NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Another quarter is in the books for Bank of America ( BAC), which means it's time to put on the gloves and dissect the bank's progress relative to its peers.
Unlike with JPMorgan Chase ( JPM) and Citigroup ( C), which have had their own operational struggles, Bank of America's performance is often scrutinized more because of its past problems. Despite the ample signs that the bank is moving in the right direction, the Street remains hesitant to give Bank of America its due credit. It may seem odd that Bank of America would be deserving of any type of support from writers like me suggesting the quarter was good. Investors are quick to point out that BofA actually missed first-quarter expectations. However, the bank's performance must also be seen in the context of where it is coming from -- something akin to the financial black hole. There's also the matter of the $900 million the bank recently paid in legal fees, which equated to 5 cents per share in the fourth quarter. From that standpoint, while Bank of America appears to be underperforming its peers, the "glass-half-full" perspective is nonetheless appropriate. To that end, although Bank of America's net interest income (NII) arrived down 2% year over year, this was actually a "win" of sorts, especially since it was up 3% from the fourth quarter. For that matter, BofA actually outperformed JPMorgan, which posted a 6% decline in net interest income, down 2% sequentially.
However, as with JPMorgan and Wells Fargo ( WFC), BofA also saw some net interest margin (NIM) erosion -- a decline of 14 basis points year over year. But as with the NII, there was also a slight uptick on a sequential basis, which contributed to modest overall increase in the bank's average earnings assets. But the "glass-half-full" perspective only goes so far. There were also some missed opportunities -- although I'd like to think of them as areas of improvement. For instance, income from fees arrived soft. This is typically one of Bank of America's stronger revenue drivers. Likewise, the bank disappointed in the areas of investment banking and trading.