WASHINGTON -- The U.S. government early Friday morning agreed to invest $20 billion in Bank of America, and to protect the bank against up to $118 billion in potential losses from bank assets related to risky mortgage loans.
Early Friday morning, Bank of America reported a $2.39 billion fourth-quarter loss and slashed its quarterly dividend to a penny. Meanwhile, Merrill Lynch posted a $15.31 billion loss for the period. The company reported a profit of $4 billion for the year.
"Last quarter we said that market turbulence, economic uncertainty, and rising unemployment would take its toll on quarterly earnings, and that has certainly been the result for the fourth quarter," Chief Executive Ken Lewis said during a conference call with investors Friday.
"Congress has passed a financial stabilization plan as well as other programs put in place, starting to stabilize the market and promote liquidity, but at a pace slower than any of us would like," he added.
Quarterly revenue after interest expense rose 19% to $15.98 billion from $13.45 billion a year earlier. Net interest income, or the money banks make on loans minus what it pays out in interest on personal bank accounts, rose 37% to $13.41 billion from $9.82 billion. The increase was fueled by higher market-based income, the favorable rate environment, loan growth and the acquisition of mortgage lender Countrywide Financial.
But noninterest income, or the cash banks make from mortgage loan servicing fees and other fees and charges, declined 29% to $2.57 billion. Sales and trading losses in BofA's capital markets and advisory services segments more than offset higher mortgage banking income, and gains on sales of debt securities.
Government officials feared BofA's fragility could ripple through the already weak economy if action weren't taken. Bank of America's shares fell 18% to $8.32 Thursday and are down 42% since Jan. 1.