Wells Fargo earnings beats expectations as loans grow, fees rise

Wells Fargo & Co.’s 25% gain in fourth-quarter earnings provides welcome news for the economy, with the U.S.'s fourth-largest bank showing solid increases in overall consumer and commercial lending and setting aside less cash for potential defaults.

Wells Fargo said Friday it earned $4.9 billion, or 91 cents a share, on revenue of $21.9 billion, up from a year-earlier profit of $3.9 billion, or 73 cents a share, on revenue of $20.6 billion. Both profit and revenue beat Wall Street expectations.

The San Francisco bank said revenue grew over the year from its credit card, wealth management and other businesses. Fee income, which is charges for providing financial services, also grew.

But mortgage origination revenue fell from $139 billion in the third quarter to $125 billion in the latest period at Wells Fargo, which is by far the nation’s top home lender.

What’s more, record low interest rates continued to squeeze revenue -- unwelcome news for the entire financial industry in investors' eyes -- as Wells Fargo kicked off the latest round of bank earnings reports.

In midday trading, Wells Fargo shares were down 44 cents at $34.96, a decline of more than 1.2%, while an index of big-bank stocks was off about 1%. The bank index remains up sharply over the last two months, however.


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