Bank of America Keep On Rising in 2013: Analyst

Tickers in this article: BAC C PNC STI USB WFC

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Bank of America (JPM) should see a significant benefit from a stable net interest margin and housing recovery in 2013, according to JPMorgan Chase analyst Vivek Juneja.

In his fourth-quarter earnings preview for large-cap banks, Juneja on Friday reiterated his "Overweight" rating for Bank of America and raised his price target for the company's shares to $13 from $11.50, implying 23% upside from Thursday's closing price of $10.54. A stellar 91% year-to-date through Thursday's close followed a 58% decline in 2011, so the shares were still down 20% from the end of 2010.

The analyst raised his 2013 earnings estimate for Bank of America by four cents to $1.06 and increased his 2014 EPS estimate by a nickel to $1.37. Juneja said his rating reflected "significant benefit from potential housing market recovery, potential for significant increase in normalized earnings, ongoing improvement of capital levels, relatively attractive valuation, and position as a leading retail and commercial banking franchise in the US." Bank of America's cost-cutting program and "some good progress on mortgage related issues" were also cited by the analyst.

Juneja cut his price targets for six of the nine large-cap banks he covers. Aside from Bank of America, the only bank for which JPMorgan's price target was raised, was Citigroup (C) , with the target increasing to $43 from $41, implying 15% upside from Thursday's closing price of $37.29. Citigroup's shares were up 43% year-to-date, following a 44% decline during 2011. The shares were still down 21% from the end of 2010.

Juneja maintained his neutral rating for Citigroup, saying that the company "has an attractive franchise with good long-term growth opportunities in emerging markets and should also have good capital return potential over time as capital gets freed up from Citi Holdings," but that "emerging markets growth outlook is slowing near-term and capital return likely to be muted especially with annual stress tests" by the Federal Reserve .

Citi Holdings is the subsidiary into which Citigroup's noncore assets have been place, as part of former CEO Vikram Pandit's "good bank/bad bank" strategy to right-size the company's balance sheet and boost capital ratios. This strategy was accelerated last week along with other major initiatives to cut expenses , by new Citigroup CEO Michael Corbat.

In addition to bank of America, Juneja has "Overweight" ratings on the following large-cap banks:

  • Wells Fargo (WFC) , with a price target of $41, implying 23% upside from Thursday's closing price of $33.26. Juneja lowered his price target for Wells Fargo by a dollar, "reflecting our modestly lower earnings forecast" of $3.65 for 2013. The analyst estimates the company will earn $3.95 a share in 2014.
  • U.S. Bancorp (USB) , with a price target of $39.50, implying 25% upside from Thursday's closing price of $31.54. Juneja lowered the price target from $41, to reflect "lower EPS estimates and based on a P/E multiple of 11.8x versus the peer group multiple of 10.3x." U.S. Bancorp's premium valuation reflects its very strong earnings performance relative to other large-cap U.S. banks, with operating returns on average assets (ROA) ranging from 1.58% to 1.71% over the past five quarters, according to Thomson Reuters Bank Insight.
  • SunTrust (STI) , with a price target of $32.50, implying 19% upside from Thursday's closing price of $27.20. The analyst cut his price target by a dollar, "reflecting our lower EPS estimates and based on 1.2x our YE 2013 tangible book value versus the peer group multiple of 1.5x because of its lower profitability level."
  • PNC Financial Services Group (PNC) , with a price target of $72.50, implying 28% upside from Thursday's closing price of $56.54. Juneja lowered his price target for PNC from $80, because of a "lower earnings forecast due to increased pressure on net interest margins."

Discounts to Book Value


Of the nine large-cap universal and regional banks covered in Juneja's report, only three were still trading at discounts to tangible book value, including Bank of America, at 0.8 times their reported Sept. 30 tangible book value of $13.48; Citigroup, at 0.7 times their reported tangible book value of $52.70; and with KeyCorp (KEY) , at 0.9 times their reported tangible book value of $9.54, based on Thursday's closing price of $8.14.