Bank of America's earnings rose in the first-quarter, and the company said it plans to open 500 new branches as it issued upbeat financial results that topped Wall Street forecasts and continued strong results by most major U.S. banks.

The Charlotte, N.C.-based banking giant on Monday reported net income of $6.9 billion, or 62 cents per share, beating the predictions of $6.3 billion and 59 cents from financial analysts surveyed by S&P Capital IQ. Revenue for the January-to-March period totaled $23.1 billion, up from $22.2 billion for the same stretch last year, and higher than the analysts' forecast.

Bank of America also said it is expanding its national footprint into new markets, with locations in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Denver, Indianapolis, Lexington, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Pittsburgh and Salt Lake City.

The 500 new branches planned by the nation's second-largest bank by assets are expected to open during the next four years. However, the overall number of branches is expected to remain relatively stable, the bank said. 

Led by the company's consumer banking division, average deposit balances rose $41 billion, or 3%, to a record $1.3 trillion in the first quarter. Bank of America also said non-interest expense fell $196 million, or 1%, to $13.9 billion, improving the company's efficiency ratio to 60%.

Benefiting from the federal tax overhaul approved in December, the bank said its effective tax rate dropped roughly 9 percentage points. U. S. banks have been among the biggest beneficiaries of the tax overhaul. However, company executives on Monday said Bank of America still ranks among the largest U.S. taxpayers.

The bank issued the results after last week's disclosure that it plans to stop lending to business clients that manufacture military-style weapons for civilian use. The new policy made Bank of America one of several U.S. financial institutions to break ties with gunmakers following the Feb. 14 mass shooting massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Bank of America's upbeat earnings echoed the relatively strong results it and other banks reported in fourth-quarter results earlier this year, and similar reports on Friday from JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup.

Only Wells Fargo broke the trend after the San Francisco-based banking giant on Friday disclosed that it could face $1 billion in collective penalties from two regulators for abuses in mortgages and auto loans, as well as compliance oversight issues.

Bank of America shares were nearly 0.4% lower at $29.68 in Monday morning trading.

More: Bank of America, boosted by consumer loan business, tops profit forecast

"Strong client activity, coupled with a growing global economy and solid U.S. consumer activity, led to record quarterly earnings," Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan said in a statement issued with the financial results. 

A customer uses a Bank of America ATM near the company's headquarters in Charlotte, N.C., Tuesday, July 7, 2015.
Chuck Burton, AP

Follow USA TODAY reporter Kevin McCoy on Twitter: @kmccoynyc