In line with other American banks this earnings season, Zions Bancorp (NASDAQ:ZION) unveiled first-quarter results that came in under expectations.

The Utah-based lender booked total revenue of $682 million, a 4% decline over the same quarter of 2019. That was in spite of the roughly 5% growth in both loans and leases, and total deposits.

Money changing hands at a bank teller window.

Image source: Getty Images.

Net income dropped precipitously, however, tumbling 97% to land at $6 million, or $0.04 per share. This was chiefly due to a sizable increase in provisioning for loan losses, which grew by $220 million to $240 million across the one-year stretch. This is not uncommon for banks at the moment; many are anticipating a significant rise in defaults due to the economic deterioration caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus pandemic.

Yet it seems many analysts weren't expecting such heavy provisioning throughout the banking sector. Their estimates for Zions reflect this; on average, they were estimating the bank would book a per-share profit of $0.56. They were closer on revenue, collectively modeling a top line of almost $692 million.

Zions did not proffer any guidance for the current quarter or fiscal year. In its earnings release, the bank sounded a strikingly optimistic note about its proximate future.

"We confront the uncertain current economic environment with a strong capital and reserve position, a robust liquidity profile and a loan portfolio that has been substantially 'de-risked' in recent years, and that largely tends to have collateral as a secondary source of repayment," Chairman and CEO Harris H. Simmons said in a statement.

Perhaps that positive tone struck a chord with the market. In contrast to the slumps of the key equities indexes on Monday, Zions' share price increased to close the day marginally higher.

 
This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.