The Charlotte, N.C.-based bank's profit of 37 cents a share topped the 32 cents analysts were expecting, while sales of $20.9 billion came in above projections of $20.4 billion.
"We saw solid results this quarter by continuing to execute our long-term strategy," said CEO Brian Moynihan. "The key drivers of our business -- deposit taking and lending to both our consumer and corporate clients -- moved in the right direction this quarter, and our trading results on behalf of clients remained fairly stable in challenging capital markets conditions."
The results as well as comments on a conference call with analysts signal the bank's focus on basics: deposits and loans. Or, put another way, how most people on Main Street think of banking operations. Mortgage originations were up 13% from last year, and the consumer banking unit saw a 5% increase in net income.
Analysts have consistently viewed Bank of America as one of the companies that would benefit most from an increase in interest rates, which the Federal Reserve has held near zero since the financial crisis. With the central bank keeping rates lower for longer, projections for Bank of America's future performance have been crimped despite its efforts to get on track and cut costs.
"While most of the company's originally projected cost savings have been achieved, management has been adamant that if the low interest rate and revenue-challenged operating environment were to persist, then additional cost-cutting would occur," Christopher Mutascio, an analyst with KBW, wrote prior to Bank of America's earnings report.
One area where the firm's cost-cutting efforts will become more evident is in the mix of digital services with local branches. About 14% of Bank of America deposits are made through mobile devices, where transactions can be handled at about a tenth of the cost of in-branch services. As a result, the company is continuing to trim local offices: It has closed 244 since the third quarter of 2014 while opening 38 in areas that better fit its strategy, populating them with more advisers than tellers.
"Mobile processing is better for us, and it's better for our customers," CFO Paul Donofrio said on a call with analysts.
Bank of America has declined 13% this year to $15.64 in New York trading, outpacing a drop of 6.7% by the KBW Bank Index and a slide of 7.5% on the S&P 500 Financial Index.
Like many of its peers, the bank predicted a fall in trading revenue driven by market instability in late August. Instead, it beat expectations on trading revenue, which dropped only 4% from the third quarter of 2014 even though it's weighted toward fixed income, commodities and currency arbitrage, which tumbled industrywide.
During a conference last month, Moynihan said he expected a 5% to 6% decrease in trading revenue due largely to a decrease in fixed income activity.
Aside from quantitative data for the quarter, investors were also seeking signs that the bank has regained its footing after a series of highly visible challenges. One was a special shareholders' meeting in September in which investors voted to ratify the board's decision last year to recombine the roles of chairman and CEO.
The two roles had been split by shareholders after then-CEO Ken Lewis' costly acquisitions of troubled lender Countrywide Financial and investment bank Merrill Lynch amid the financial crisis of 2008 forced the bank to accept a $45 billion government bailout.
In July, Chief Financial Officer Bruce Thompson stepped down and was replaced by Donofrio amid criticism of the bank's difficulties in getting a clean pass on the Fed's stress test. During a call with analysts, Moynihan reiterated that Thompson left of his own accord to pursue opportunities that would allow him to "run a business."
Bank of America resubmitted its stress test to the Fed at the end of September to address weaknesses the Fed found in the bank's original submission. The cost of resubmitting the test was $100 million, according to the bank, which said it expects to hear results before the end of the year.