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On May 29, 2013, we reiterated our long-term recommendation on Bank of America Corporation (BAC - Analyst Report) at Neutral. This is based on BofA’s first-quarter restated earnings, which significantly outpaced on a year-over-year basis, but were below the Zacks Consensus Estimate.

Why Neutral?

BofA’s first-quarter restated earnings of 10 cents per share were ahead of the prior-year quarter earnings of 3 cents, but lagged the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 23 cents. Results on a year-over-year basis benefited from top-line growth, a significant slowdown in the provision for credit losses and a fall in non-interest expenses. However, lower mortgage banking income and reduced net gains on sales of debt securities eroded the sheen of its bottom line.

Further, in May 2013, BofA resolved a 5-year-old legal dispute with MBIA Inc. related to guarantees on commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS). Under the terms of the agreement, the company will pay nearly $1.6 billion in cash and return $137 million worth of MBIA 5.70% senior notes maturing in 2034.

The Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2013 fell 9.9% to 91 cents per share over the last 60 days. Additionally, for 2014, the Zacks Consensus Estimate dropped by a penny to $1.32 per share, in the same time-frame. Hence, BofA now has a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).

BofA remains focused on maintaining steady capital levels. Hence, in Mar 2013, after the Federal Reserve’s approval, the company announced a $5 billion share repurchase program. Further, BofA has been striving to realign its balance sheet in conformity to the regulatory changes post the meltdown, in order to remain afloat.

However, BofA’s increased cost structure remains a cause of concern. Moreover, we are concerned about the company’s top-line growth, which continues to be impacted by the low rate environment and sluggish economic recovery.

Other Major Banks Worth Considering

Some better performing banks include JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM - Analyst Report) and State Street Corporation (STT - Analyst Report), both of which carry a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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