The Treasury Department shouldn't let Bank of America out of the penalty box just yet. The Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank wants to repay $20 billion, or almost half of the capital it received from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, according to press reports. The bank's fortunes have certainly picked up since the depths of the banking crisis — its stock has rocketed almost sevenfold. But it's hardly out of the woods.
For starters, it still trades at just 75% of book value, implying shareholders still see more pain ahead. And B of A's core business is hardly firing on all cylinders. Sure, the bank reported $7.4 billion of profit for the first half of the year. But that's illusory: B of A actually lost $3.5 billion — $5.7 billion if dividend payments are included — after stripping out tax benefits and one-off gains from selling chunks of businesses, including almost half its stake in China Construction Bank, and adjusting for accounting-driven gains and losses on its own liabilities.