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Bank of America Doubles Profit in Q1 After Big Reserve Release

By Bram Berkowitz - Updated Apr 15, 2021 at 9:50AM

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The bank also reported strong performance in its global banking and global wealth and investment management divisions.

Bank of America (BAC 1.38%), the second largest bank by assets in the U.S., reported a profit this morning of $8.05 billion in the first quarter, or $0.86 earnings per diluted share, more than doubling its profit from the first quarter of 2020.

Total revenue of $22.8 billion in the quarter is only up slightly from the year-ago quarter. But profit and revenue both beat analysts' expectations.

As a result of an improving economic outlook, the bank also released $2.7 billion of reserves it had previously built up for potential loan losses. The reserves get released back onto the bank's income statement through a negative provision, which adds to earnings.

"While low interest rates continued to challenge revenue, credit costs improved and we believe that progress in the health crisis and the economy point to an accelerating recovery," CEO Brian Moynihan said in a statement accompanying the earnings release.

Picture of building with Bank of America logo.

Image source: Bank of America.

Loan growth continued to struggle in the quarter, largely because of lower commercial loan balances. Total average loan balances at the bank dropped to $908 billion, down from $990 billion a year ago.

Net interest income continued to fall as well, and the net interest margin -- the difference between what the bank makes on interest-earning assets such as loans and what it pays out on interest-bearing liabilities such as deposits -- fell slightly.

Consistent with what most of the industry is seeing, consumer spending has bounced back, and combined credit and debit card spend at Bank of America is up 13% year over year.

The global banking division, which houses the bank's investment banking activities, also performed extremely well. The unit generated a profit of nearly $2.2 billion, up $2 billion from the first quarter of 2020 on record equity-underwriting fees and strong advisory fees.

The global wealth and investment management group turned in strong results, with record client balances and strong growth in assets under management.

Shares of Bank of America were up this morning in pre-market trading.

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