Wells Fargo profit beats estimates as credit costs stabilize

FILE PHOTO: A Wells Fargo logo is seen in New York City, U.S. January 10, 2017. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith/File Photo

(Reuters) – Wells Fargo & Co reported first-quarter profit ahead of Wall Street estimates on Wednesday as the bank set aside less money to cover soured loans.

The fourth-largest U.S. lender said profit rose to $4.74 billion, or $1.05 per share, in the three months ended March, from $653 million, or 1 penny per share, a year earlier.

Analysts on average had expected a profit of 70 cents per share, according to the IBES estimate from Refinitiv.

The slight year-earlier profit was caused by an exceptionally large provision for potential loan losses, as U.S. banks braced for unpaid bills due to the COVID-19 pandemic shuttering the economy and pushing millions out of work.

Since then, an ultra-loose monetary policy, trillions in stimulus support and an accelerated vaccination program have largely put the world’s largest economy on a more solid footing.

Wells Fargo has been operating under penalties from regulators since 2016 when details of a sales scandal emerged and led to the departure of two chief executives and billions of dollars in litigation and remediation costs. Under an order imposed three years ago by the U.S. Federal Reserve, the bank is not allowed to let its assets rise above $1.95 trillion.

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