BofA shares fall into single digits for first time in 18 years

Bank of America Corp.'s shares fell into the single digits for the first time since 1991 Thursday, closing on the New York Stock Exchange at $8.32.

Investors were spooked by reports, which broke after markets closed yesterday, that Bank of America may need additional funds from the U.S. Treasury in order to absorb Merrill Lynch & Co. Today, some analysts wondered if Bank of America was heading down the same path as struggling Citigroup Inc.

"We view an acceptance of additional (Treasury) capital as more worrisome than acceptance of the first round," said Stuart Plesser, an analyst at Standard & Poor's. "We even believe that some of the banks in the first round accepted capital without necessarily needing it." The government is sure to attach "onerous terms" to any additional loans it gives to Bank of America, Plesser said, such as requiring the bank to get government approval of its investment policy.

Michael Farr, president of the Farr, Miller & Washington investment firm in Washington, predicts that Bank of America will have to sell off some of its businesses in order to shore up funds for absorbing Merrill Lynch. Bank of America chief executive Ken Lewis isn't known for shedding pieces of his empire, but that may be changing: He recently sold off part of the bank's stake in China Construction Bank. "In this market, you've got to sell your good stuff — whatever you have that's worth buying," Farr said. "It's not the choice you want to make, but it's the choice you have to make."

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