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First-quarter profit for Wells Fargo & Co., the biggest U.S. mortgage lender, surged 14 percent in the latest quarter as the bank continued to trim its losses on soured loans.

EARNINGS: Net income after dividends on preferred stock rose to $5.6 billion in the January-March period from $4.9 billion a year earlier, the bank reported early Friday. On a per-share basis, earnings were $1.05, well above the 97 cents forecast by Wall Street analysts. Revenue in the first quarter fell to $20.6 billion from $21.3 billion a year earlier, in line with analysts' estimates.

HOW IT HAPPENED: The rise in rates on U.S. mortgages in the latter part of last year continued to have a negative impact on Wells Fargo's mortgage business.

The San Francisco-based bank, which is the fourth-largest U.S. bank by assets, controls about a third of the U.S. mortgage market. Much of its lending business has been coming from mortgage refinancing, which was dampened by the spike in interest rates.

Wells Fargo funded $36 billion worth of mortgages in the first quarter, down sharply from $109 billion a year earlier.

At the same time, Wells Fargo slashed its losses on loans in the first quarter by 41 percent, to $825 million from $1.4 billion.

The bank trimmed expenses by $137 million compared with the fourth quarter to $11.9 billion, with lower costs for outside professional services and equipment offsetting higher employee pay and benefits.

STOCK ACTION: Wells Fargo stock rose 11 cents, or 0.2 percent, to $47.82 in pre-market trading.