of $46.25. Wells Fargo is next, with shares trading for 8.5 times the consensus 2012 EPS estimate of $3.59, based on Wednesday's closing price of $30.68. Among the big four, industry piñata Citigroup was the most expensive based on a forward P/E of 8.6, with a consensus 2012 EPS estimate of 53 cents and a closing price on Wednesday of 4.50. -- Written by Philip van Doorn in Jupiter, Fla. To contact the writer, click here: Philip van Doorn. To follow the writer on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/PhilipvanDoorn. To submit a news tip, send an email to: email@example.com.