Wells Fargo first-quarter profit decimated as coronavirus boosts provisions

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(Reuters) – Wells Fargo & Co (WFC.N) on Tuesday reported a plunge in first-quarter profit as the U.S. bank set aside billions of dollars to cover potential loan-losses from the coronavirus pandemic.

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

The U.S. government has poured trillions of dollars into financial markets and launched stimulus programs to support individuals and small businesses whose income has stalled due to the virus.

But the money has not gotten into people’s hands immediately, leading Wells Fargo and other banks to offer forbearance for home, auto and credit-card borrowers who meet certain criteria.

With or without those programs, the unpaid bills are stacking up. Under a new accounting rule, banks must predict losses over the life of a loan and reserve that cash now, which led Wells Fargo to set aside some $3.83 billion in credit loss provisions, up from $845 million a year earlier.

“Our results were impacted by a $3.1 billion reserve build, which reflected the expected impact these unprecedented times could have on our customers,” Chief Financial Officer John Shrewsberry said in a statement.

The fourth-largest U.S. lender’s quarterly profit fell to $42 million, or 1 penny per share, from $5.51 billion, or $1.20 per share, a year earlier.

The bank also reported an impairment of securities of $950 million due to the economic and market conditions.

Analysts had expected a profit of 33 cents per share, on average, according to Refinitiv data. It was not immediately clear whether the estimates were comparable.

Wells Fargo’s revenue tumbled 18% to $17.7 billion in the quarter ended March 31, as the U.S. banking sector grapples with what is expected to be the worst recession in generations.

Earlier in the day, JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) reported a 69% slump in first-quarter profit as the coronavirus pandemic forced the largest U.S. bank to boost reserves.

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