At first glance, Wells Fargo's (NYSE:WFC) third-quarter results may not look too impressive. After all, it missed earnings estimates and was the only one of the "big four" banks without loan or deposit growth.
However, there's more to the report that investors should notice. Origination volume grew in several key areas, and profitability and efficiency improved. Industry Focus: Financials host Jason Moser and Fool.com contributor Matt Frankel, CFP, don't exactly think Wells Fargo is a great investment yet, but this quarter showed the most promising numbers in a while.
A full transcript follows the video.
This video was recorded on Oct. 15, 2018.
Jason Moser: We were talking before taping about Wells Fargo. You felt like this is the bank that deserves a little bit of extra attention this quarter. It was what surprised you the most this earnings season so far here. Tell us a little bit about what surprised you, and how the bank is benefiting from that?
Matt Frankel: It was the first quarter in some time where I thought Wells Fargo didn't have a terrible earnings report. It's not so much that they did great, it just wasn't terrible. The bad thing is that Wells Fargo isn't growing. They're the only bank that didn't grow their loans and deposits significantly. The reason for that is because the Federal Reserve won't let them grow right now until they substantially improve their business practices.
Having said that, there have been some encouraging signs pretty much all around the business. They originated 10% more car loans than they did a year ago. Small business loans are up 28%. Home equity loans, 16%. Personal loans were up, as well. While they can't grow their assets past where they were at the end of 2017 yet, they are showing some promising signs of growth. They returned to a more reasonable level of profitability, 12% return on equity, 1.27 return on assets, which is a substantial improvement from last quarter. Efficiency also improved from last quarter. As I mentioned, they repurchased almost $7 billion of stock. Almost 3% of the entire outstanding shares were repurchased in this quarter alone to take advantage of their depressed valuation.
All in all, I would say that Wells Fargo was the surprise of earnings season so far. It's a little early to say that they're turning a corner until the Fed lifts their penalty. But they definitely have the kind of numbers that investors want to see.
Moser: There's nothing wrong with that. Whether they're actually turning a corner or not, Wells Fargo plays such a big part in our economy as its status as a home lender is so crucial. Poor business practices aside, it's hard to imagine our economy without Wells Fargo. We've been very critical of some of the mistakes that they've made, but perhaps fresh leadership here will be able to get this bank back on the right path here. It sounds like they are possibly making that turn there.