A second look at those B of A profits

People walk past a Bank of America branch in New York

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Bill Radke: B of A said this morning it turned a $4.2 billion profit in the first quarter. You add that to profits at the other big banks and you have revived hopes for the financial system. Maybe. With the caveats, here's Marketplace's Ashley Milne-Tyte.


Ashley Milne-Tyte: Bank of America's results include the results of Merrill Lynch, which it bought last year.

Christopher Whalen of Institutional Risk Analytics says Merrill's results have helped B of A post a profit. He says Merrill's one of a shrinking number of broker/dealers that's allowed to underwrite government debt. And there's been a lot of that going on lately.

Christopher Whalen: All of the dealers in New York got a huge windfall in the first quarter because the government is now focusing more and more of its business on fewer dealers.

But he says look at the bank's regular customers and its business seems a lot less secure. He says more and more usually reliable borrowers are falling behind on their loans. So he says any celebrations are decidedly premature.

Whalen: You have analysts out with buy recommendations on some of these banks, and yet they're gong into their worst loss experience in the next couple of quarters. So this is not the time to be buying the equity of these institutions right now.

Bank of America says it's put aside more than $13 billion to cover losses from deteriorating debt.

In New York, I'm Ashley Milne-Tyte for Marketplace.

About the author

Ashley Milne-Tyte is the host of a podcast about women in the workplace called The Broad Experience.

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