3 Things That Could Move Bank Stocks

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Bank of America ( BAC) was in the spotlight again on Thursday following a Wall Street Journal report that it was "working on sweeping changes that would require many users of basic checking accounts to pay a monthly fee unless they agree to bank online, buy more products or maintain certain balances."

The report caused a stir, not surprising considering the intense backlash the bank faced when it introduced a $5 monthly fee for debit card purchases last fall which it was later forced to withdraw.

The report was immediately followed by a statement from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announcing that it will begin accepting complaints about bank accounts, including checking accounts, savings accounts and related services.

Consumer Reports also called for the bank to drop its fees or face more customer exits.

However, Bank of America later clarified that the fee had not yet been introduced and was still in pilot testing. "Media reports this morning provided inaccurate information. Bank of America is not planning to increase checking account fees with our existing customers," Anne Pace, Spokesperson for Bank of America said in a statement. "Since January 2011, Bank of America has been testing checking account options for new accounts only, in Arizona, Georgia and Massachusetts. Bank of America is continuing to learn from those tests and has not made any decisions about when, how, or if we would change our fees on new accounts."

Investors will be waiting to see if the bank can successfully charge fees this time around and find a way to offset the impact of regulations such as the Durbin Amendment on fees.

JPMorgan Chase ( JPM) recently said that while the bank would like to charge customers higher fees, it would not rock the boat in the current environment given the resistance from customers. Recent regulations have made most customers with an investible balance of less than $100,000 unprofitable, the bank said.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke concluded his two-day semi-annual testimony on monetary policy before Congress on Thursday.

He continues to remain cautious about the recovery and reiterated the central banks plans to keep short-term interest rates low for longer. He however said banks should "understand their risks" and prepare and protect themselves for whatever direction interest rates might take.

On Friday, St.Louis Fed President James Bullard will speak about the "U.S. Economy in the aftermath of the financial crisis," in Vancouver.

The Fed has been trying to improve communication and transparency of its motives in a bid to reduce the uncertainty in the markets.

Subpoenas sent by the U.S. Justice Department over the sale of mortgage-backed securities could mean investigations of banks could drag on for years, according to a report from Reuters.

The subpoenas were issued in January and demand information from banks regarding every MBS sold between 2006 and 2008; a much wider focus of investigation than previous attempts by the Securities and Exchange Commission, the article states.

In January New York Attorney General Eric Schniderman took the lead of the "Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group," The group -- created by President Obama and run through the Justice Department -- will investigate "those responsible for misconduct contributing to the financial crisis through the pooling and sale of residential mortgage-backed securities," Schniderman said.

--Written by Shanthi Bharatwaj in New York

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