* Q4 EPS C$2.32 vs forecast C$2.29
* Net income at Canadian retail business up 8 percent
* Net income at U.S. retail business up 36 percent (Adds analyst comment, details on U.S. performance)
TORONTO, Dec 4 (Reuters) - Bank of Montreal beat market forecasts on Tuesday with a 19 percent rise in fourth quarter earnings, helped by a strong performance at its retail and wealth management businesses, closing a mixed earnings season for Canada's biggest banks.
Canada's fourth-biggest lender reported earnings, excluding one-off items, of C$2.32 per share in the quarter ending Oct. 31, ahead of the average analyst forecast of C$2.29, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
The bank reported net income, excluding one-off items, of C$1.53 billion ($1.16 billion) in the quarter, up 17 percent on the year before.
Eight Capital analyst Steve Theriault described the beat as "modest" and said the bank's shares could underperform on Tuesday as they are currently trading at a premium to rivals.
Canadian banks have warned that global economic uncertainty and trade tensions could hurt their performance next year, citing the U.S.-China trade war and strains in the energy and automotive manufacturing sectors.
The country's two biggest lenders -- Royal Bank of Canada and Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD) -- both reported fourth-quarter earnings which that analysts' expectations but Bank of Nova Scotia and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) missed forecasts.
TD said it could fail to meet its earnings targets in 2019 if economic conditions deteriorate, while CIBC said it expected its earnings to be at the lower end of its target range next year due to economic headwinds.
Bank of Montreal reported an 8 percent rise to C$676 million in net income at its Canadian retail business, driven by sales growth and setting aside less funds to cover bad loans.
Net income at its U.S. retail business grew by 36 percent to C$383 million, reflecting sales growth and beneficial tax reforms.
The bank said last month that it expects its U.S. business to account for one-third of its overall earnings in five years time. In the latest quarter, the U.S. accounted for 28 percent of earnings compared with 24 percent a year ago.
Net income at its wealth management business rose by 21 percent to C$229 million, helped by increased sales.
BMO said funds set aside to cover bad loans fell to C$175 million in total in the quarter, compared with C$202 million a year ago.
($1 = 1.3163 Canadian dollars) (Reporting by Matt Scuffham Editing by Edmund Blair and Susan Thomas)