(Updated with Jefferies earnings results)NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Analysts are beginning to raise estimates for first- quarter earnings for banks as the macro-economic environment improves. On Thursday, Bernstein Research analyst John McDonald raised earnings estimates for 2012 and 2013 as well as price targets for six banks, including Bank of America ( BAC), Citigroup ( C), JPMorgan Chase ( JPM) and Wells Fargo ( WFC).
"We expect our coverage in aggregate to post y/y net income growth in 1Q as expense management and lower credit costs outshine the difficult revenue environment," the analyst wrote in a note. JPMorgan Chase is Bernstein's top pick, as is Wells Fargo, given their "clearly-defined levers for growth and meaningful capital return potential." Here's a quick look at the revised estimates and price targets. Bank of America Bank of America is likely to post a first quarter earnings estimate of 18 cents per share, up from the 12 cents originally estimated. The analyst raised his earnings estimate for the bank for 2012 by 5 cents to 70 cents per share while the 2013 estimate was unchanged at $1.13. The 12-month price target was also raised to $11 from $9 earlier. Citigroup Citigroup saw its first quarter estimate raised by 23 cents to $1.30 per share. The bank is likely to post an earnings per share of $4.20 in 2012. The price target was raised to $45 per share. JPMorgan Chase JPMorgan is likely to post a first quarter earnings estimate of $1.19 per share. The analyst raised his earnings estimate for the bank for 2012 by 30 cents to $4.80 and by 75 cents for 2013 to $5.75. The 12-month price target is $56, implying a 22% upside from current levels. The stock trades at less than 8 times its estimated 2013 earnings per share, the lowest among its peers, the analyst notes. Yet it is best placed from a Basel III capital perspective and is likely to return more capital to shareholders. PNC Financial Services PNC Financial ( PNC) actually saw a slight downgrade to its first quarter earnings estimate. The analyst now expects the bank to report an earnings per share of $1.18 compared to $1.22 per share earlier. He however left 2012 and 2013 estimates unchanged at $6.10 and $6.75 respectively. Bernstein has a 12-month price target of $72 on the stock. U.S.Bancorp U.S. Bancorp ( USB) is expected to report an earnings per share of 65 cents, a upward revision of 1 cent. Estimates for 2012 and 2013 were raised to $2.67 and $2.95 respectively. The analyst has a 12-month price target of $33 on the stock.
Wells Fargo Wells Fargo saw its first quarter earnings estimate rise 8 cents to 79 cents per share. 2012 earnings estimates were revised to $3.25 from $3.10 previously, while 2013 estimates were bumped up by 10 cents to $3.60. Bernstein raised the price target on the stock to $40, implying a 18% upside from current levels. --Written by Shanthi Bharatwaj in New York >To contact the writer of this article, click here: Shanthi Bharatwaj. >To follow the writer on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/shavenk. >To submit a news tip, send an email to: email@example.com.