JANUARY 20, 2010, 10:17 A.M. ET
By MARSHALL ECKBLAD And NATHAN BECKER
Bank of America Corp. and Wells Fargo & Co. reported improved fourth-quarter results -- with Bank of America coming closer to the black and Wells swinging to a profit -- joining peers that have also posted better results a year after the depths of the financial crisis.
Bank of America posted a loss of $194 million in the fourth quarter after its mammoth consumer-loan books showed signs of stabilizing, but its once-frothy revenue from trading fell sharply. Still, its results are an improvement over a year ago, when the Charlotte, N.C., bank and its peers were battered by the financial crisis.
Bank of America's Chief Executive Brian Moynihan said Wednesday during a conference call that losses from soured loans have slowed.
"There were several positive trends in the quarter. First, credit quality appears to be stabilizing, if not improving," he said. Trends this quarter are "supporting our comments in October that overall credit costs were peaking."
"Although we believe we saw the peak in the third quarter, net loss levels remain elevated for the next several quarters," Mr. Moynihan said.
Revenue jumped 60% to $25.1 billion because of its purchase of Merrill Lynch a year ago.
Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had most recently forecast a loss of 52 cents a share on $26.84 billion in revenue.
In the global markets business, which includes Merrill, Bank of America swung to a $7.18 billion profit from a $4.92 billion loss a year earlier.
Credit losses rose to $10.11 billion from $8.53 billion a year earlier, while the net charge-off rate was 3.71%, compared with 2.36% a year earlier and 4.13% in the third quarter.
Bank of America rose 1%, or 17 cents, to $16.49 in recent trading. The stock had gained 8.4% in January through Tuesday.
Bank of America has a strong investment bank, thanks to its Merrill Lynch acquisition. But the company's overall performance is heavily dependent on consumers and the economy, especially unemployment, which has a direct effect on borrowers' ability to make their monthly loan payments.
Meanwhile, Wells Fargo swung to a profit of $2.82 billion, or eight cents a share, from a year-earlier loss of $2.73 billion, or 84 cents a share. The San Francisco company said its earnings were reduced by 47 cents for preferred-stock dividends related to the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
Revenue rose 4% to a record $22.7 billion.
Analysts had most recently forecast a one-cent-per-share loss on $22 billion in revenue.
Net charge-offs rose to 2.71% of average loans from 2.5% a quarter earlier and 2.11% a year earlier.
Wells Fargo added 0.7%, or 20 cents, to $28.48 in recent action.—Matthias Rieker contributed to this article.
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