Narrow loan margins mar Canada bank profit gains

Tue Dec 4, 2012 5:47pm EST
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* BMO profit tops estimates

* Markets-related revenue rises, loan-loss provisions fall

* Shares up 0.6 pct

* Company to buy back up to 2.3 pct of shares

* CWB shares fall 3.5 pct as profit misses estimates

By Cameron French

TORONTO, Dec 4 (Reuters) - Bank of Montreal topped estimates with its fourth- quarter profit on Tuesday, but the stock failed to gain traction as investors took a cautious view of its lending performance, while smaller rival Canadian Western Bank missed estimates and fell 3.5 percent.

Profit at BMO, Canada's fourth-largest bank, was boosted by a doubling of wholesale banking income and a gain on U.S. loans that had previously been written down. BMO acquired Wisconsin lender Marshall and Illsley (M&I) last year, more than doubling the branch count of its U.S. midwest bank.

But the performance was marred by narrower interest margins on BMO's retail lending businesses, which drew attention in a lending climate that analysts expect to slow due to a softening Canadian housing market.   Continued...