With much of the focus this morning on the poor showing of big bank stocks in light of Bank of America's earnings, PNC Financial's (NYSE: PNC ) first-quarter earnings of $1.76 per share have gone relatively unnoticed. The bank's stock was up as much as 2.2% earlier this morning, and though it retreated a bit as the day went on, it was still an impressive showing from the Pittsburgh bank.
However, with the quarter at an end, those earnings have been relegated to history and the past. What's really important about PNC Financial's release was what it says about the future, and I think that investors are now looking at three reasons the bank is now a better buy than before.
1. Income and revenue increases
PNC Financial's EPS of $1.76 was pretty impressive, especially considering that analysts were expecting $1.57 per share. Its net income of $1.0 billion represented a 23.8% increase from the first quarter of last year. This was aided by a 6% increase in total revenue from the same period, but also a reduction in expenses during the quarter.
One quarter does not necessarily make for a great year, but there are worse ways to start off a new fiscal year. If the bank manages to at least match the first quarter's earnings in each subsequent quarter, PNC Financial would be on its way to exceeding last year's $3.4 billion in net income. I think that's something PNC investors would appreciate.
2. Decline in noninterest expenses
Perhaps the biggest driver in the increased net income at PNC Financial was a 15% decline in noninterest expense from the fourth quarter of 2012, and a 2% reduction from the same quarter last year. Various factors contributed to this decline, including reduced expenses relating to residential mortgage foreclosures, and the absence of costs associated with the integration of branches acquired from RBC (USA), the retail banking subsidiary of Royal Bank of Canada in March 2012.
Perhaps more telling was the bank expressing that it was on pace to generate $700 million in savings during 2013. Pending any new acquisitions this year, and the acquisition and integration expenses that come along with them, a savings of this much would only serve to increase the bank's bottom-line performance going forward.
3. Improved asset quality
The aforementioned reduction in expenses relating to residential mortgage foreclosure was most likely a result of the continued improvement of the bank's balance sheet, particularly regarding nonperforming assets. Despite a slight increase during the first quarter due to new regulatory guidance, nonperforming assets have declined by 10%since the first quarter of last year.
With fewer "bad" loans heading to foreclosure, either through modification or simple repayment, the bank is able to generate income from the loans, as well as not worry about foreclosure expenses down the road. Every bank wants to have a low ratio of nonperforming assets to total assets for this very reason, and PNC Financial is doing well, checking in at 1.31%.
What it all means
PNC Financial didn't report record incomes or revenues, but it managed to prove that it is a consistent performer as one of the largest regional banks. If its first quarter is any indication of what to expect for the remainder of 2013, it could be a strong year for a bank that doesn't really get a lot of consideration.
The big banks may be rushing to renew their focus on traditional banking, but well-run regional banks like PNC Financial are already there. PNC saw its share of hardships during the financial meltdown, but its management team thinks the bank is now back on track and ready to deliver for investors. Does this mean it's time to buy PNC? To help you figure that out, one of The Motley Fool's top banking analysts has authored a brand-new premium research report, delving into everything investors need to know about PNC today. To claim your copy, simply click here now for instant access.