Getting out from under the government's thumb would seem like a safe move for Bank of America Corp., but factors largely beyond its control will determine whether fully repaying Uncle Sam now proves to be a good decision.

Another downturn or a painfully long economic recovery, substantial credit losses in the company's consumer and commercial books or volatility in capital markets could make B of A wish it kept its $45 billion capital cushion and extra cash longer. Other uncertainties include the integrations of Merrill Lynch & Co. and Countrywide Financial Corp. or who might buy into the upcoming stock offering.

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