Banking

Wells Fargo’s 4th-quarter profit rises

FILE - A customer uses an ATM outside a Wells Fargo branch in Charlotte on Jan. 17, 2012.
FILE - A customer uses an ATM outside a Wells Fargo branch in Charlotte on Jan. 17, 2012. AP

Wells Fargo said Wednesday its profit in the fourth quarter rose from the same quarter a year ago, even as the country’s largest home lender continues to deal with a slowdown in its mortgage business.

The San Francisco-based lender reported earning $5.38 billion for common shareholders in the quarter, up less than 1 percent from a year earlier. The $1.02 per share it earned precisely matched analysts’ expectations.

Its revenue of $21.4 billion beat analysts’ expectations for revenue of $21.2 billion, as all three of its business segments posted higher revenues.

But its mortgage operation continues to feel the effects of the slowdown in U.S. home-loan refinancing activity that began when interest rates started rising in 2013.

Wells Fargo said it originated $44 billion in home loans in the fourth quarter, a decline of 12 percent from the same quarter a year ago and a decline of 8 percent from the third quarter of this year. That slump comes as demand for loans to buy homes hasn’t been enough to offset the refinancing declines.

Wells Fargo was among the first lenders to kick off the latest earnings season for the largest U.S. financial institutions, giving investors a glimpse of what they might expect from their big-bank peers.

New York-based JPMorgan Chase & Co. also reported fourth-quarter results Wednesday. JPMorgan, the largest U.S. bank, posted a 6.6 percent decline in profit, as its legal costs rose.

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