Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Bank of America still cutting most branches

Over the past four years, Bank of America has dropped more branches than any other bank, and half of them are in areas where the median income is below $50,000, according to an analysis from SNL Financial.

Since 2009, the Charlotte bank has lost a net 675 branches, the research firm found. Of those, 324 are in the lower-income census tracts. Executives have regularly talked about their efforts to "optimize" its branch network in conference calls with analysts.

Wells Fargo has a similar ratio of net closings to those in lower-income areas. Wells cut 508 branches since 2009, of which 237 were in areas with less than $50,000 in average income.

Industry-wide, poor areas are losing the most branches, SNL found. Banks dropped 3 percent of their branches in places where the median income is less than $25,000 per year -- the steepest drop of any income group. The largest number of net closings in these areas has already occurred this year.

Banks added nearly 8 percent more branches in areas where the median income is above $100,000.

So what's the upshot? SNL doesn't offer one. But it reflects big banks' increasing focus on high-net-worth customers who are more likely to buy multiple financial products. Non-banks like Walmart are increasingly filling in the gap for the "underbanked."

EXTENDED STAY FILES FOR IPO: The Charlotte-based hotel chain -- currently owned by private equity groups -- is looking for $100 million, according to securities filings. Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase appear to be running the deal.

FORECLOSURE RATE FALLS: The Charlotte region's foreclosure rate is now below the national average. About 2.2 percent of homes in the area were in some stage of foreclosure in May, down from 3.3 percent last year.

BANK OF COMMERCE BREAKS EVEN: The Charlotte bank earned just $1,000 for shareholders in the second quarter after its securities gains were wiped out.

PLEXUS CAPITAL CLOSES FUND: Plexus Fund III has $300 million, half private and half borrowed from the SBA's Small Business Investment Company program.

HAMP REDEFAULTS: A new special inspector general report criticizes the percentage of HAMP refinancings that ultimately resulted in homeowners redefaulting. Bank of America and Wells Fargo received about $200 million in incentive payments on loans that went back into foreclosure.

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Financial headlines

SENATE PROBES COMMODITIES: After reports that big banks' dealings in commodities and their infrastructure are driving up prices, a Senate panel held a hearing on whether they should be involved, The New York Times reports. The Federal Reserve and CFTC are also looking into the topic.

ARE QUARTERLY REPORTS ARCHAIC?: With all the advances in computing, one thing hasn't changed -- companies still report their earnings once every three months. A Financial Times op-ed argues that more regular reporting might give investors more confidence and boost prices.

PEOPLE POWER: Even as the percentage of trades made by algorithms rises, humans are doing a better job in the markets this year, Bloomberg reports. That's because people are proving more able to interpret messages from the Federal Reserve.

Around Bank Town

ON THE FRONT PAGE: State lawmakers rolled out a voter ID law that would also cut early voting days. Democrats really don't like it ..... Researchers have found a new Spanish fort near Morganton, perhaps the earliest in colonial America.

THE COMMUTE: Wrecks on Mount Holly Road and at I-485 near University City.

ROUGH EARNINGS REPORTS: Charlotte-based Sonic Automotive took a one-time charge in retiring some debt, causing its profit to fall 68 percent. Revenue rose slightly. On the same day, net income at Charlotte's Carlisle Cos. fell 91 percent after higher interest rates forced the company to write down the value of one of its segments.

AS SEEN ON TV: Check out what these Charlotte businesses learned from being on reality TV shows.