What to Watch For in Wells Fargo's Earnings

Wells Fargo (NYS: WFC) , along with JPMorgan Chase (NYS: JPM) , kicks off bank earnings season this quarter, with both reporting before the market opens on Friday.

These two market leaders will give us an inkling into the state of the economy and hints into the earnings of Bank of America (NYS: BAC) and Citigroup (NYS: C) , which both report next week.

I already posted my preview of JPMorgan's earnings. Here's what to expect from Wells.

Last year, Wells reported first-quarter earnings of $0.67 a share. Analysts are expecting an increase to $0.73 for this year. The other three banks I've mentioned are all expected to have lower earnings than last year. It could be that Wall Street operations are weighing down the earnings of the others -- or it could point to better execution on Wells' part.

Even though Wells is looking to expand Wall Street operations as a way to cross-sell business clients, it's still generally a regular old Main Street bank.

As such, we can focus on the fundamentals of banking when we look at Wells' earnings -- metrics such as return on equity, efficiency ratio, and net interest margin.

Last year saw deposit growth, loan growth, and bottom-line growth. Ideally, we'd want to see those trends continue. In addition, we'll want to look at the quality of Wells' loans and its cost-cutting efforts.

Much of that cost-cutting will have to do with Wachovia, which Wells vultured on during the financial crisis. The integration was completed in the first quarter, and between the cessation of those expenses and the merger cost savings, Wells expects to lower quarterly non-interest expenses by about $1.5 billion from the fourth quarter of 2011 to the fourth quarter of 2012.

But it's not just about costs. We want to see whether cross-sell master Wells can increase metrics such as products per customer in its East Coast-heavy Wachovia branches.

On the other side, we'll want to see what Wells has to say on the iffy assets it's running off from the Wachovia deal.

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

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