Despite the increased costs, any growth is welcome at a time when other loans are growing at an even slower pace, says Christopher Mutascio, an analyst for the brokerage Stifel Nicolaus.
In a conference call with Wells Fargo executives, bank analyst Nancy Bush asked whether mortgage loan modifications — slashing rates, forgiving principal — would give borrowers an excuse not to meet their mortgage payments.
Stumpf said the "vast majority" of Americans want to pay their bills "if they have the income to do it." Loans today, Stumpf said, are more like those made a decade ago, with full documentation and substantial down payments.
JPMorgan Chase, the largest U.S. bank by assets, turned a $5.4 billion profit for the quarter, down 3 percent from last year but ahead of Wall Street estimates. Wells Fargo made $4 billion, up from $3.6 billion a year ago.
Large banks serve as a barometer of the economy. Citigroup, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley report their results for the first quarter next week.
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