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Bank of America puts 4th-quarter loss at $5.2B

Bank of America Corp. said Wednesday it lost $5.2 billion during the final three months of 2009 as consumers struggled to make mortgage and credit card payments and the bank repaid its government bailout money.

Bank of America said its loss, which reflected the payment of preferred dividends, compared with a loss of $2.4 billion a year earlier. The bank, which was one of the hardest hit by the credit crisis and recession, said its results were boosted by strong results from the Merrill Lynch investment banking operations acquired a year ago.

The report fell in line with those of JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc., both of which had billions in losses from bad loans offset by investment banking income.

Wells Fargo & Co., which reported results Wednesday, posted a $394-million profit although it also had big loan losses during the fourth quarter.

Unlike the other banks, Wells Fargo was more optimistic about a recovery in defaults. The bank said its fourth-quarter loan performance made it more confident that the loan business is starting to improve and that defaults are close to a peak or already have peaked.

In other earnings news Wednesday:

Morgan Stanley said it earned $617 million during the last three months of 2009 on profits from its investment banking and retail brokerage businesses. The results gave Morgan Stanley its second straight profitable quarter following a year of losses.

American Airlines ended 2009 with a loss and could start 2010 with a thud if the carrier loses a key partner in the Asian market. American's parent, AMR Corp., said it lost $344 million in the fourth quarter and nearly $1.5 billion for all of 2009 as traffic fell and many business travelers stayed home or bought cheaper tickets in the weak economy. Now investors will turn their attention to Japan, where American is scrambling to hold on to a valuable partnership with Japan Airlines. JAL filed for bankruptcy protection on Tuesday. - AP

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