Bank of America leads bank rally

Financial Stocks

March 8, 2011, 3:26 p.m. EST

Bank of America leads bank rally

BOSTON (MarketWatch) — Bank of America Corp. led Tuesday’s charge in bank stocks on hopes the company will be able to boost profit in coming years and return capital to shareholders in the form of dividends or share buybacks.

Bank of America /quotes/comstock/13*!bac/quotes/nls/bac (BAC 14.69, +0.66, +4.70%)  shares were up 4.5% as the Charlotte, N.C.-based bank was holding its first investor day since 2007.
Chief Executive Brian Moynihan said B. of A. isn’t interested in any more acquisitions and that the company can return capital to investors. See full story on Moynihan’s remarks.

“We can generate significant excess capital and return it to shareholders,” the Bank of America CEO said, according to a presentation.

Moynihan said the company is targeting pre-tax income in the range of $35 billion to $40 billion annually the next several years as it puts the financial crisis behind it. Bank of America’s capital-management priorities include a dividend payout of up to 30% of trailing earnings, he added.

However, Bank of America and other banks that received federal support during the credit crunch will need approval from the Federal Reserve to increase their dividends.

Bank stocks were the market’s strongest sector Tuesday while the Financial Select Sector SPDR Fund /quotes/comstock/13*!xlf/quotes/nls/xlf (XLF 16.76, -0.01, -0.06%)  rose more than 2%.

PNC Financial Services Group Inc. /quotes/comstock/13*!pnc/quotes/nls/pnc (PNC 63.37, +2.67, +4.40%)  was another standout in banks Tuesday as the shares rallied over 4%. Deutsche Bank analyst Matt O’Connor on Tuesday reiterated his buy rating on PNC after meeting with company management.

PNC shares “have stalled a bit in recent months” but performance seems likely to improve “given the combination of lower expectations and an attractive valuation,” the analyst wrote in a note.