Bank of America Shrinkfest Has Investors Slavering

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Bank of America ( BAC) will unveil the latest details on its incredible shrinking bank act Wednesday morning as investors continue to look for cost cuts to drive earnings.

Analysts are looking for third-quarter earnings of 21 cents per share on total revenue of $22 billion, according to estimates compiled by Bloomberg . The bank earned 32 cents per share on revenues of $22.7 billion in the second quarter and 23 cents per share on revenues of $20.4 billion in the third quarter of 2012. Revenues in the third quarter of 2011 were $28.5 billion, and in the third quarter of 2010 they were $26.8 billion.

Bank of America was the hardest hit of the big banks by problem mortgage loans tied to the subprime housing boom, so it should have an easier time reducing expenses than peers, according to Paul Miller, analyst at FBR Capital Markets. Miller says JPMorgan Chase ( JPM), which reported earnings Friday, did a poor job reducing expenses. Indeed, JPMorgan Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon sounded pessimistic long-term on his bank's ability to cut costs given intense regulatory scrutiny that shows no sign of letting up.

"The struggle you have with any of these banks is, can you cut costs without cutting revenue? I will give you this. Bank of America had such a mess in their servicing book that that's easy pickings. That is, they should be able to get at least a billion out of their servicing portfolio, but after that it gets tough," Miller says.

Miller has "market perform," ratings on both Bank of America and JPMorgan. He favors Wells Fargo ( WFC), and cited its "resilient balance sheet and diversified fee income platform," in a report published Monday.

Bank of America spent $11.1 billion in 2012 in its Legacy Asset Servicing unit which works to resolbe problem mortgage loanss, according toAtlantic Equities analyst Richard Staite. Staite, who has "overweight" recommendations on Bank of America, JPMorgan and Citigroup ( C), likes Bank of America best of all.

"We believe both underlying cost and revenue trends will look better than peers," he writes.

FBR's Miller says third quarter trends in both fixed income and equity trading at Bank of America peers's have been weak so far, suggesting Bank of America will fare poorly as well. JPMorgan showed a 16% decline in fixed income markets revenue to $3.4 billion, and a 4% decline in equity markets revenue to $1.2 billion. Citigroup, meanwhile, saw its fixed income markets revenue fall 17% to $2.8 billion, while equity markets revenue fell 25% to $710 million.

Another big focus for Bank of America investors -- as usual -- will be litigation costs tied to mortgage securities it must buy back from investors who argue the bank made false representations about the securities. Bank of America has already paid out billions of dollars to settle mortgage putback claims, and remaining exposure is an open question.

"They have done a great job telling everybody this is behind them. We have to wait and see. I'm one of the guys who thinks there's more negative surprises coming," Miller says.

-- Written by Dan Freed in New York.

Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors, reporters and analysts from holding positions in any individual stocks.

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