Wells Fargo profit beats estimates, helped by one-time gains

Fri Apr 11, 2014 10:16am EDT
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By Peter Rudegeair and Anil D'Silva

(Reuters) - Wells Fargo & Co, the biggest U.S. mortgage lender, reported a higher-than-expected 14 percent rise in first-quarter net profit, as a series of one-time gains helped offset the continued slowdown in its home loan business.

Net income applicable to common shareholders rose to $5.60 billion, or $1.05 per share, in the quarter, from $4.93 billion, or 92 cents per share, a year earlier, the fourth-biggest U.S. bank said on Friday.

Analysts on average had expected the bank to earn 97 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The bank's mortgage business, which provides nearly one in five U.S. home loans, continued to suffer from a drop in refinancing activity. Income from mortgage banking fell by 46 percent to $1.5 billion.

Applications for refinancing fell to their lowest share of total mortgage applications since July 2009 in the week ending April 4, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. February was the worst month for new home loans since at least 2000, according to Black Knight Financial Services.

Wells Fargo's new home loans fell to $36 billion in the quarter from $109 billion a year earlier and from $50 billion in the fourth quarter. The company had not made so few home loans since the third quarter of 2008, when the housing market was under heavy stress.

Nearly two-thirds of the mortgages Wells extended in the first quarter went to customers purchasing a home, as opposed to refinancing one, compared to less than one-third in the first quarter of 2013. It had $27 billion of mortgage applications in the pipeline at the end of the quarter, up from $25 billion at the end of the fourth quarter.

Despite weakness in its mortgage unit, the San Francisco-based bank received outsized boosts to profit from other business lines that may not be repeatable.   Continued...

The Wells Fargo bank branch is seen in Golden, Colorado October 11, 2013. REUTERS/Rick Wilking