Bank of America Corp., the second- biggest U.S. lender, surged by the most in two months of trading amid speculation that the Obama administration may introduce a nationwide loan refinancing program.
Bank of America rose 43 cents, or 7.4 percent, to $6.24 at 2:35 p.m. in New York, the company’s biggest advance since Oct. 27. Regions Financial Corp. and SunTrust Banks Inc. also rose more than 4 percent, and the 24-company KBW Bank Index added almost 2 percent.
“There’s a lot of speculation about the big refinance wave coming from Washington,” said Todd Hagerman, an analyst in New York with Sterne Agee Group Inc., in a telephone interview. “That being said, there are a lot of existing roadblocks to the refinance boom occurring in the near future.” For now, even if there is a change in public policy, “you’re not going to see any impact whatsoever on the banks.”
Lenders are grappling with costs stemming from loose lending practices that led to the housing market’s collapse. Bank of America, which acquired subprime lender Countrywide Financial Corp. in 2008, plunged 58 percent last year as refunds and settlements tied to faulty mortgages mounted at the Charlotte, North Carolina-based company.
The speculation was fueled in part by a Jan. 4 note from Jaret Seiberg, a policy analyst at the Washington Research Group. He theorized that President Barack Obama could install a housing advocate at the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which regulates Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
“That could lead to a mass refinancing program for agency- backed mortgages that would go well beyond the existing HARP program,” Seiberg wrote, referring to a federal effort to help distressed borrowers. “That could hurt agency mortgage-backed securities pricing and result in higher financing costs going forward. Yet it also could be a big boost for the economy and housing going into the election.”
Seiberg didn’t return phone calls and e-mails requesting comment.
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