US banks report solid earnings as JPMorgan CEO blasts Washington

US banks report solid earnings as JPMorgan CEO blasts Washington

JP Morgan Chase Chairman Jamie Dimon slammed the dysfunction in Washington and called for unity around policies to cut taxes and simplify regulations in order to boost economic growth. (Photo: AFP/Eric Piermont)

NEW YORK: Credit cards were a strength and trading revenues a weakness in the solid US bank earnings released on Friday (Jul 14), as JPMorgan Chase chief executive Jamie Dimon erupted in frustration at political gridlock in Washington.

JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Citigroup all reported better-than-expected earnings, and bank executives described US economic growth as solid, if unspectacular, as moves by the US Federal Reserve to lift interest rates have enabled banks to charge more for loans.

Yet Friday's deluge of results, the unofficial start of the second-quarter corporate earnings period, drew a lacklustre reaction from Wall Street, with shares of all three banks falling after the reports.

At JPMorgan, the biggest US bank by assets, second-quarter net income rose 13.4 per cent to US$7.0 billion. Net revenues climbed 4.7 per cent to US$26.4 billion.

Key factors behind the earnings jump included higher net interest income due to the rising interest rate environment, as well as higher overall loans, often seen as a proxy of economic activity of firms and households.

But JPMorgan's trading divisions suffered compared with the year-ago period, with the bank citing "sustained low volatility."

Analysts also were disappointed by a US$500 million cut to JPMorgan's 2017 projection for growth of net interest income to US$4 billion, implying it sees weaker loan growth in the second half of 2017, due in part to the Fed's policy of only raising interest rates gradually.

"We're looking at a slower rise in interest rates in general and that speaks to Fed funds rate policy," said CFRA analyst Ken Leon. "I believe you're not going to see significant contributions of net interest income from rising rates until 2018 and 2019."

DIMON BLASTS WASHINGTON

JPMorgan chief executive Jamie Dimon also made waves with a colourful tirade against Washington gridlock that he blames for blocking progress on tax reform and other growth measures needed to boost the economy.

Dimon, who is a member of President Donald Trump's business advisory council, warned the US will have trouble accelerating growth from its current 1.5 to 2.0 per cent trend if it fails to come together in favour of pro-business policies.

"It's almost an embarrassment to be an American citizen travelling around the world and listening to the stupid shit we have to deal with in this country," Dimon told analysts on a conference call. "It's not a Republican issue, it's not a Democratic issue and it doesn't matter who the pilot is."

Dimon's remarks come amid lagging progress on President Donald Trump's economic agenda, with the outlook highly uncertain for a Republican health care law that has been seen as important to tax reform.

Citigroup chief financial officer John Gerspach expressed cautious optimism about the outlook for pro-growth measures from Washington.

"The hope is still there," Gerspach said in a conference call with reporters. "Obviously it's taken a little bit longer than anybody would want."

Citigroup's net income came in at US$3.9 billion, down 3.2 per cent from the year-ago period, but better than analysts expected. Revenues rose two per cent to US$17.9 billion, with revenues from Citi-branded credit cards jumping 10 per cent following a venture with Costco Wholesale.

Citigroup cited higher cost of credit and operating expenses as factors behind the drop in profit. It also said its trading revenues were dented by an unfavourable comparison with the year-ago period, when Brexit-related trading boosted volumes.

Wells Fargo's net income rose 4.5 per cent from the year-ago period to US$5.8 billion. Revenues of US$22.2 billion were essentially flat compared with the year-ago period.

Net interest income rose, but overall loans were essentially unchanged compared with the year-ago period. One factor was a decline in auto loans due to tighter underwriting standards.

Source: AFP