Today is not off to a good start for Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC), as the nation's fourth-largest bank is riding the market wave down in the first two hours of trading, though there's one spot of news that should give investors reason to be thankful.
Community service, banker style
Baltimore Business Journal reported yesterday that Wells has settled a complaint made last year by the National Fair Housing Alliance, alleging that "Wells Fargo-controlled foreclosed homes in largely white neighborhoods were better maintained than those in areas with large numbers of black or Hispanic residents."
To make good, Wells announced it will "spend $39 million on home-ownership programs across the country." This is better news than you think.
Foolish bottom line
Put simply, Wells investors ought to thank their lucky stars and their collective good judgment that they aren't Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) investors. When B of A gets dragged into court to settle a lawsuit or complaint, they typically have to shell out billions. $39 million may be a lot to you and me, but it's chump change for Wells and will hardly even dent the bottom line.
Excepting JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM), Wells conducted itself far better than most of the big banks in the housing bubble and subsequent burst: Think B of A as well as Citigroup (NYSE:C), here. And that discipline and code of ethics have paid off; when Wells is caught being less than perfect, the fines and payouts are commensurately low.
As for the markets, they're edgy right now, period. Everyone is waiting to see when and how the Federal Reserve will begin dialing back quantitative easing, which is widely believed to be the driving force behind the country's nascent economic recovery. An encouraging jobs report on Friday sparked a market rally that quickly faded this week, as fears that good economic news means a quicker end to the Fed's money spigot.
All of this goes to show just how difficult it is to pin a day's stock movement on any one particular cause, which is why we here at The Motley Fool counsel a long-term view of investing. Tune out the market noise and focus on the fundamentals of the companies you're invested in: Your broker won't thank you, but your portfolio will.