2013 is here, and earnings season has already started ramping up. The key to making smart investment decisions with stocks releasing their quarter reports is to anticipate how they'll do before they announce results, leaving you fully prepared to respond quickly to whatever inevitable surprises arise. That way, you'll be less likely to make an uninformed kneejerk reaction to news that turns out to be exactly the wrong move.

Let's turn to US Bancorp (NYSE:USB). The Minneapolis-based bank is a financial giant, but its Midwestern location helps it avoid being treated like its Wall Street peers. Can the bank continue to use that reputational advantage to produce better profits? Let's take an early look at what's been happening with US Bancorp over the past quarter and what we're likely to see in its quarterly report on Wednesday morning.

Stats on US Bancorp

Analyst EPS Estimate


Change From Year-Ago EPS


Revenue Estimate

$5.16 billion

Change From Year-Ago Revenue


Earnings Beats in Past 4 Quarters


Source: Yahoo! Finance.

Should you bank on US Bancorp's earnings?
Analysts' expectations for US Bancorp are in line with a generally favorable mood toward banks in general. Tepid gains in revenue reflect several factors hitting the bank, and shareholders have been a bit disappointed over the past three months, given the stock's loss of about 2% over the past three months.

US Bancorp has recovered strongly since the financial crisis four years ago, and the bank likely continued following those favorable trends in the most recent quarter as well. With the bank having greatly boosted its mortgage revenues in early 2012 and posting record profits in its most recent quarter, US Bancorp has clearly returned to the home lending market in a big way.

But arguably the biggest recent news for US Bancorp came after the end of the quarter, when it and several big-bank peers, including JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) and Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC), settled with the Federal Reserve and other regulators to resolve alleged foreclosure irregularities. For US Bancorp, the settlement will cost $80 million in cash and $128 million in mortgage assistance, far below the billions that Wells Fargo and Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) will pay in combined cash payments and mortgage relief. Most importantly, though, it will get another chunk of potential liability off its books, letting US Bancorp continue to recover.

The key to watch for in US Bancorp's earnings will be margins. With the Fed obstinately continuing its yield-curve-flattening programs to keep interest rates down, bank margins are under pressure. For US Bancorp to keep its net income moving in the right direction, you'll need to see evidence that interest spreads are holding up. Without that, U.S. Bancorp could keep disappointing investors this quarter as well. 

Click here to add US Bancorp to My Watchlist, which can find all of our Foolish analysis on it and all your other stocks.

Dan Caplinger owns warrants on JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo. You can follow him on Twitter @DanCaplinger. The Motley Fool recommends Wells Fargo. The Motley Fool owns shares of Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.