The finance sector’s quarterly earnings period began Friday with JPMorgan and Wells Fargo reporting a profitable first quarter yet worrying market watchers as both banks showed weakness in new loan demand along with lower revenues. Both banks offset lower profit margins on loans by setting aside less money to cover bad mortgage loans.
JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), the nation’s largest bank, saw a 33% rise in profits to a record $6.53 billion, with earnings per share of $1.59, compared with last year’s $4.92 billion and EPS of $1.19. Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC), the nation’s largest mortgage lender, reported $5.2 billion in profits, up 22%, with EPS of $0.92 versus last year’s $4.2 billion in profits and EPS of $0.75.
JPM’s earnings beat analysts’ expectations for EPS of $1.40, yet the stock fell in morning trading as the bank reported stagnant loan demand, with total loans down 1%. JPM shares were down 0.17 points, or 0.33%, to $49.15 in midafternoon trading versus Thursday’s closing price of $49.31. Strong investment banking and mortgage origination helped boost the bank’s bottom line, however.
“JPMorgan Chase had a very good start to the year,” said Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon (left) in a statement. “All our businesses had strong performance, and our client franchises did exceptionally well. The Corporate and Investment Bank was No. 1 in fees, global debt and equity, syndicated loans and announced M&A.”
However, Dimon acknowledged continued weak spots in the economy that were a drag on the bank’s performance.
“Loan growth across the industry has been softer this quarter, although year-on-year growth remained strong. Small businesses remain cautious about the recovery and fiscal uncertainty, and are not investing their capital,” Dimon said.
Similarly, Wells Fargo’s nearly 30% of the mortgage market helped the bank maintain its 13th consecutive quarter of profitability, yet WFC shares were off in Friday trading. WFC traded at $37.08 by midafternoon, down 0.43 points, or 1.16%, versus Thursday’s $37.51 close. Revenue at Wells was down 1.7% to $21.26 billion after the bank took a 2.6% hit to its mortgage business and low interest rates hurt profitability despite an 8% rise in deposits.