Wells Fargo changes perception of banks in blink of an eye

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Every major U.S. bank is rallying like mad on the heels of Wells Fargo (WFC) reporting that it made a profit in the first quarter. WFC shares have spiked up 23 percent to $18.50 in early trading.

The financial firm said it expects to report record net income of approximately $3 billion for first quarter 2009, or approximately 55 cents per common share after preferred dividends, including $372 million in dividends paid to U.S. taxpayers on the U.S. Treasury's Capital Purchase Program investment.

The word "record" must floor investors based on the perception that American banks still face substantial write-offs from toxic assets, consumer loans, and commercial real estate.

Wells Fargo predicted that it would post total revenue of $20 billion, up an estimated 16 percent, driven by the core businesses it owned before buying Wachovia. Results at Wachovia were better than expected.

If one or two other large money center banks post strong results, there will be a temptation to think that the worst of the financial crisis is over.

Douglas A. McIntyre is an editor at 24/7 Wall St.

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