- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 21, 2009

CHARLOTTE, N.C. | Bank of America Corp. warned of worsening loan default problems Monday even as it posted a first-quarter profit of $2.81 billion. Investors concerned about the banking industry’s health sent financial stocks and the overall market sharply lower.

Although Bank of America said higher revenue from the purchase of Merrill Lynch & Co. helped offset a surge in credit costs, it took a $13.4 billion provision for credit losses during the first three months of the year. The amount of its problem loans more than tripled to $25.7 billion and CEO Kenneth D. Lewis said he couldn’t predict when the bank’s credit morass would end.

The bank’s stock fell $1.70, or 16 percent, to $8.90 as the overall stock market plunged. Last week, Wall Street was happy with better-than-expected results from JPMorgan Chase & Co., Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Citigroup Inc., but investors have been rethinking that initial upbeat response. Banking companies generally benefited during the quarter from unusually strong bond trading, a trend not expected to continue, while recession-driven loan problems persist and are expected to worsen this year.

“The economy hasn’t hit bottom, the credit cycle hasn’t run its course,” said banking industry consultant Bert Ely.

“We have a few more quarters of touch-and-go on profitability because of all the credit losses that are being taken,” Mr. Ely added.

Charlotte-based Bank of America earned $2.81 billion after paying preferred dividends, or 44 cents per share, compared with a profit of $1.02 billion, 23 cents per share, in the year ago period. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected profit of 4 cents per share.

Bank of America, as other banks have done, attributed its profit to trading activities.

“Like it or not, capital markets is now a core business for Bank of America, and that has more volatile returns than other businesses,” said Celent banking analyst Bart Narter. “Bank of America is no longer exclusively a retail bank and there can be more fluctuations.”

But troubled loans, also known as nonperforming assets, increased to $25.7 billion from $7.8 billion a year ago. The bank also lost $1.8 billion on credit card services after posting a profit a year ago.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide