U.S. Bancorp shares dip on slow-growth news

As other big banks dazzle, U.S. Bank continues to plow forward. CEO Davis tried to sound optimistic nonetheless.

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U.S. Bancorp reported a ho-hum second quarter Wednesday, with slowing revenue dragging on results.

Profits rose 4.9 percent, or 76 cents per share, to about $1.5 billion largely on lower expenses and setting aside less for future loan losses.

The somewhat sluggish results met Wall Street expectations but did not pack the punch of other big banks showing particularly strong second-quarter numbers. Profits at giant Bank of America, which also reported Wednesday, jumped 63 percent.

U.S. Bank’s 4.9 percent year-over-year profit growth is the lender’s slowest since 2009. Revenue fell 2.4 percent to $4.95 billion, with the bank saying it was slammed by the slower mortgage banking activity plaguing other lenders, as well.

CEO Richard Davis tried to sound upbeat during a conference call with analysts, talking about green shoots being “real and sustainable.” But, as usual, he was cautious about the improving economy and appetite for credit.

“It’s not a rush to huge recovery, but it’s absolutely and positively no longer a concern of going backward,” Davis said.

“We’re just seeing customers being thoughtful, careful. But one at a time they’re starting to get more comfortable about their future and are starting to invest.”

Minneapolis-based U.S. Bank, which employs more than 11,000 people in Minnesota, celebrated its 150th anniversary last week by ringing the bell at the New York Stock Exchange. It’s regarded as one of the country’s top-performing big banks, with industry-leading profitability.

Still, the slow-growth signals are giving analysts concern.

Investors shaved nearly 2 percent off U.S. Bank shares in early trading Wednesday, although shares regained value later. They closed at $36.74, down 53 cents.

Both sides of the bank model shrank from a year ago, with net interest income from loans falling 1.5 percent and total noninterest income, mostly fees for various services, dropping more than 3 percent.

The bank blamed low interest rates on loans and its investment portfolios for the decline in interest income.

As for the $79 million drop in noninterest income, U.S. Bank pointed to a 19 percent decline in mortgage banking revenue with new applications down for both refinancing and for new mortgages to buy homes.

Executives said they expect mortgage banking activity to continue cooling as consumers react to higher interest rates, although they aren’t expecting the 30 to 40 percent decline in the market that JPMorgan Chase & Co. has predicted.

“I think the wild card is going to be mortgage,” CFO Andrew Cecere said in an interview.

Cecere said the bank’s main opportunities to grow revenue are in its strong payments business and trust activity. He said he also sees a quarter to quarter acceleration in loan growth, with total average loan volume up 1.2 percent from the previous quarter.

“We’re seeing some positive signs,” Cecere said of loan growth.

 

Jennifer Bjorhus • 612-673-4683

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