In a highly unusual move, the notoriously tight-lipped J.P. Morgan & Co. said Wednesday that it expects fourth-quarter earnings to fall from the third-quarter level.
Morgan said in a statement that its fourth-quarter earnings will be less than the $327 million posted last quarter, largely due to "substantially reduced trading revenues" because of lower activity in derivatives markets.
In fact, for the first nine months of 1994, Morgan's revenues have declined 23% from the same period in 1993.
"It's unusual for them to announce so early. I think it's clear the decline will be significant," said Lawrence W. Cohn, banking analyst at PaineWebber Inc.
Publicly traded companies often make such announcements when analyst expectations for their stock are significantly off base. The mean estimate on Wall Street for J.P. Morgan was earnings of $1.68 a share or $335 million to $340 million.
Mr. Cohn said he had no way to estimate to what level the bank's revenue would fall. "I don't think they'll lose money," he said. "But they probably won't make a whole lot either."
A Morgan spokesman would only say that it should be no surprise that the large trading banks will see lower trading revenues in the fourth quarter because of the depressed market in recent quarters.
The announcement was part of a statement saying Morgan's board had approved an increase in its quarterly dividend, to 75 cents per share of common stock, from 68 cents.
Analysts said that, while the long-term outlook may be improving for the bank's global business, it probably did not want to give a misleading signal to investors by raising its dividend even while knowing quarterly revenues would drop.
Morgan's stock fell $1.125 cents, to $58.00, on the news.