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Highlights From Bank of America’s Earnings Call

By Motley Fool Staff - Apr 27, 2016 at 6:28PM

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How the company trumped the market's diminished expectations, and why the big banks are seeing such an odd polarity in their growth.

Bank of America (BAC -1.71%) reported better-than-expected profits for its most recently completed quarter -- but those expectations were low.

In this segment from the MarketFoolery podcast, Chris Hill, Jeff Fischer, and JP Bennett look at some of the key numbers from the earnings call. Then they dive into why the bank, along with most of its big peers, saw completely different results in the consumer segment when compared with investment banking. The trio also discusses how the large-scale banks are trying to capitalize on the success they're currently enjoying.

A full transcript follows the video.

This podcast was recorded on April 14, 2016. 

Chris Hill: First-quarter profits for Bank of America down 13% compared to a year ago, but that was still slightly better than expected. You looked at the quarter, JP. What stood out to you?

JP Bennett: The first thing that stood out to me is, if you go on a Bloomberg terminal, you can look at a chart of analyst estimates, and what you'll see is, analyst estimates for this quarter over the past 12 months basically went from top left to bottom right. So, they're down, like, 45% for --

Jeff Fischer: Over the past --

Hill: For Bank of America?

Bennett: For this quarter, yeah. Their earnings estimate over the past 12 months fell by 45%. So yeah, they "beat," but you need to use some quotation marks.

Hill: Air quotes.

Bennett: Yeah. So basically, what you had here was kind of a tale of two cities. The consumer banking side did pretty good. Earnings for this part of the business up 22%, so $1.8 billion. They saw an increase in spending, an increase in deposits. But then you look at the other part of their business. Investment banking fees fell 22%, trading revenue down 16%, and interestingly, they had to -- and perhaps not really all that surprisingly -- increase their provisions for credit losses for exposure to the energy markets by, like, around $500 million. So there really is a tale of two cities there. One side of the business doing pretty decent, the other side not nearly as much.

Hill: Is that a refrain we're going to be hearing from all the big banks, about energy? Because it certainly was the last time around, when we did earnings.

Bennett: I would say big and small banks, if they have exposure. I think there probably are some smaller banks that are probably a lot more heavily concentrated. During the boom, they saw all this money, they got a lot of exposure, worked out great for a couple of years, and now I think you're going to see some smaller banks be in a world of hurt.

Fischer: Yeah, I think the bigger banks, the one thing they are doing right, whether it's Bank of America,[JPMorgan Chase], or Wells Fargo, is getting more customers in the door. And that's really what their focus is right now. As Bank of America pointed out, you have strong job gains in this country, you have increasing home prices, you have higher stocks, they mentioned, and you have the beginning of rising wages. So you do have strong consumers, JP just talked about. But you have low interest rates, so you're not going to make much money there, and low commodity prices, of course. So, what they're focused on is building customer relationships, getting the number of clients up, and then when interest rates do go up, they'll earn even higher profits as a result. But right now, you can make pretty decent money on a giant client customer base. And if you keep growing it, that's one way to slowly grow.

Bennett: Yeah. The net interest margin spread -- the difference between what they get when they lend out money and what they have to pay out when people give them money -- that's kind of not under their control. So it's good to see them focusing on what they can control, which is trying to gain additional clients. So if we ever do see rates move up again, then they'll be poised to really benefit from that in a meaningful way.

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