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Bank of America Corp (BAC) Is Up Today and Could Go Higher

Shares of Bank of America Corp (NYSE:BAC) are up considerably this afternoon amid a broader rally that’s sent blue-chip stocks to record highs in intraday trading. With roughly two hours left in the trading session, the nation’s second largest bank by assets is up by $0.23, or 1.97%.

B of A’s ongoing legal battles
The ongoing legal battle between Bank of America Corp (NYSE:BAC) and bond-insurer MBIA Inc. (NYSE:MBI) made headlines yesterday after a federal judge in New York dismissed B of A’s challenge to MBIA’s corporate bifurcation. The ruling affirmed an approval by state insurance regulators with respect to the 2009 restructuring. MBIA’s share soared more than 20% on the news yesterday, and despite the adverse decision, Bank of America Corp (NYSE:BAC)’s ended the day higher as well.

Bank of America Corp (NYSE:BAC)The ruling didn’t impact B of A because the case is a mere sideshow compared to its larger and more substantive legal problems. Since the financial crisis, the bank has paid out more than $40 billion in legal claims related primarily to its acquisition of Countrywide Financial. In addition, according to my estimate, it still has between $15 billion and $25 billion to fork out beyond allocated provisions before all is said and done.

Critically, however, the now-dismissed case didn’t fall into either of these categories. In a rare occurrence, the bank was actually the plaintiff looking for relief as opposed to a defendant from which relief is sought. As a result, the legal loss didn’t necessarily translate into a financial one as well. Not to mention, B of A has promised to appeal the ruling and still has an analogous case pending before a state judge in New York.

The stress tests results are due out this week
Going forward, moreover, investors and analysts are much more interested in what happens at the end of this week. On Thursday, the Federal Reserve is scheduled to release the results of the 2013 stress tests covering the nation’s largest banks including JPMorgan Chase & Co (NYSE:JPM) and Wells Fargo & Co (NYSE:WFC), among others. While there’s little question that either of these banks, or B of A for that matter, will pass the tests, there’s less certainty over what that means.

The bigger issue is whether or not the Fed will allow certain lenders to increase their dividends and/or share buybacks. I’ve made no secret of my belief that Wells Fargo will get the requisite go-ahead, but Bank of America Corp (NYSE:BAC) isn’t as sure of a shoo-in. Either way, however, we’re set to find this out at the end of next week when the Fed informs banks of its decision.