Breaking News This Morning ...
Receiving Wide Coverage ...
Dimon Says Bigger Is Better: With so much chatter about a JPMorgan Chase breakup these days, one wonders if the megabank could eventually be forced to downsize out of pure conversational momentum. JPMorgan head Jamie Dimon spent fourth-quarter earnings calls Wednesday defending his bank's behemoth status. "The synergies are huge, both expense and revenue," Dimon said. "The unscrambling would be extraordinarily complex." Dimon also appealed to the American spirit in discussing the advantages of JPMorgan's size, suggesting, "I wouldn't want to see the next JPMorgan Chase be a Chinese company." Patriotism seemed to be on the brain for Dimon yesterday: the Financial Times zeroes in on his suggestion that regulatory overkill is un-American. All this verbal gusto prompted the FT's Lex team to postulate an exciting new theory: "the more entertaining" Dimon is, "the limper the results." So how did the bank do, anyway? Profits and revenue were down from the same period a year ago as a result of trading volatility and $1 billion in legal costs, leading Reuters Breakingviews columnist Antony Currie to predict "a year of benign mediocrity for big banks" in general. On the bright side, a "Heard on the Street" column notes that both JPMorgan and Wells Fargo reported strong credit quality heading into 2015. Wall Street Journal, New York Times
Stagecoach Trundles On: Wells Fargo's earnings calls were relatively dull compared to JPMorgan's, which is probably how chief executive John Stumpf likes it. The bank met expectations by boosting net income and revenue in the fourth quarter, but the Journal reports its results raise "questions about the strength of its mortgage business and its ability to control expenses." Stumpf, however, is cautiously optimistic about the bank's growth prospects in 2015 as the U.S. economy continues to brighten. The Times and FT note analysts' concerns but focus more on the sunny side of Wells Fargo's results.
Dodd-Frank: Death by a Thousand Blows? The new Congress is wasting no time in chipping away at Dodd-Frank. "While Republican leaders have not placed much emphasis on softening Dodd-Frank in their public statements their legislative action shows that unpicking the act is a high priority," the FT reports. But it's not just Republicans who are siding with banks: disapproving analysis in the Times identifies the White House and "lily-livered" establishment Democrats as Wall Street allies. This discussion comes in the wake of legislation passed by the House on Wednesday that pushes back the compliance deadlines for a key aspect of the Volcker Rule and eases derivatives regulations, among other measures.
Swiss Shock: Investors are reeling from the Swiss National Bank's surprise decision to scrap the ceiling on the strength of the country's currency against the euro. The Swiss franc surged in the aftermath of the bank's announcement while the euro tumbled. The Journal suggests the Swiss decision was likely spurred by the European Central Bank's forthcoming quantitative easing program, expected later this month. The program "would put further downward pressure on the euro, making the SNB's floor extremely tough to maintain," the paper explains. Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, New York Times
Wall Street Journal
The foreign exchange scandal isn't over yet. As the Justice Department continues its criminal probe into bank employees' attempts to manipulate the currencies market, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup have each fired or suspended employees, according to anonymice.
The mortgage market got a big boost from falling interest rates last week, but it's unclear how long the trend will last.
The trial against Ross Ulbricht, the alleged mastermind behind the online black market Silk Road, is underway in Manhattan.
New York Times
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman will propose a bill Thursday that would expand the conditions under which companies must report a data breach to employees and customers. Right now, companies mostly have to provide notification about the theft of Social Security, driver's license and credit card numbers. The proposed plan would force firms to report stolen email addresses and passwords as well.
A group of attorneys general from 15 states have teamed up to ask JPMorgan to explain more about that data breach last summer including how the bank can be so sure that sensitive information didn't fall into the wrong hands.