Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) has had an eventful run through the first six months of 2014, and there are three things investors need to track when it announces earnings this Wednesday.
Global Banking progress
As previously noted, in 2013 Bank of America's Global Banking arm -- its unit that advises companies on mergers and acquisitions and the like -- was the largest investment bank on a revenue basis in the U.S. last year:
And through the first six months of the year there have been no signs that the business is slowing down, as an astounding $1.7 trillion in mergers and acquisitions have been announced. That represented a 72% increase over 2013, which was already a year Bank of America saw its revenue jump 17%.
The biggest deal of the year came in February, when Comcast announced that it was acquiring Time Warner Cable for $70.7 billion, but seven of the next eight largest deals all came in the second quarter. In total, those deals alone represented a staggering $300 billion in acquisitions.
Knowing Bank of America touted the progress of its Global Banking unit last year, it will be fascinating to watch whether that continues during the incredibly active second quarter.
Impressive expansion in the profitability of its consumer business
Moving into another core business of Bank of America, one of the most notable improvements seen in the first quarter was the increased profitability of its largest unit, the Consumer and Business Banking arm.
In total, the unit saw its efficiency ratio -- measuring its expenses divided by its revenue -- plummet from 56.1% in the first quarter of 2013 to 53.5% in 2014. And while a difference of 2.6% doesn't sound significant, that equated to nearly $195 million added to its bottom line in those three months alone.
In addition, the return on average allocated capital at the division expanded impressively, from 19.6% to 22.8%.
With all that in mind, checking whether its largest unit continued the expansion of its profitability will be vital to monitor in the years to come:
Further guidance on its Federal Reserve request
At the end of April, we learned that Bank of America improperly accounted for assets it received when it acquired Merrill Lynch in the midst of the financial crisis. As a result, it had to make adjustments to its capital ratios, and it in turn resubmitted its Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review to the Federal Reserve at the end of May.
Yet in the announcement very little guidance was given as it relates to exactly what it requested. In March we learned that it planned on bumping its dividend from $0.01 to $0.05 and on buying back $4 billion of its common stock. Yet the resubmission contained no further guidance.
While this probably won't change any investors' opinions of Bank of America, it will be nice to learn exactly what it requested, and ultimately whether it received approval.
Altogether, Bank of America is a massive bank, and there are undoubtedly more than three things to keep an eye on when its earnings are announced. But these are three I'll be watching this Wednesday.
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