Bank of America reports a big profit, and Citi and Wells Fargo beat expectations.

Bank of America reports a big profit, and Citi and Wells Fargo beat expectations.

Bank of America reports a big profit, and Citi and Wells Fargo beat expectations.

Bank of America reports a big profit, and Citi and Wells Fargo beat expectations.

Americans are ramping up spending. That’s good for big banks’ bottom lines.

Bank of America said on Wednesday that its profit rose to $9.2 billion in the second quarter — more than double its earnings of $3.5 billion a year earlier, thanks in part to releasing some of the money it had set aside last year. Two other major lenders on Wednesday, Citigroup and Wells Fargo, reported profit and revenue that beat analysts’ expectations.

“Our customers are seeing good growth opportunities in a recovering economy,” Brian Moynihan, Bank of America’s chief executive, told analysts on a conference call. “The important thing is we’re seeing increased activity,” he said, citing consumer spending and rising deposits since the first quarter, when the country was still emerging from a worrisome winter and vaccination programs were just ramping up.

The company’s losses from consumers not paying back their debts fell to the lowest rates in 25 years, while balances on loans grew for the first time since the beginning of last year, according to the bank’s chief financial officer, Paul Donofrio. It also released $2.2 billion from a rainy-day fund that it had set aside for a predicted wave of defaults that never emerged, thanks to robust government stimulus efforts that helped keep many Americans afloat.

Still, the results weren’t entirely rosy: Revenue was $21.5 billion, down 4 percent from the same period a year ago and short of analysts’ expectations. In its consumer business, Bank of America’s average total outstanding loans was off 12 percent, to $282 billion, from last year — taking some shine off the increase in profits.

Bank of America’s shares were down more than 3 percent Wednesday afternoon as investors looked past the immediate results, weighing whether the company could boost the number of loans on its books and earn more from charging interest on those loans.

Even with robust earnings reports — JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs reported solid quarters on Tuesday — investors are questioning whether the economic rebound that has buoyed the banking giants is starting to lose its momentum.

Executives’ optimistic comments this week haven’t allayed those concerns, sending bank stocks generally lower. Citi initially rose after it reported results, but had given back those gains by midday — even with a better report than Wall Street had expected.

Wells Fargo’s shares rose nearly 4 percent, although that may have been more a reflection of the bank’s regulatory future as much as its economic fortunes. During a call with executives, analysts repeatedly raised the prospect of the Federal Reserve’s removing the asset cap put in place after a series of problems at the bank, including a fake-account scandal that badly bruised its reputation.

Citi reported a profit of $6.2 billion on revenue of $17.5 billion; analysts had expected slightly lower revenue of $17.2 billion, and Citi’s per-share earnings of $2.85 exceeded analysts’ expectations by 89 cents. Wells Fargo beat expectations with earnings per share of $1.38 — a vast improvement over its loss of $1.01 per share a year earlier — while revenue increased to $20.3 billion, up 11 percent from 2020.

Like Bank of America, Citi and Wells Fargo released some of the money they had set aside to brace themselves for loan losses as a result of the pandemic. Citi pared back its reserve by $2.4 billion, and Wells Fargo reduced its reserve by $1.6 billion.

Citi’s chief executive, Jane Fraser, said the company was benefiting from a faster-than-expected economic recovery.

Revenues from its global consumer banking business were down 3 percent from the first three months of the year and 7 percent from the same period a year ago, partly the result of a decrease in the average size of credit card loans. Even so, that unit swung to a profit from a loss a year earlier: Back then, the bank had to set aside a big chunk of money to cover future losses. With the economic outlook improved, it joined other banks in releasing some of that reserve.

Wells Fargo’s chief executive, Charles W. Scharf, also cited the strength of the recovery as a boon.

“The outlook for the economy for the rest of the year is promising,” he told analysts on a conference call. “However, risks remain,” he added. “Interest rates have been volatile,” which could weigh on how much the bank could earn from charging interest.

Even as the banks’ consumer divisions showed strength, their trading divisions — which drove business during the wild market volatility a year ago — have slowed down. Overall, revenue for the three banks’ markets divisions fell from last year, when traders handled an avalanche of activity from clients reacting to pandemic-fueled turmoil.

Citi’s second-quarter trading revenues fell 30 percent to $4.8 billion as the markets for bonds, commodities and other financial products cooled. At Bank of America, total trading revenue dropped 19 percent from a year earlier, to $3.6 billion.

At both banks, stock traders increased revenue more than 30 percent, but it wasn’t enough to offset a weaker performance from their bond-trading counterparts.

Emily Flitter contributed reporting.


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