News Summary: Wells Fargo kicks off bank earnings
KICKING OFF EARNINGS: Wells Fargo reported fourth-quarter earnings Friday, the first of the U.S. megabanks to do so. Profits shot to a record, up 25 percent from a year ago. Revenue climbed 7 percent.
THE HOME FRONT: Wells Fargo is the country's biggest mortgage lender, and its results are a bellwether for the entire housing market. Mortgage originations were up slightly over the year, but they slowed compared to the record third quarter.
THE REFINANCE FORCE: Nearly three-quarters of the mortgage applications were from borrowers who want to refinance their homes. Federal Reserve policy is keeping interest rates extremely low.