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Quarterly Profits Rise at BofA

""Bank of America"":https://www.bankofamerica.com/ recorded a respectable profit in last year's fourth quarter, due in part to recovering--albeit still struggling--real estate figures.

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BofA took in $3.4 billion in profits last quarter, beating out Q3's $2.5 billion net income and last year's $732 million.

For the entire year, the bank's net income totaled $11.4 billion, rising from $4.2 billion in 2012.

""We enter this year with one of the strongest balance sheets in our history,"" said CFO Bruce Thompson, pointing to low credit losses and cost-cutting efforts as contributors to the quarterly increase.

Putting a drag on Q4's profits was an estimated legal expense of $2.3 billion, which reflected ongoing exposures [COLUMN_BREAK]

related to disputes over bad residential mortgage-backed securities--many of which stemmed from the bank's acquisition of Countrywide Financial in 2008.

That expense was offset by a reduced loss in BofA's Consumer Real Estate Services (CRES) segment, which lost $1.1 billion compared to the prior year's $3.7 billion loss (attributable in part to a repurchase settlement with Fannie Mae).

The division funded $13.5 billion in mortgages and home equity loans through Q4, with approximately 68 percent of first mortgage coming from refinances and 32 percent made for home purchases. Overall, first-mortgage originations were down 46 percent year-over-year, ""reflecting a corresponding decline in the overall market demand for mortgages.""

For all of 2013, BofA estimates it funded nearly $90 billion in residential and home equity loans.

Revenue received a boost from a reduction in credit loss provisions, which were down to $336 million from nearly $2.2 billion last year.

""The reduction in provision was driven by improvement in the consumer real estate portfolios, primarily due to increased home prices and continued portfolio improvement, as well as lower levels of delinquencies across the Consumer Lending portfolio,"" BofA explained in its report.

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