Why Wells Fargo Shares Are Up

Shares of Wells Fargo (NYS: WFC) were up this morning after the nation's fourth-largest bank reported results from the fourth quarter of 2011. Notably, it was the first of the nation's big banks to beat analysts' estimates, coming in at $0.73 a share compared with a consensus estimate of $0.72.

The bank's income statement illustrates its strengths. Net income came in at $4.11 billion for the quarter, compared with $3.41 billion for the same period a year ago, equating to an increase of 20%. For the full year, it recorded net income of $15.87 billion, compared with $12.36 billion a year ago, an increase of 28%.

The story of its revenue is more nuanced. While the bank's revenue of $20.6 billion was up 20% from the prior quarter, it was down on a year-over-year basis by 4%. For the full year, it recorded total revenue of $80.95 billion compared with $85.21 billion a year ago, a decrease of 5%.

Like JPMorgan Chase (NYS: JPM) and Citigroup (NYS: C) , Wells Fargo reported an increase in loans relative to the fourth quarter of 2010. Its loan book grew 2% from $757.3 billion in 2010 to $769.6 billion this year. Meanwhile, JPMorgan Chase's grew by 4% and Citigroup's increased 14%.

The bank also saw advancement on the balance-sheet front. Its tier 1 common ratio, an important measure of a bank's financial strength from a regulator's point of view, increased by more than a full percentage point from 8.3% last year to 9.46% today. And its book value per share similarly increased impressively, going from $22.49 a share in the fourth quarter of 2010 up to $24.64 a share in the most recent quarter.

The market responded positively to the news. Unlike JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup, both of which were weighed down by losses in the trading operations, Wells Fargo's business model focuses principally on commercial banking, an area not as susceptible to the bad news in capital markets from the events in Europe.

Next up for bank earnings is Bank of America (NYS: BAC) , which reports later this week. BofA has been shedding assets in an attempt to trim itself down. We could also see some difficult trading results, similar to JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup.

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At the time thisarticle was published Fool contributor John Maxfield owns shares in Bank of America. The Motley Fool owns shares of Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo and has created a covered strangle position on Wells Fargo. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

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