Can B of A really do worse next year?
The battered financial has nowhere to go but up -- if you believe Wall Street price targets.
There's no shortage of articles offering the best stock picks for the new year. But allow me to throw one more on the pile before the ball drops with my recommendation of Bank of America (BAC). Why B of A? In a nutshell, I don't think things can get much worse for the battered bank.
Admittedly, this is a bit of a risky call, despite BAC rising about 17% in the past month. Bank of America has many problems in many areas, from a backlog of foreclosures to new regulations to Uncle Sam's ownership stake to plain old bad PR. But if you don't want any risk, you simply shouldn't be buying individual stocks in the current volatile market.
There are plenty of reasons to talk yourself out of buying B of A. But here are the three big reasons I found that talked me into buying:
How much worse can things get? Bank of America's five-year return has delivered something close to a 70% loss, and it’s off more than 30% from its 2010 high around of $20. Clearly, Wall Street is painfully aware of the problems facing BAC. Just as I believe too much success is already baked into some overbought tech stocks (that’s another story), I believe plenty of failure has been baked into BAC. Frankly, what surprises are there left that would revise Wall Street’s negative outlook on this stock any lower?
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The 'experts' have targeted 50% gains on average. Trust me, I’m as skeptical of expert analysts as the next guy. But for what it’s worth, out of 26 analysts with targets on BAC stock, every single one has predicted an upside to shares, according to Thomson/First Call. The low target is $13 (about where the stock is now), and the high is $26, with an average of $18. The fact that even the worst forecast on Wall Street is for zero downside is worth noting.
Possible dividend boost in 2011. According to Bank of America executives, the company’s balance sheet is shored up and a dividend is likely. CEO Brian Moynihan hinted on Dec. 7 at a Goldman Sachs conference that a dividend increase was a possibility. What’s more, the Federal Reserve seems ready to sign off on increased dividend payments for banks that took TARP cash (the healthy ones only, of course) for the first time since the financial crisis. Not only would a bigger dividend payout be nice for shareholders, but the buying pressure created by income-hungry investors could be doubly fortuitous for BAC stock. As more investors have chased dividends, news that Bank of America will be delivering a better yield could create a bump in buying pressure.
Full disclosure: To show I'm putting my money where my mouth is, I just purchased BAC at $13.30 on Thursday, Dec. 30. We'll see in 12 months whether it was a wise move.
Jeff Reeves is editor of InvestorPlace.com. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JeffReevesIP.
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