Will Bank of America Pull a Citigroup or a JPMorgan Chase Tomorrow?

Bank of America will report its Q1 results on Wednesday. Is the mighty lender set to top expectations like Citigroup and Wells Fargo, or disappoint the market as JPMorgan Chase did last Friday?

Eric Volkman
Eric Volkman
Apr 15, 2014 at 2:00PM

Batter up! Tomorrow, Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) will be the last of the big four incumbent banks to report Q1 earnings. Investors will naturally be hoping that the bank makes like Citigroup (NYSE:C), and brings in a quarter exceeding the current modest expectations of the market. Of course, shareholders will positively rejoice in the very unlikely event that the company notches a new record for quarterly earnings per share, as Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) did when it reported last week.

Worries are, of course, that instead of smashing an extra-base hit like Citigroup or a big home run like Wells Fargo, Bank of America will whiff a la JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM), which fell well short of EPS estimates when it reported this past Friday. 

At the moment, alas, it seems as if Bank of America will do modestly at best -- the lender has warned that it'll take a $3.7 billion hit to its pre-tax income due to its recent vault-busting settlement with the Federal Housing Finance Agency. This equates to $0.21 per share, which is a painful hit  -- Bank of America's EPS figure for its solid Q4 2013 was $0.29.

And there will be more where that came from in future quarters. Last week the lender shook hands on another legal settlement, this time over allegations from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that it was more than a bit slippery when selling credit card add-on products to its customers.

The price tag for that arrangement will be $772 million, most of which will take the form of refunds to the affected customers. Now, that figure isn't huge compared to the $3.7 billion of the FHFA arrangement, but it's significant when we consider that it equates to $0.07 per share. Those pennies could be put to much better use beefing up EPS, or as part of a future dividend increase or share buyback program.

On the bullish side, diminished expectations could be a good thing for Bank of America this quarter. Look what happened to Citigroup -- few were expecting anything much from the bank, which couldn't seem to put a foot right following the Fed's objection to its capital allocation plans last month (Citi was one of only five of 30 tested banks to get the red light). But Citigroup convincingly beat estimates, and yesterday its stock saw a nice lift, at least temporarily rewarding investors who believe in its future.

At the moment, analysts are expecting a per-share profit of $0.05 for Bank of America for Q1.A nickel ain't much, so a beat by even $0.01 or $0.02 would probably be considered a win by the market. Can the bank put some wood on that ball and knock out a hit? It did so in its Q4; investors are crossing their fingers that this at-bat will be similarly productive.