Bank of America Leads Sector Down, Expects Slower Loan Growth

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Bank of America (BAC) was the loser among major U.S. bank stocks on Friday, with shares down 2% to close at $16.81.

The broad indices all ended lower, as investors continued to worry over the land-grab in Ukraine engineered by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

There will be a referendum in Crimea on Sunday over whether or not the semi-autonomous region will split from Ukraine and become part of Russia, with voting conducted under the watchful eye of Russian troops pretending not to be Russian troops. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has given Russia until Monday to back down or face sanctions, but with so much on the line economically, including a major supply of Western Europe's winter heating fuel, it seems doubtful that the United States or other nations will bring serious sanctions to bear against Russia.

Back home, the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary index of consumer sentiment declined to 79.9 in Marc from 81.6 in February. The March reading was the fourth-straight decline, and was way below the consensus estimate of 82.0, among analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.

The KBW Bank Index (I:BKX) was down 0.5% to 69.54, with all but seven of the 24 index components ending with declines. The index has risen slightly this year, following a 35% gain in 2013 and a 30% gain during 2012.

Slowing Loan Growth

Shares of Bank of America have returned 8% this year, following a 34.5% return during 2013. The shares trade for 1.2 times their reported Dec. 31 tangible book value of $13.79, and for 10.4 times the consensus 2015 earnings estimate of $1.62, among analysts polled by Thomson Reuters. The consensus 2014 EPS estimate is $1.32.

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