What happened

The most troubled of the "big four" U.S. banks, Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC), released its Q3 of fiscal 2020 results on Wednesday. These didn't exactly impress investors, who traded the stock down by more than 6% on the day.

So what

Wells Fargo posted a mixed quarter. Its total revenue of $18.86 billion was down by 14% on a year-over-year basis, but it handily beat the average analyst estimate of $17.98 billion. The company's net income of nearly $2.04 billion ($0.42 per diluted share) represented a 56% decline, missing the prognosticators' collective projection of $0.45.

Money being passed through a bank teller window.

Image source: Getty Images.

Wells Fargo has pulled back sharply on loan-loss provisioning, the one line item that drove many lenders into the red last quarter (big increases were made to guard against an expected rise in loan defaults because of the privations of the coronavirus pandemic). The result was a night-and-day improvement on the bottom line; in Q2, that figure was a loss of almost $2.4 billion.

Other results weren't as impressive. Average loans for the quarter slumped by 2%, while the company's efficiency ratio shot well higher to nearly 81% from the year-ago 69%.

Now what

Wells Fargo, which has seen its reputation take a hit over the past few years thanks to a series of dumb scandals, is suffering by comparison. Several rival banks this earnings season -- including JPMorgan Chase -- have posted stronger improvements in their business, making Wells Fargo look weak and uninspiring next to them.

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