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Wells Fargo, loan growth and other things to watch in bank earnings

A protester outside a Wells Fargo branch in New York City.
Erik McGregor | Pacific Press | LightRocket | Getty Images

When the big U.S. banks report earnings over the next four business days, investors and analysts will focus on three things: loan growth, expenses and activity in the capital markets.

Third-quarter earnings season begins in earnest this Friday as JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Wells Fargo are set to post results before the bell. Given banks' involvement in many aspects of overall business activity, their earnings are watched as an indicator of U.S. economic growth.

"I think you're going to learn a lot about the strength of the U.S. economy tomorrow," said Marc Chaikin, CEO of Chaikin Analytics.

"You'll get a feel for the housing market based on what they're saying about mortgage applications," he said.

Bank of America is set to report next Monday, followed by Goldman Sachs next Tuesday and Morgan Stanley next Wednesday.