The latest earnings report from Bank of America is the new definition of the word "noisy." That's how one leading analyst described the numbers, which seemed open to wide interpretation because of billions of dollars in litigation charges.
Excluding one-time items, BofA said Wednesday it made 14 cents a share in the first quarter—which compares with consensus estimates of 5 cents. Revenue also came in at a better-than-expected $22.57 billion.
"It looks like it's an operating beat, but they got there probably like no one thought they would," Raymond James bank analyst Anthony Polini said on CNBC's "Squawk Box" right after the earnings announcement.
"It looks like they added some liquidity on the balance sheet, which brought the margin down, and kept spread income slightly below than expectations," he added.
The stock initially traded higher in premarket trading, but turned lower (click here for the latest quote).
Polini said he's not surprised by that move: "It was a miss on net interest income. And I think the fee income side—even though it was higher than we thought—is probably not sustainable."
Net interest income on a GAAP basis was $10.1 billion for the three months ended in March.
During the quarter, the nation's second-largest bank recorded $6 billion in litigation expenses related to a settlement with the Federal Housing Finance Agency and other mortgage-related matters.
"Expenses, excluding that litigation charge ... [it] looks like they're doing a good job reducing core operating expenses," Polini said. "It looks like the big ... settlements are behind them."
He said he lost count but said BofA is "north of $40 billion in total mortgage-related legal and settlements expenses so far."
Including one-time items, BofA reported a net loss attributable to shareholders of $514 million, or 5 cents per share, in the three months to March 31, compared with a profit of $1.11 billion, or 10 cents per share, a year earlier.
The previous quarter's results were hit by $1.6 billion in charges related to disputes with bond insurers.
Bank of America results follow reports from other big banks. Earlier this week, Citigroup topped revenue and earnings estimates, while Wells Fargo on Friday beat profit forecasts and basically matched on revenues.
Fixed income, currency and commodities sales, and trading revenue at BofA only dropped slightly. "Their fixed-income [trading] number was surprisingly strong—given what he saw at Citi and JPMorgan where we had double-digit declines," Polini explained.
He also said that BofA's results won't change his opinion on the stock. His price target is $20 a share.
—By CNBC's Matthew J. Belvedere. Reuters contributed to this report.