Concerns continue to rise over the health of the nation’s largest banks leaving investors wary and reluctant to reach into their pockets despite the reported gains.

Bank of America has joined other banks whose earnings reports have at first glance looked positive. Its shares plummeted by 24 percent despite its first-quarter earnings of $4.25 billion.

Bank of America Corporation reported earnings per share of $0.44 for the first quarter ended March 31 2009.

Results for the quarter include Merrill Lynch & Co., which Bank of America purchased on January 1, 2009, and Countrywide Financial, which was acquired on July 1, 2008. Merrill Lynch contributed $3.7 billion to net income, excluding certain merger costs, on strong capital markets revenue. Countrywide also added to net income as mortgage lending and refinancing volume increased. The year-ago period does not include Merrill Lynch and Countrywide results.

According to analysts the banking losses are being concealed by accounting steps.

Investors are looking at bank numbers and are saying they are not that great, said Joe Saluzzi, co-head of equity trading at Themis Trading LLC.

Saluzzi added that banks have benefited from cheap borrowing and trading.

The Treasury Department will on Friday outline how it plans to structure the ‘stress tests’, which aim to gauge the health of 19 big banks.

The $700 billion in bailout money approved by Congress last fall has dwindled to about $135 billion, and the administration is under pressure to show it has other tools to strengthen weaker banks.

Critics have complained that the bailout money has failed to get banks to resume more normal lending to consumers and businesses.

Increased lending is seen as vital to ending the financial crisis.