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Bank of America swings to a profit in first quarter

Bank of America posted a first-quarter profit on Wednesday, swinging from a surprise loss a year earlier when it took a charge of $6 billion for litigation expenses.

The financial services giant's shares slipped in premarket trading following the announcement. (Click here to track its shares.)

The second-largest U.S. bank by assets posted net income attributable to common shareholders of 30 cents per share for the quarter ended March 31, compared with a loss of 5 cents per share a year earlier.

Analysts had initially concluded the company's earnings were 27 cents per share—which would have missed estimates—but later revised the number to exclude a 3-cent charge for net interest income adjustments.

The results amounted to a "good but not great" quarter for the bank, especially in light of the "high bar" set by JPMorgan on Tuesday, said David Hilder, banking analyst at institutional broker-dealer Drexel Hamilton.

Read More JPMorgan profit rises as fixed-income trading rebounds

The rival financial institution reported investment banking fees and core trading revenues were both up about 20 percent year over year, while Bank of America saw a slight decline in its investment banking and equity and debt market businesses during the same period.

Those were "still very large numbers—investment banking fees of a billion and a half and total trading revenues of $3.9 billion—but not quite as good on year-over-year basis as JPMorgan," Hilder said on CNBC's "Squawk Box."

The results included a charge of 6 cents per share in annual retirement incentive costs and a 3 cent charge for market-related net interest income adjustments.

Bank of America's operating EPS was more like 32 cents, Hilder said, noting after-tax legal charges of 2 cents per share and the 3-cent interest income adjustments, which he said was due to interest rates remaining so low for so long.

Revenue eased to $21.2 billion from $22.77 billion a year ago.

Read More Big banks set for strong Q1 on trading, fixed income

Wall Street expected the company to deliver quarterly earnings per share of 29 cents on $21.51 billion in revenue, according to consensus estimates from Thomson Reuters.

Since the financial crisis, the bank has been mired in litigation that has cost billions of dollars and reduced earnings. Last year, Bank of America struck a $16.65 billion settlement with the government to end investigations over bad mortgages.

The bank's shares have dipped almost 1.5 percent over the last 12 months.

Hilder said he favored shares of Bank of America above other bank stocks over a one-year time frame.

"It is a great franchise, they're bringing down expenses, and it's probably the least expensively valued, the cheapest stock" among its peers, he said.

—Reuters and CNBC's Tom DiChristopher and Terri Cullen contributed to this report.

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