BofA Takes ‘Giant Step’ as Mortgages, Cost Cuts Fuel Profit

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Bank of America Profit Surges on Reduced Legal Fees

Bank of America Corp., the lender most hobbled by the collapse of the U.S. housing market, said second-quarter profit more than doubled as the mortgage business rebounded and expenses fell to the lowest since 2008.

The bank’s stock jumped 3.2 percent to $17.68, the most since February and the fourth-best performance in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

Analysts have fretted that Bank of America’s focus on cutting expenses meant revenue would be permanently lost. Chief Financial Officer Bruce Thompson said Wednesday that the firm could push revenue higher while containing expenses. Revenue of $22.3 billion in the second quarter beat all 22 estimates in a Bloomberg survey of analysts.

“It was a giant step forward this quarter for the company,” Thompson said on a conference call with reporters. “It really enables us to focus across the platform on looking to drive growth with our customers, and at the same, being very mindful of the need in this environment to manage expenses tightly.”

Bank of America’s costs shrank 25 percent to $13.8 billion, lower than the $14.9 billion estimate from Wells Fargo & Co.’s Matthew Burnell, as legal expenses plunged to $175 million from $4 billion a year earlier. Even excluding litigation costs, expenses fell 6 percent.

Net income increased to $5.32 billion, or 45 cents a share, from $2.29 billion, or 19 cents, a year earlier, the Charlotte, North Carolina-based lender said in a statement. That beat the 36-cent average estimate of analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

Mortgage Gains

The firm’s mortgage operation outperformed its biggest rivals in the second quarter, as revenue from the business almost doubled to $1 billion from a year earlier. Home-loan revenue at Wells Fargo & Co., the largest U.S. mortgage lender, dropped 1 percent to $1.71 billion, the San Francisco-based company reported Tuesday. It fell 21 percent to $1.8 billion at JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Thompson said efforts are paying off to get bankers across divisions to push more products, including mortgages, to customers.

“There’s some momentum behind this, and we continue to push hard to deliver the type of growth we saw this quarter,” Thompson said.

Bank of America, the second-biggest U.S. bank by assets, has spent more than $70 billion since the financial crisis to resolve legal and regulatory disputes, mostly tied to the 2008 acquisition of subprime lender Countrywide Financial Corp.

Trading Business

Chief Executive Officer Brian Moynihan said in May that the firm would have to cut costs further in its trading division, run by Chief Operating Officer Thomas Montag, unless revenue improves.

Revenue in that unit, known as global markets, fell 8.2 percent in the second quarter to $4.16 billion. Fixed-income revenue dropped 9.3 percent to $2.15 billion because of stagnation in credit-related products, while equities revenue rose 13 percent to $1.18 billion, the company said. The trading division’s profit slipped 9.9 percent to $993 million.

Bank of America said a New York Court of Appeals ruling last quarter on the statute of limitations for representations and warranties claims contributed to a 26 percent drop in such claims. The firm’s estimate for possible losses beyond its $11.6 billion reserve for reps and warranties fell by half to $2 billion at the end of June.

JPMorgan, the biggest U.S. bank, said Tuesday that second-quarter profit rose 5.2 percent to $6.29 billion. Wells Fargo, the largest home lender, reported net income of $5.72 billion, little changed from a year earlier.

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