JPMorgan Chase profits plunge 69% on coronavirus fallout

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JPMorgan Chase said first-quarter profit tumbled 69% to the lowest in more than six years as credit costs surged, giving investors a first glimpse at the extent of the damage COVID-19 is wreaking on bank results.

The bank set aside $8.29 billion for bad loans, the biggest provision in at least a decade and more than double what some analysts expected, as it grappled with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy. That prompted the bank’s first year-over-year drop in profit since the fourth quarter of 2017.

“Given the likelihood of a fairly severe recession, it was necessary to build credit reserves,” JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon said.
“Given the likelihood of a fairly severe recession, it was necessary to build credit reserves,” JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon said.

Chairman and Chief Executive Jamie Dimon warned earlier this month that the bank wouldn’t be immune to fallout from the pandemic, predicting in his annual letter to shareholders that the economy would suffer a “bad recession” and financial stress mirroring the 2008 financial crisis.

“Given the likelihood of a fairly severe recession, it was necessary to build credit reserves,” Dimon said in a press release Tuesday. “The first quarter delivered some unprecedented challenges and required us to focus on what we as a bank could do — outside of our ordinary course of business — to remain strong, resilient and well-positioned to support all of our stakeholders.”

Some of the damage was offset by gains in the bank’s trading operation, which benefited from record volatility during the quarter as investors moved in and out of positions in response to the unfolding crisis. JPMorgan generated $7.23 billion from trading stocks and bonds, the most on record, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The trading gains came off a wild three months for the markets, with stocks reaching record highs in January only to suffer the biggest decline since the 1987 crash as the extent of the pandemic started to become clear.

JPMorgan shares rose 1.1% in early trading at 6:57 a.m. in New York. The stock has fallen 30% this year through Monday.

The bank on Tuesday lowered its full-year outlook for net interest income — revenue from customers’ loan payments minus what the bank pays depositors — by $1.5 billion to $55.5 billion. The revenue source accounted for about half the company’s total last year, and in the past has helped counter more volatile results in the trading and investment banking divisions.

The Federal Reserve had two emergency rate cuts, bringing the central bank’s benchmark to virtually zero. The emergency action came as more evidence emerged that the U.S. economy was being hit hard by the virus and the global economic shutdown.

For its part, JPMorgan has been waiving fees for some loans, allowing customers to defer payments on mortgages and auto loans, and removing minimum payment requirements on credit cards. It’s planning to lend an additional $150 billion to clients across the world.

Keefe, Bruyette & Woods analysts led by Brian Kleinhanzl said in an April 8 report they expect provisions to peak in the second quarter as banks build reserves in advance of expected charge-offs under the newly adopted accounting rules.

Investors and analysts are taking comfort in the fact that banks are entering the uncertain period with higher capital levels than they had during the 2008 financial crisis.

“The company entered this crisis in a position of strength, and we remain well capitalized and highly liquid,” Dimon said in the news release.

While the results offer a look at the impact of the virus, the picture is somewhat muddled because they include January and February, before government lockdown measures began in earnest. Analysts are expecting future quarters to show even more damage to consumer businesses, as near-zero interest rates and rising unemployment take a toll.

Bloomberg News
Earnings Commercial lending Consumer lending JPMorgan Chase Coronavirus Jamie Dimon
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