Wells Fargo shares fall as quarterly revenue misses estimates on weaker-than-expected mortgage lending

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Wells Fargo signage on May 5th, 2021 in New York City.
Bill Tompkins | Michael Ochs Archives | Getty Images

Wells Fargo posted first-quarter revenue that fell short of estimates as the bank set aside more money to account for increased credit losses.

Here are the numbers:

  • Earnings: 88 cents a share. (It was not yet clear whether that is comparable to the 80 cents a share estimate from Refinitiv)
  • Revenue: $17.59 billion vs. $17.8 billion estimate.

The bank set aside $1.1 billion in the first quarter to account for more loan losses.

“While we will likely see an increase in credit losses from historical lows, we should be a net beneficiary as we will benefit from rising rates, we have a strong capital position, and our lower expense base creates greater margins from which to invest.” CEO Charlie Scharf said in a statement.

Wells Fargo shares lost 2% in premarket trading.

Unlike big bank peers with its sizeable Wall Street divisions, Wells Fargo is more focused on U.S. retail and commercial banking customers. That means Wells Fargo is less impacted by volatile markets and sanctions against Russia due to the war in Ukraine.

Wall Street analysts expect Wells Fargo to be among the biggest beneficiaries of rising interest rates and a rebound in loan growth, forces that should boost the interest income it collects. The Federal Reserve began its campaign to fight inflation by hiking rates last month, and Fed data show banks’ loans grew 8% in the first quarter, driven by commercial borrowers.

“Our internal indicators continue to point towards the strength of our customers’ financial position, but the Federal Reserve has made it clear that it will take actions necessary to reduce inflation and this will certainly reduce economic growth. In addition, the war in Ukraine adds additional risk to the downside,” Scharf said.

Shares of Wells Fargo are up about 1% this year, the best showing among the six biggest U.S. banks, most of which have posted double-digit declines. For instance, JPMorgan shares have declined more than 19% this year.

JPMorgan on Wednesday reported a $524 million hit from market dislocations related to the war in Ukraine. The bank also said it took a $902 million charge for building credit reserves for anticipated loan losses.

Led by Scharf since October 2019, the bank is still operating under a series of consent orders tied to its 2016 fake accounts scandal, including one from the Fed that caps its asset growth. Analysts will be keen to hear from Scharf about any progress being made to resolve those orders.

Rival banks Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley also report quarterly results Thursday.

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