Wells Fargo profit falls as bank boosts loan loss reserves; shares rise

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Pedestrians pass a Wells Fargo bank branch in New York, U.S., on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022.
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Wells Fargo said Friday that it is still seeing historically low loan delinquencies, but a decision to build up reserves as the economy slows cut into its third-quarter profits.

Wells Fargo shares were up more than 1% in premarket trading, as revenue topped expectations.

Here’s how the bank did:

  • Earnings: 85 cents per share, compared with $1.17 per share in Q3 2021
  • Revenue: $19.51 billion, beating an estimate of $18.78 billion, according to Refinitiv

The bank set aside $784 million in provision for credit losses after reducing it by $1.4 billion a year ago. The provision included a $385 million increase in the allowance for credit losses reflecting loan growth and a less favorable economic environment, the bank said.

Wells’ performance was significantly impacted by operating losses of $2 billion, or 45 cents, related to litigation, customer remediation, and regulatory matters primarily related to a variety of historical matters, according to Chief Executive Charlie Scharf said in a statement.

Wells is operating under a series of consent orders tied to its 2016 fake accounts scandal, including one from the Fed that caps its asset growth.

As the most mortgage-dependent of the six biggest U.S. banks, Wells Fargo has faced pressure as sales and refinancing activity has fallen steeply as the average rate for a 30-year mortgage has climbed to a 20-year high near 7%.

It’s one of the impacts of the Federal Reserve’s campaign to fight inflation by aggressively raising rates. Wells Fargo, with its focus on retail and commercial banking, was widely expected to be one of the big beneficiaries of higher rates.

Net interest income increased 36%, primarily due to the impact of higher interest rates and higher loan balances, the bank said.

“Wells Fargo is positioned well as we will continue to benefit from higher rates and ongoing disciplined expense management,” Scharf said. “Both consumer and business customers remain in a strong financial condition, and we continue to see historically low delinquencies and high payment rates across our portfolios.”

Wells’ better-than-expected revenue was supported by a 28% jump in banking on the bank of stronger treasury management results. Commercial real estate revenue was up 29%, reflecting higher loan balances and the impact of higher interest rates, the bank said.

Concerns that the Fed would inadvertently tip the economy into recession have grown this year, weighing heavily on the shares of banks. That’s because more borrowers would default on loans, from credit cards to mortgages to commercial lines of credit, in a recession.

Shares of Wells are down about 12% this year, faring better than the S&P 500.

Read the full earnings release.

— CNBC’s Hugh Son contributed reporting.

Sophie Tremblay

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