Bank of America loses $2.39 billion in 4th quarter

Bank of America Corp. this morning posted a fourth-quarter loss of $2.39 billion, or 48 cents per share, as it suffered rising loan losses, soured investments and trading losses.

The loss compared to a profit of $215 million, or 5 cents per share, in the same period in 2007. The results included numbers from mortgage lender Countrywide Financial, which Bank of America purchased on July 1, but not Merrill Lynch & Co., which it bought Jan. 1.

The bank’s board slashed the quarterly dividend to 1 cent per share from 32 cents per share, citing “continuing severe economic and financial market conditions.” The board had already cut the dividend from 64 cents per share following third-quarter earnings.

The news came after the U.S. government reached an agreement late Thursday to provide Bank of America with $20 billion in capital and protection against losses on $118 billion in troubled assets. The bank sought the assistance after Merrill Lynch’s losses spiraled in the fourth quarter.

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