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What to Watch For in Wells Fargo's Earnings

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Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC  ) , along with JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM  ) , kicks off bank earnings season this quarter, with both reporting before the market opens on Friday.

These two market leaders will give us an inkling into the state of the economy and hints into the earnings of Bank of America (NYSE: BAC  ) and Citigroup (NYSE: C  ) , which both report next week.

I already posted my preview of JPMorgan's earnings. Here's what to expect from Wells.

Last year, Wells reported first-quarter earnings of $0.67 a share. Analysts are expecting an increase to $0.73 for this year. The other three banks I've mentioned are all expected to have lower earnings than last year. It could be that Wall Street operations are weighing down the earnings of the others -- or it could point to better execution on Wells' part.

Even though Wells is looking to expand Wall Street operations as a way to cross-sell business clients, it's still generally a regular old Main Street bank.

As such, we can focus on the fundamentals of banking when we look at Wells' earnings -- metrics such as return on equity, efficiency ratio, and net interest margin.

Last year saw deposit growth, loan growth, and bottom-line growth. Ideally, we'd want to see those trends continue. In addition, we'll want to look at the quality of Wells' loans and its cost-cutting efforts.

Much of that cost-cutting will have to do with Wachovia, which Wells vultured on during the financial crisis. The integration was completed in the first quarter, and between the cessation of those expenses and the merger cost savings, Wells expects to lower quarterly non-interest expenses by about $1.5 billion from the fourth quarter of 2011 to the fourth quarter of 2012.

But it's not just about costs. We want to see whether cross-sell master Wells can increase metrics such as products per customer in its East Coast-heavy Wachovia branches.

On the other side, we'll want to see what Wells has to say on the iffy assets it's running off from the Wachovia deal.

Get ready for more earnings-season surprises
For more earnings-season insight, check out our brand-new free report: "5 Stocks Investors Need to Watch This Earnings Season." It details what to look for from Apple and four other must-watch companies as they report their latest results. Access it now.

Anand Chokkavelu owns shares of Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, and JPMorgan Chase. He also owns long-dated options on Bank of America and warrants on Citigroup, Wells Fargo, and JPMorgan Chase. The Motley Fool owns shares of Wells Fargo and has created a covered strangle position in Wells Fargo. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Wells Fargo. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Read/Post Comments (2) | Recommend This Article (3)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On April 12, 2012, at 7:59 PM, ryangugino wrote:

    im going to continue to increase my position in bac ahead of q1. its looking like its time for bac to shine

  • Report this Comment On April 13, 2012, at 12:53 AM, DrRoberts1 wrote:

    Nice synopsis of the current situation at Wells. Anybody wanna make a bet on who makes a bigger splash on Friday morning, banking rock-star Jamie Dimon or the steady hand-on-the-reins John Stumpf? This investor's money is on the Stagecoach!

    On another note, going long BAC at around $9 is like stealing money. It is said that there is no such thing as a sure thing. Well, our government, in all its wisdom (think stress test), will have proven that old adage incorrect by the end of the year.

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