Fees, merger double Bank of America's earnings; Financial industry


CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Bank of America Corp., the nation's biggest bank, said yesterday that its third-quarter earnings more than doubled on higher fees and lower expenses arising from last year's merger between NationsBank Corp. and BankAmerica Corp.

Net income rose to $2.15 billion, or $1.23 a share, from a profit before charges of $893 million, or 50 cents, a year ago. The year-earlier earnings excluded a $725 million pretax merger charge. BankAmerica and NationsBank merged last October.

"The results were better than anticipated on the fee-income category," said Edward Najarian, a bank analyst at Wheat First Union, who has an "outperform" rating and a 52-week target price of $71 on the shares.

"The [earnings] number is strong."

Earnings were held down in last year's third quarter as the bank lost money on an investment in a hedge fund and wrote down the value of a mortgage-servicing portfolio.

Bank of America's earnings rose 4.4 percent from the second quarter, when it earned $2.06 billion, or $1.15 a share.

Bank of America's stock rose $1.375 to $49.5625. The shares have fallen 18 percent this year, in line with a decline of 18 percent in the Standard & Poor's index of money center banks.

In the latest quarter, noninterest income rose 55 percent to $3.73 billion as mortgage servicing income rose to $206 million, from a loss of $93 million in the corresponding period a year ago.

Investment banking income rose 87 percent to $702 million. Trading account profits generated $313 million in income, reversing a loss of $529 million last year.

Credit-card income rose 31 percent to $496 million, as charge-offs in credit cards fell to 4.83 percent from 5.99 percent in the corresponding period last year.

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