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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 February 2019

Bank of America tops profit estimates

Lender helped by interest rate rises in 2018, a strong job market that kept bad loans in check and healthy borrowing

Drive-thru ATMs at a Bank of America branch inTexas. The lender has posted a strong earnings. Bloomberg
Drive-thru ATMs at a Bank of America branch inTexas. The lender has posted a strong earnings. Bloomberg

Bank of America (BofA) reported better than expected fourth-quarter profit on Wednesday as higher interest income and loan growth eclipsed declines in revenue from investment banking and bond trading.

The second-biggest US lender's results were underpinned by four interest rate hikes by the central bank in 2018 and a strong job market that kept bad loans in check and borrowing healthy.

The bank's shares rose 4 per cent to $27.72 in trading before the opening bell.

BofA, with its large deposit pool and rate-sensitive mortgage securities, relies heavily on higher interest rates to maximise profits.

Revenue rose in three of the lender's four main businesses. Global markets, which includes trading, recorded a fall in revenue as spikes in market volatility toward the end of the fourth quarter made investors wary of making big bets amid fears of global economic growth concerns.

Trading was weak across the board for banks in the fourth quarter. Rivals JPMorgan and Citigroup reported double-digit declines in bond trading revenue earlier this week, citing the market downturn in December and wider credit spreads.

BofA's adjusted sales and trading revenue fell 6 per cent, with a 15 per cent fall in bond trading revenue overshadowing an 11 per cent rise in equity trading.

The slump in bond trading was cushioned by rise in interest income and loan growth.

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Total net interest income - the difference between what a lender earns on loans and pays on deposits - rose 7.3 per cent to $12.3 billion. Average deposits rose nearly 2 per cent to $1.34 trillion from the preceding quarter.

While the US Federal Reserve's forecasts indicate two more rate hikes this year, traders of contracts tied to the central bank's policy are betting that the Fed will not deliver a single rate hike this year and will begin cutting rates next year.

Loans to consumers rose 4 per cent, while those to businesses rose 2 per cent.

Investment banking fees fell 5 per cent due to lower debt underwriting and advisory fees.

Non-interest expenses fell 1 percent to $13.13bn as chief executive Brian Moynihan streamlines the lender's sprawling operations. Two years ago, Mr Moynihan pledged to cut expenses to $53bn by the end of 2018 and stick to that level until 2020.

Net income applicable to common shareholders rose to $7.04bn, or 70 cents per share, in the fourth quarter ended December 31 from $2.08bn, or 20 cents per share, a year earlier, when it took a nearly $3bn charge related to changes in the US tax law.

Analysts on average were expecting the bank to earn 63 cents per share, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Revenue, net of interest expense, rose 11 per cent to $22.7bn.

Updated: January 20, 2019 03:58 PM

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