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Year-End Interest Rate Decline Hits BofA's 4th Quarter Profits

Bank of America profits fell during the fourth quarter, the bank reported Wednesday.

Revenues and profits at Bank of America fell during the fourth quarter amid a sharp drop in interest rates at the end of the year. But CEO Brian Moynihan said the bank continues to grow, as it added loans, deposits and employees during 2019. 

"This quarter is also one of transition, from a period of rising rates in 2018 to one that is moving through the impact of declining rates in the second half of 2019," Moynihan said during a conference call with analysts. "How do you run a company, a big bank, and deal with lower rates? We drive what we can control." 

The No. 2 U.S. bank by assets said it earned $6.99 billion in the three months that ended Dec. 31, down 4% from $7.29 billion a year earlier.  But earnings per share grew four cents, to 74 cents, as BofA continued a big share buyback program. That beat the expectations of Wall Street analysts.  

Revenues excluding interest expense fell 1%, to $22.3 billion. Net interest income, or the income from loans, was down 3% as lower interest rates cut the bank's profit margin. 

Moynihan said the company "continued our investment in talent," with new hires and a commitment to boost starting pay to $20 a hour beginning in March - sooner than originally planned. 

Overall, the company added a net 3,600 employees in 2019. Moynihan said BofA hired a total of 32,000 people during the year, before turnover. That included 6,300 from low- and moderate-income neighborhoods and 4,000 college and MBA graduates. The company also completed a goal of hiring 5,000 military veterans over five years, he said.

Bank of America shares fell about 2% on Wednesday.  They've risen more than 30% over the past year. 

David Boraks is a veteran journalist who covers climate change for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.