It's safe to say that last week was unusually eventful one for many of the stocks on the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI). All of its financial components reported earnings, its aerospace company watched as its new and highly anticipated aircraft was grounded by aviation authorities around the world, and its high-yielding chipmaker was sent to the pillory after reporting earnings that confirmed fears of an anemic personal-computer market.
The worst performers of the bunch
Of all the companies on the Dow, however, the one that had the worst week was unquestionably Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), the nation's second largest bank by assets, which saw its shares lose more than 4% over the past five days.
On Thursday, the bank reported earnings for the final quarter of 2012. While I believe its figures were actually quite auspicious, the market didn't agree. For the quarter, B of A earned a mere $732 million. To put that in perspective, its two closest rivals, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo, earned $5.7 billion and $5.1 billion, respectively.
With these comparison figures in mind, it's easy to see why the market was disappointed. But in B of A's case, there's more to the story. Namely, it recorded two massive legal settlements during the quarter that impaired its bottom line by a staggering $4 billion -- and that's not counting a number of additional nonoperational charges that negatively affected it. Without those, in other words, B of A would have been in the same ballpark. To read more about this, check out my column on B of A's earnings by clicking here.
The runner-up in terms of poor performance was Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), which closed the week down by 3.6%. Like B of A, Intel was hit by a viscous case of the earnings blues. Following the closing bell on Thursday, the Silicon Valley giant informed analysts and investors that its fourth-quarter profit fell by 27% compared to the same time period in 2011.
Over the past year, analysts have grown increasingly concerned about the state of the personal-computer market, and Intel's performance merely fueled the proverbial fire. Revenue from its PC client group fell by 6% on a year-over-year basis. And to make matters worse, the chipmaker announced plans to spend roughly $13 billion in the upcoming year on new factories and other capital expenditures. The Wall Street Journal summed the market's sentiment perfectly with an article titled "Intel's Aggressive 2013 Spending Plan Spooks Investors."
Finally, rounding out the bottom three was American Express (NYSE:AXP), which finished the week down by 2.2%. And again, going along with the theme, its fall was precipitated by a disappointing earnings report.
For the three months ended Dec. 31, the credit card company's $637 million profit was nearly sliced in half compared with the same period in 2011, in which it earned nearly $1.2 billion. The decline was largely a function of two factors. First, despite falling delinquencies and net charge-offs, American Express nevertheless increased the amount of money that it sets aside for souring credit card debt. In the fourth quarter of 2011, its consolidated provisions totaled $409 million. That was 56% less than the $638 million that it provisioned for in the final three months of last year.
And second, American Express recognized a $400 million restructuring charge related to the downsizing of its travel department. It had previously announced plans to cut 5,400 positions from the business because of a presumed waning of demand for its services.
Seeking to cast the results in the best possible light, CEO Kenneth Chenault noted, "With higher fourth-quarter revenues and cardmember spending, we ended 2012 in strong shape."
John Maxfield owns shares of Bank of America and Intel. The Motley Fool recommends American Express, Intel, and Wells Fargo and owns shares of Bank of America, Intel, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.