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Monday Morning Cup of Coffee: Bank earnings get into the swing

A look at stories across HousingWire’s weekend desk, with more coverage to come on bigger issues:

The earnings season goes into full swing this week, with a number of banks delivering their first-quarter results, including Citigroup (C) Monday and Bank of America (BAC) Thursday. Other big financial firms due to release quarterly reports include Goldman Sachs (GS), Morgan Stanley (MS) and BlackRock (BLK).

Those banks will likely give further signal about the health of U.S. housing, if Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase provided any indication in their earnings reported Friday. Both companies recorded an increase in mortgage originations, as delinquencies and foreclosures fell from last year.

But the market didn’t take kindly to Wells Fargo and JPMorgan’s results, as disappointed investors sent stocks downward Friday. The two beat expectations but largely on lower loss reserves, according to The Wall Street Journal.

That, writes Dan Fitzpatrick, might not bode well for other financial companies.

Ally Financial might look to place its troubled mortgage unit into bankruptcy, according to Fitch Ratings.

Bloomberg reports Ally extended the maturity on secured financing for subsidiary Residential Capital to May 14. That short delay may signal that some sort of resolution for ResCap could come soon, according to Fitch.

Dakin Campbell writes, however, that Fitch analysts said their finding comes without any “specific knowledge” on the deal.

ResCap continues to present problems for Ally, which previously said it would delay a possible IPO until it resolves its mortgage issues. Ally could place ResCap into bankruptcy or sell it, with Fortress Investment Group (FIG) an oft-cited possible buyer.

Ally also still owes the federal government roughly $12 billion from its bailout, and the Treasury Department owns a 73.8% stake in the bank. Reports surfaced late last month that the Treasury is pushing for a breakup and sale of Ally.

A short sale program in Florida from Bank of America is falling far under its target so far, according to the Palm Beach Post.

The bank said it closed 678 sales through a pilot incentive program since its inception in October. Bank of America originally targeted 20,000 homeowners, with payouts between $5,000 and $20,000.

But the program garnered numerous purchase offers and even more verbal agreements from customers, according to a Bank of America spokesman. He also told the Palm Beach Post that monthly short-sale volume doubled this year.

The bank holds no plans for a “major expansion” of the program, according to the spokesman.

Legislators return to Washington this week, likely with an eye on mortgage principal reductions at the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Talk around it reached a fevered pitch last week, after Federal Housing Finance Agency head Edward DeMarco altered his tone and said write-downs could save Fannie and Freddie $1.7 billion.

While scores of Democrats have called on DeMarco to start loan reductions under increased Treasury incentives, some Republicans and banks are wary. The Hill reports the American Bankers Association and National Association of Federal Credit Unions both expressed opposition to write-downs.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., also said DeMarco should not move forward with principal reductions, and Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., earlier called on Democrats “to stop blaming FHFA for their failure to craft bipartisan legislation to address the housing crisis.”

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. reported no bank closings Friday. Sixteen banks have failed so far this year, fewer than half of the 34 banks closed at this point in 2011.

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