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Bank of America Earnings Fall Short of Expectations

Adam Jeffery | CNBC

Bank of America reported first-quarter earnings on Wednesday that fell short of Wall Street's expectations, sending shares lower.

Bank of America posted quarterly earnings excluding items of 20 cents per share, versus 3 cents per share in the same period a year ago, as expenses dropped and the bank set aside less money to cover bad loans.

Earnings in the year-earlier period were affected by a host of one-time items, including a $4.8 billion charge related to the value of its debt.

Revenue increased to $23.7 billion, from $22.28 billion a year ago. On a non-GAAP basis, the company posted revenue of $23.5 billion.

Analysts had expected Bank of America to report earnings per share of 22 cents per share on $23.41 billion in revenue, according to a consensus estimate from Thomson Reuters.

Bank of America shares were last down 4.5 percent. (Click here to track BofA shares following the earnings report.)

The bank said increases in investment banking fees and trading income helped to drive revenue gains, but results were hurt by lower mortgage banking income.

"It wasn't a blowout quarter from an investment banking standpoint," Anthony Polini, bank analyst at Raymond James, told CNBC's "Squawk Box." "If you look at the investment and brokerage income, they were pretty much in line … so it looked like a quarter from a capital markets standpoint that can definitely be repeated in the second quarter."

BofA Chief Executive Officer Brian Moynihan has made progress in building capital and settling mortgage-related lawsuits since taking over in January 2010. But he is under pressure to show that the bank can produce higher earnings at a time of low interest rates, stricter regulations, and volatile economic conditions.

BofA, the last of the big four U.S. banks to report results, has pledged to cut $8 billion in expenses by mid-2015 and has said it could reduce expenses in its division that handles delinquent mortgages by $1 billion by the end of 2013.

The bank showed signs of progress in these efforts in the quarter, with total expenses falling 5.2 percent to $18.15 billion.

"This quarter on an operating basis was clearly a beat. Expenses were high … and also there were higher-than-normal severance expenses related to their cost savings initiative," said Polini of Raymond James. "In our estimate, there's at least $1 billion in expenses that go away next quarter or add 6 to 7 cents on top of this number."

BofA Hit by Another Big Mortgage Payout

Separately, BofA mortgage arm Countrywide Financial announced the settlement of a mortgage-backed securities lawsuit with its investors, led by the Iowa Public Employees' Retirement System, for $500 million.

If approved by the U.S. District Court in the central district of California, the settlement will bring an end to the lawsuit that was filed in 2010 by multiple retirement funds against Countrywide for allegedly selling mortgage-backed securities that were downgraded to junk bond status in 2008.

Countrywide was acquired by Bank of America in 2008 at the height of the financial crisis. It was one of the largest subprime mortgage lenders in the U.S.

Analyst Polini said that Bank of America's legacy and mortgage-related expenses "will be lower in 2013 than in 2012. So its actually helping operating leverage going forward by declining."

He believes BofA's stock could hit $15 within a year.

Bank of America's report follows a week that has seen most of Wall Street's major banks, including Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase, blow past market expectations. (See CNBC's complete earnings coverage here.)

Like other big banks this quarter, Bank of America results were also boosted by reduced credit losses as borrowers did a better job of making their payments. The bank's provision for loan losses fell 29.2 percent to $1.71 billion.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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