Shares of J.P. Morgan & Co. are mired near their low point for the year after a disappointing earnings report last week.
Worries on Wall Street center on the New York bank's trading revenues, the lowest in seven quarters, and its rising expenses, partly made up of bonuses to inoculate its key staff from raids by competitors.
Morgan's stock on Thursday was unchanged at $61.625 in lackluster trading. The shares are 14.4% below their high this year and are not far above the $60 low they hit in early March.
Banking analyst Diane B. Glossman of Salomon Brothers Inc. described the results as "highly disappointing" and said the company had been compelled to "pull some rabbits out of the hat to keep results close to investors' expectations."
The bank's earnings were aided by a $250 million gain from sale of shares of Columbia/HCA, the health-care concern. $50 million related to a tax refund, and $35 million from past-due interest bonds on Brazil's foreign debt.
Indeed, Lawrence W. Cohn of PaineWebber Group Inc. said Morgan "would arguably have lost money" if its second quarter results were judged by the accounting rules applicable to investment banking firms.
After recognizing a $113 million loss in securities held for sale, which investment banking firms regard as inventory and mark to market each quarter, Morgan would have reported earnings of $42 million, according to Mr. Cohn's analysis.
Without the past quarter's extraordinary items, the company would have made no money, he said.
A Morgan spokeswoman said Thursday the bank would not comment on its quarterly results beyond the statement it released with its earnings.
Unrealized Gains Cited
"Morgan still has a ton of unrealized gains in its investment account," Mr. Cohn said, but it may need those gains as well as a return of trading income to a more normal level in order to meet Wall Street's expectations for earnings this year and next.
Mr. Cohn thinks normal trading revenue is around $400 million quarterly, based on the experience of the past two years. In Morgan's second quarter it was only $228 million - less than half the record $515 million average in the halcyon quarters of 1993.
At the same time, some analyst are also concerned at rising costs for the company. "The point is that revenues are not growing while total costs are," said George M. Salem of Prudential Securities Inc.
Bonuses on the Rise
Morgan said it increased its "accrual for bonuses" in the second quarter and likely will do so again in the future. The bank did not offer numbers, but Mr. Salem estimates the accruals amount to "at least $20 million per quarter, or $0.07 per share."
"The higher accruals are intended to retain key personnel," he said. New derivatives and trading departments at other institutions have "hired away an unusual number of Morgan professionals," he noted.
But the result of the provision for greater bonuses, he pointed out, is that Morgan's expense-revenue ratio' was 66% in the second quarter versus 61% in the first quarter and 55% in the second quarter a year ago, when revenues were considerably higher.
Stock Rated as 'Hold'
Ms. Glossman, Mr. Cohn, and Mr. Salem all rate Morgan's stock as a "hold."
After revising estimates downward, Ms. Glossman expects Morgan to earn $7.30 this year and $8.35 next year. Mr. Cohn anticipates $6.85 in 1994 and $6.75 in 1995, while Mr. Salem predicts $6.50 this year and $7.50 next year.
With the stock so near its low, Mr. Salem said he saw little downside risk at this point, with the shares unlikely to slip below $58. "But we are in no rush to buy the stock until the earnings outlook improves," he said.