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Stocks Finish Week With a Thud

In U.S. economic news on Friday, the University of Michigan's gauge of consumer sentiment for April showed a slight decline month on month to a preliminary reading of 75.7 from a final reading of 76.2 in March. Economists in a Thomson Reuters survey expected a repeat of the final March reading.

The Labor Department said today that the consumer price index for March rose 0.3%, compared with a gain of 0.4% in February. Gasoline prices were the biggest gainer and main reason behind the 0.3% increase. Stripping out the volatile food and energy components, the core figure rose 0.2% for March, compared with an increase of 0.1% in February. Both the core and headline data matched expectations exactly.

In corporate news, JPMorgan said strong investment banking results and an improvement in mortgage banking revenues powered profits in the first quarter.

The nation's largest bank by assets and deposits reported net income on a managed basis of $5.38 billion or $1.31 per share, down slightly from $5.55 billion or $1.29 per share in the year-ago quarter. In the fourth quarter, the bank posted a net income of $3.7 billion or 90 cents per share.

Excluding items, "core" earnings per share was $1.39 per share. Revenue came in at $27.4 billion, up 6% from the year-ago quarter and 24% over previous quarter. Analysts were expecting an earnings per share of $1.18 on revenues of $24.68 billion. The stock closed down 3.6% at $43.21.

Wells Fargo (WFC) reported a 21% quarter-over-quarter increase in mortgage banking revenue, pushing profits to record levels.

The company earned $4.2 billion, or 75 cents a share during the first quarter, compared to fourth-quarter earnings of $4.1 billion, or 73 cents a share, and earnings of $3.8 billion, or 67 cents a share, during the first quarter of 2011 The performance beat the 73-cent consensus profit estimate, among analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.

First-quarter revenue totaled $21.6 billion, beating the consensus estimate of $20.51 billion, mainly reflecting the strong mortgage origination volume. In comparison, Wells Fargo reported total revenue of $20.6 billion during the fourth quarter, and $20.3 billion, during the first quarter of 2011. Shares of Wells Fargo lost 3.5% at $32.84.
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