Even though the market was in no mood on Friday to appreciate it, Wachovia
Not too surprisingly, net interest margin was down for the period on both a sequential and annual basis, coming in at 3.31%. Although the company's annualized return on equity was lower than during the year-ago period (13.9% vs. 15.4%), that figure was up sequentially, and the company did manage to post a year-over-year improvement in return on assets (1.31% vs. 1.26%).
The company's expenses also improved, as the efficiency ratio came in at about 59.9 -- lower on both a sequential and annual basis. Part of this improvement is almost certainly due to increased efforts to control costs at the bank -- efforts that will include cutting as many as 4,000 jobs over the next two years in an attempt to save nearly $1 billion.
As mentioned, the general banking business was particularly strong for the quarter, with segment earnings climbing 38% over last year's level. Wachovia saw strong growth in average deposits and consumer loans, as well as fee and other non-interest income. Despite the increases in loans, credit quality remained very strong for the quarter.
Wachovia has been especially aggressive in pursuing acquisitions to bolster its growth in the Southeast and has still managed to do a commendable job of achieving high levels of customer satisfaction and retention. Nevertheless, the stock trades at a slight discount to its industry peer group. What's more, Wachovia offers a pretty good dividend yield at today's stock price.
Investors thinking about adding banks to their portfolio have a lot of metrics to track. In addition to top-line and EPS growth, savvy investors usually follow trends in net interest margins, efficiency ratio, and return on equity and/or assets. Although that might seem like a daunting amount of work, most bank companies make that information easily accessible in their reports. And those that don't probably aren't worth your investing dollar.
Every investor needs to do his or her own due diligence, but with good growth in consumer and commercial lending and a strong base in a growing region of the country, Wachovia looks interesting enough at face value to warrant taking a deeper look.
For more on the banking sector, please read these other Motley Fool articles:
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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).