Bank of America Among 4 Bank Downgrades by Evercore

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Bank of America ( BAC) was downgraded Friday by Evercore, part of a broad industry review by bank analysts at the investment bank.

Citing the 73% surge in Bank of America stock and a valuation that is "less compelling," Evercore analyst Andrew Marquardt lowered the banking giant to equal weight from overweight. He noted that while Bank of America has closed the gap with Citigroup ( C) on various metrics, it still trades at a discount to other large-cap peers. However, he argues a discount is warranted, given "lower returns and lower confidence in ultimate earnings power."

Nonetheless, Marquardt likes Bank of America longer term, arguing it has done a solid job of shoring up its capital base. Bank of America shares were flat in early trading Friday.

Noting bank outperformance year to date and a less compelling valuation, Evercore's analysts "remain positive on the sector longer-term as we still see more upside than downside risk." Top picks include JPMorgan Chase ( JPM), Wells Fargo ( WFC), Comerica ( CMA), Zions Bancorp ( ZION), Synovus ( SNV).

Other moves by Evercore analysts included downgrades to SunTrust ( STI), First Horizon National ( FHN)and Associated Bancorp ( ASBC)and an upgrade to Huntington Bancshares ( HBAN)

Marquardt's downgrade to Associated to underweight from equal weight cited "mixed earnings power and valuation." Nonetheless, he believes "capital remains strong," and he sees a possibility of share buybacks.

In raising Huntington to equal weight from underweight, Marquardt cited improved earnings and "greater confidence in ability to deploy excess capital," following recent regulatory stress tests by the Federal Reserve.

Marquardt also noted Huntington shares trade at just over 10 times 2013 earnings versus a 12.7 multiple for peers. Huntington shares were slightly higher in early trades Friday.

The downgrades to SunTrust and First Horizon were by a separate Evercore analyst, John Pancari, and detailed reports could not be obtained. Pancari now has an equal weight rating on both companies following the downgrades.

-- Written by Dan Freed in New York.

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