World Economy

US Banks Report Solid Earnings

JPMorgan said results were boosted by big jumps in trading of bonds and other financial products.JPMorgan said results were boosted by big jumps in trading of bonds and other financial products.

Strong trading results, rather than lending, was the driving force behind solid earnings reported by large US banks Thursday, as executives expressed measured optimism about the prospects for President Donald Trump’s pro-growth agenda.

JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup reported big jumps in first-quarter net income compared with the same period of last year, while Wells Fargo continued to feel the effects of a fake accounts scandal and reported flat profits, missing analyst estimates for revenues, AFP reported.

But in a sign of sluggishness at all three banks, loan growth was weak, especially in some key areas such as corporate loans, which can serve as a proxy on broader economic activity.

“The economy is still what the economy was, it’s a slow-growth economy”, Citigroup chief financial officer John Gerspach said on a conference call with reporters. “It’s not a robust economy yet.” But he added, “I do believe that there is optimism that it will continue to grow and get better.”

Gerspach said Trump’s election and the expectations of tax cuts and other measures had boosted optimism for stronger growth, but “we haven’t seen concrete changes yet in policies”.

Shares of Citigroup fell 0.8% to $58.04, while JPMorgan lost 1.2% to $84.40, and Wells Fargo tumbled 3.3% to $51.35.

Banking shares had rallied strongly on Trump’s election amid expectation that he would ease of regulations and promote other growth measures that would help their business.

But the sector has cooled considerably on Wall Street as Trump’s policies have yet to materialize. The S&P 500 financials index is down 0.3% so far in 2017.

JPMorgan chief executive Jamie Dimon described US consumers and businesses as “healthy overall”, but said growth could accelerate sharply if overly-constraining regulations were eased.

JPMorgan said results were boosted by big jumps in trading of bonds and other financial products, as well as the benefit of higher interest rates. Net income rose 16.8% to $6.5 billion.

Citigroup also highlighted strong trading results, especially in interest rate-related products. Net income rose 16.8% to $4.1 billion.

Wells Fargo also benefited from improvements in the energy sector, which permitted it to release $200 million in reserves. However, the bank’s expenses for salaries and other non-interest costs rose by nearly four times that amount due to higher legal costs and greater spending on compliance programs. Earnings were $5.5 billion, the same as the year-ago level.

The bank experienced a 35% drop in the opening of new checking accounts and a 42% tumble in credit card applications.

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