The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs Group, Wells Fargo & Co. and PulteGroup

Feb 22, 2013, 09:30 ET from Zacks Investment Research, Inc.

CHICAGO, Feb. 22, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- announces the list of stocks featured in the Analyst Blog. Every day the Zacks Equity Research analysts discuss the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets. Stocks recently featured in the blog include Bank of America Corporation (NYSE: BAC), JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM), The Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (NYSE: GS), Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE: WFC) and PulteGroup Inc. (NYSE: PHM).


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Here are highlights from Thursday's Analyst Blog:

Pay Hike Too High for BofA CEO?

Bank of America Corporation's (NYSE: BAC) CEO Brian T. Moynihan received a massive pay raise of nearly 73% as per a latest SEC filing by the bank. However, the hike in compensation, which will bring Moynihan's salary to $12.1 million, is mostly driven by increases in stock-based compensation.

With this increment, Moynihan is likely to become one of the highest paid mega bank CEOs, surpassing JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) CEO Jamie Dimon, whose pay was nearly $11.5 million for 2012, after his bonus was slashed in half following the London Whale trading debacle. However, in terms of base pay, Lloyd Blankfein of The Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (NYSE: GS) and John Stumpf of Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE: WFC) were far ahead, pocketing more than $2 million in 2011.

Is Moynihan's latest pay hike reasonable given the recovery BofA witnessed so far? We think this is well deserved. After all, the man himself engineered the turnaround at BofA. Moynihan took charge as BofA's CEO after Kenneth Lewis stepped down in 2010. At that juncture, BofA was in severe distress owing to the soured acquisition of Countrywide Financial, colossal mortgage losses, legal mess and a dented reputation.

In the first seventeen months, Moynihan's performance was not able to make shareholders happy. As a result, the company's stock prices tumbled to single digit, sounding the warning bell. However, in Jun 2011, Moynihan announced a landmark settlement, marking his first step towards recovery.  

The settlement involved payment of $8.5 billion by BofA for its legacy Countrywide Financial Corp to 22 investors who suffered significant losses for their investments in mortgage backed securities (MBS) that were sold by Countrywide prior to the housing market failure. Though the deal faces lot of opposition, it cannot be denied that if approved, this settlement would resolve majority of investor claims.

Since then Moynihan moves forward. With several legal settlements, cost cutting initiatives and divestment of non-core units, the CEO has single-handedly revived profitability at BofA.

This impressive performance helped Moynihan receive 926,238 shares last year, compared with 761,007 in 2011. Though it is only a 22% jump, the increased stock price contributed to the remainder pay jump. The stock price catapulted around 55% between last year and 2011's grant date. Moynihan's efforts to pull the bank out of legal mess were the primary driving factors behind stock price appreciation.

Further, in 2012, Moynihan earned a $950,000 in base salary but received no cash bonus, similar to 2011. The stock grants for 2012 totaled $11.1 million at the closing price of $12.03 as of Feb 15, 2013 (day it was awarded). It is expected that the CEO's base salary is set to increase approximately 55% to nearly $1.5 million this year.

The missing cash bonus is not astonishing for Moynihan. After all, BofA continues its struggle to revive and improvise its earnings and capital profile by divesting non-core business and cost trimming initiatives. Consequently, the bank is not paying its CEO a substantial amount for now.

After having lowered the compensation in 2010 to $1.94 million, the recent pay hike is well deserved by Moynihan. Though a lot remains to be accomplished and we do not doubt the capacities of the CEO, this compensation hike will prove a morale booster for him.

Currently, BofA carries Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).

New Pulte Homes in Tarheel State

PulteGroup Inc. (NYSE: PHM) recently held a ground breaking ceremony at the Carolina Arbors community in the city of Durham, N.C. The community will have 1,275 single family ranch homes constructed under its brand Del Webb. The prices range from mid $190s to mid $300s.

Eleven designer model homes are expected to be complete by summer 2013. These are targeted toward residents aged 55 and older. The residents can enjoy easy access to facilities like boating, hiking, shopping centers, and restaurants. The residents can choose from various single story floors plans, with 2-car garage, spacious rooms and a living space, walk in master suite closets, and loft options.

The rising demand for new homes has led to a favorable situation in the housing market, where inventory levels are dropping and prices are moving up. As such most home building companies are constructing increased number of new homes in order to maintain the required level of inventory to meet the growing demand. Homebuilders like Pulte with significant land positions, broad geographic and product diversity, and better capital positions are expected to benefit the most as market conditions recover.

Pulte had announced its plans to spend 1 billion on land and land development in 2012, $90 million higher than prior expectations of approximately $910 million.  

PulteGroup carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).

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