Mortgage issues from the past erased much of Bank of Americas earnings in the fourth quarter, sending the banks profit for shareholders down more than 75 percent from the year before.
But Thursdays report also capped a year in which a number of the Charlotte banks largest concerns were put to rest, and executives point to signs of growth under its new mortgage strategy as an indication Bank of America is ready to move forward in 2013.
Weve made a lot of progress during 2012, Chief Financial Officer Bruce Thompson said on a conference call with journalists Thursday. Later, on a call with analysts, he said: We enter 2013 all about moving the ball forward and winning in the marketplace.
Investors didnt seem to share in the optimism. Bank of America shares fell more than 4 percent, closing at $11.28.
Analysts with both Barclays Capital and Wells Fargo Securities wrote that the results were largely in line with expectations, though fee income in the trading division came up shorter than hoped.
The banks report came on a busy day for bank earnings. Citigroup reported a quarterly profit of 38 cents per share, PNC Financial Services earned $1.24 per share, and BB&T earned 71 cents per share.
Bank of America reported earning of 3 cents per share, or $367 million for shareholders, in the fourth quarter. That narrowly edged out the consensus estimate of 2 cents.
The profit was down from $1.6 billion for shareholders in the same quarter last year. But the figures were largely expected after two massive mortgage-related settlements were announced Jan. 7.
In the first, the bank agreed to pay more than $10 billion to settle a long-running dispute with mortgage giant Fannie Mae over millions of loans sold by Countrywide Financial Corp. to be bundled into securities. That cleared up potential legal activity on loans made primarily by Countrywide Financial Corp. originally totaling about $1.4 trillion.
Bank of America also agreed to pay $1.1 billion and provide $1.8 billion more in loan relief to customers to end the independent foreclosure review mandated by an earlier settlement with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve. That put to rest a process that could have been much costlier over a longer period.
They both came on the heels of a $2.4 billion settlement in September that ended a shareholder lawsuit tied to stock price drops after Bank of Americas acquisition of Merrill Lynch in 2008. And in February, Bank of America was among the five mortgage servicers to sign a $25 billion accord with state attorneys general and federal agencies.
Bank of Americas full-year 2012 earnings came in at $2.8 billion for shareholders, up from $85 million in 2011.
Thompson also touted the banks mortgage production, which is now direct to consumers mainly through bank branches. Bank of America produced $21.5 billion in mortgages in the fourth quarter, up 6 percent from the quarter before. For comparison, Wells Fargo originated $63 billion in mortgages through its retail channel.
Bank of America also is nearly halfway to its goal of cutting $2 billion in quarterly expenses through its signature Project New BAC.
More work to go
Bank of America is still a long way away from shedding the burden of its 2008 Countrywide acquisition. The bank still faces major lawsuits brought by the U.S. Department of Justice and bond insurer MBIA. The bank also disclosed Thursday a possible loss of $4 billion over what it has set aside for mortgage repurchase demands.
The banks modest profit for the quarter also included $2.6 billion in tax benefits related to its pretax loss and subsidiary restructurings. Total revenue fell 25 percent from the year before.
Bank of Americas headcount fell by more than 5,000 or 2 percent in the fourth quarter, the steepest drop over the past year. About 3,000 of those were in the unit dedicated to servicing troubled mortgages.
That was possible, Thompson said, because the number of mortgages 60 days or more past due fell by 17 percent in the quarter, to 773,000. He told analysts the bank hopes to have that number cut to 400,000 by the end of 2013.