3 Things That Could Move Bank Stocks Today

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Bank of America ( BAC) is planning to charge basic checking account customers a monthly fee unless they agree to a number of services, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Under the change, Bank of America will charge customers anywhere between $6 to $25 -- depending on the level of account -- but would allow them to avoid fees if they sign up to other bank services such as credit cards or mortgages. Customers could also avoid the fee with a minimum balance, the article states.

Banks have been pummeled by a series of regulations curtailing fees over the past 18 months. Last year banks were hit with the Durbin Amendment, which cut interchange fees charged to merchants for processing debit card purchases. Just last week Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray announced that he would investigate lucrative checking account overdraft fees.

KBW analyst Fred Cannon said in a note this week that "banks must find another avenue for fee income growth in order to expand ROEs, if no other variables change."

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will continue his testimony on monetary policy before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.

On Wednesday, equities and especially gold pulled back after the central bank chief suggested that improvements in the economy may lessen the need for stimulus.

Bernanke also made other comments on financial reform. He said the Volcker rule was likely to be postponed past the initial July 2012 deadline. The controversial rule that seeks to limit banks from taking too much risk with their capital has attracted criticism from various quarters of Wall Street as well as from foreign governments who also wish their sovereign debt markets to be exempt from the rule.

The rule affects banks with capital markets operations and is expected to have the most impact on pure-play investment banks such as Goldman Sachs ( GS) and Morgan Stanley ( MS). The Chairman said the regulator has received 17,000 comments on Volcker.

The foreclosure deal between the 50 states and the nation's biggest banks including Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase ( JPM), Citigroup ( C), Wells Fargo ( WFC) and Ally Financial, may cause investors in mortgage bonds to lose confidence in their holdings and avoid investing, the Financial Times reported, citing a report by Fitch Ratings to be published Thursday.

The banks are being asked to make principal reductions on mortgages owed by underwater borrowers, including those sold to investors, as part of the deal. But some investors feel they are being penalized for mistakes made by banks and do not want to bear the cost of the settlement.

The settlement in any case is yet to be finalized. However, if investors are adversely affected by the principal reductions, their confidence might take a beating and it would eventually prevent the transition from a government-sponsored mortgage market to one that is privately backed.  
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