Wells Fargo, the fourth-biggest US bank, said net income for common shareholders was $3.8bn (£2.4bn), or 72 cents a share.
Analysts' average estimate was 73 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Net income a year earlier was $3.15bn.
The bank's provision for credit losses fell to $1.81bn from $3.44bn a year earlier.
"We can't change the economic environment, yet we have worked hard to control the variables we can," chief executive John Stumpf said in a statement.
"The economic recovery has been more sluggish and uneven than anyone anticipated."