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Home Loans Drag BofA to $1.2B Loss in 4th Quarter

Charlotte-based Bank of America today said it lost $1.2 billion in the last quarter. Mortgages and foreclosures continue to drag down the bank's balance sheet. Bank of America had warned its quarterly numbers would not be stellar. Weeks ago, the bank said it had given up hope of collecting on two-billion dollars worth of faltering home loans. In his characteristically clipped tones, CEO Brian Moynihan laid it out for the bank's investors on a conference call this morning. "By far the biggest legacy issue we continue to deal with is on the mortgage side," said Moynihan. The troubled home loans Bank of America inherited when it bought Countrywide in 2008 have resulted in billions of dollars in losses and lawsuits. Moynihan says Bank of America managed to modify 285,000 of those loans in 2010 with the hope those homeowners will now be able to make their payments. Bank of America faces several lawsuits over its foreclosure practices, but Moynihan told investors today that "the process is working and we've restarted the efforts cautiously. We'll continue to face regulatory scrutiny here, but the work is proceeding and we're very focused on doing this right for all the parties involved." Moynihan says Bank of America's financial performance in 2011 will depend largely on whether the economy and housing market improve. He also notes the bank finds itself in an unusual situation this year. "Next quarter we'll actually complete the final touches of the Merrill integration and for the first time in many ears, we'll have no integration work to do in this company," said Moynihan. Bank of America spent much of the last decade racing to become the nation's largest bank by swallowing others. Now in the top spot, Moynihan says Bank of America will focus on becoming a simpler, more efficient business.