Wells Fargo earnings jump 22% in quarter

Wells Fargo reported $4.9 billion of profit in the third quarter, a 22 percent jump on the back of a booming mortgage business.

The San Francisco-based bank continues to churn out record profits, with 11 straight quarters of net income gains. The results of 88 cents a share narrowly beat the estimates of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters, who forecast earnings of 87 cents a share.

The bank increased revenue as well, sidestepping a common sore spot that has plagued most of the nation's biggest banks. Wells Fargo recorded $21.2 billion in revenue, surpassing $19.6 billion a year earlier.

The bank's lending division helped drive growth, as consumers refinanced their mortgages amid record low interest rates. Wells Fargo, the nation's largest mortgage lender, also benefited from its relatively modest exposure to the volatile investment banking business.

"We saw continued strength in our mortgage and deposit businesses," the bank's chief executive, John G. Stumpf, said in a statement.

Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase kicked off bank earnings season Friday. The nation's other big banks, including Goldman Sachs and Bank of America, will report their results next week.

The Wells Fargo story line - that a deep lending effort breeds success - is rooted in broad federal stimulus efforts that have propped up the mortgage industry. A Treasury initiative is spurring refinancing activity. And the Federal Reserve has introduced a long-term plan to buy large batches of mortgage-backed bonds, which should help keep rates low.

Wells Fargo, more than five years after the mortgage crisis, has seized the opportunity. Total outstanding loans jumped slightly to $783 billion while the bank's home mortgage originations soared 56 percent to $139 billion. The demand for credit came largely from refinancing, which accounted for 72 percent of all home loan applications.

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