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Earnings Preview: Wells Fargo to report results amid improving credit metrics

Wells Fargo (WFC) is scheduled to report Q4 earnings before the open on Friday, January 11, with a conference call scheduled for 10:00 am ET. Wells Fargo is a bank that provides retail, commercial and corporate banking services. EXPECTATIONS: Analysts are looking for EPS of 89c on revenue of $21.29B, according to First Call. The consensus range for EPS is 84c-91c on revenue of $20.71B-$21.81B. LAST QUARTER: Wells Fargo reported Q3 EPS of 88c against estimates for 87c on revenue of $21.2B against estimates for $21.47B. Last quarter, the bank, noting that its credit metrics had either improved or remained stable versus the previous quarter excluding new reporting requirements established by the government, said it expected to implement further reserve releases in the future. The bank added that it was focused on returning more cash to shareholders and expected mortgage origination to strengthen in Q4. Wells Fargo indicated that it could increase its interest income even if its net interest margin remained at low levels. On December 4, Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf said the bank could increase its net interest income even if interest rates remain low, and he added that the bank would look to return more cash to its shareholders. Wells Fargo on January 7 agreed to pay $766M as part of the settlement between large banks and the U.S. government over foreclosure improprieties. The bank said it would take a $644M charge for Q4 related to the settlement, and commit an additional $1.2B to foreclosure prevention actions. STREET RESEARCH: Deutsche Bank on January 4 predicted that Wells would report Q4 EPS of 92c. Wells' net interest margin may have risen slightly last quarter, while it probably benefited from strong mortgage trends in Q4, the firm wrote. Deutsche Bank maintained a Hold rating on the stock. Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs on January 4 downgraded Wells to Neutral from Buy, citing lack of earnings catalysts, increasing competition, and reduced expense leverage, among other reasons. The firm has a $40 price target on the shares. PRICE ACTION: Over the last three months, Wells Fargo's stock is trading near flat, dropping about 10% from October to a low of near $31 the middle of November, and climbing back from the end of November to its current level of about $35 per share.