Net Net: Promoting innovation and managing change
Net Net: Promoting innovation and managing change

Tale of two banks: So far, Wells winning the race

JPM & WFC: Tale of two banks

First-quarter earnings looked very different for two of Wall Street's biggest banks.

For Wells Fargo, the news was good: Credit losses, which had been a drag on profits, eased. Consumer and commercial loans were up, and there was even good news in what had been an otherwise terrible quarter for mortgages: A renewed effort in subprime loans—now euphemistically called "another chance mortgages"—could reverse slowing mortgage activity as Wells drops FICO credit score requirements from 640 to 600.

Across the way, at JPMorgan Chase, the news was nowhere near as positive: Trading fell, loan growth painted, at best, a mixed picture and the mortgage business all but collapsed with little hope on the horizon.

Investors reacted in kind. Shares of Wells, the third-ranked U.S. bank by deposits, rose 1.1 percent, and JPMorgan, the No. 1-ranked bank, fell 3 percent.

From left: Getty Images, Adam Jeffery | CNBC

Read MoreMortgage rates fall but big banks do less

Credit quality between the two institutions differed dramatically.

"Wells Fargo is going to be the only bank in this large-cap bank space that will be able to accomplish what we call the 'triple crown,'" Marty Mosby, banking analyst at Guggenheim Partners, said on CNBC.

That means the bank topped earnings expectations and had double-digit percentage growth both on a quarterly and annualized basis.

Read MoreWells Fargo profit rises 14% as costs fall

"They're showing a nice increase in earnings," Mosby said.

At JPMorgan, Chief Financial Officer Marianne Lake told CNBC that there was no discernible reason for a 21 percent revenue drop in the fixed-income trading group—what Wall Street calls "FICC"—which she said affected all areas of the business. She said the worst is probably not over for the decline and expects softness to persist through April.

Read MoreSluggish loans behind JPMorgan's letdown: Analyst

Profits from mortgage banking—the other earnings culprit—dropped a full 83 percent.

Despite the dichotomy in earnings, Mosby has a "buy" rating on both companies.

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