JPMorgan profit leaps after reserve release boost

(Reuters) -JPMorgan Chase & Co’s earnings jumped almost 400% in the first quarter, blowing past estimates as the largest U.S. bank released more than $5 billion in reserves it had set aside to cover coronavirus-driven loan defaults.

FILE PHOTO: A J.P. Morgan logo is seen in New York City, U.S., January 10, 2017. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith/File Photo

The bank, widely seen as a barometer of the health of the broader U.S. economy, said consumer spending in its businesses had returned to pre-pandemic levels and was up 14% versus the first quarter of 2019.

The results, helped by favorable comparisons to last year, also gained from a 57% jump in investment banking revenue.

While the largest U.S. bank saw profits crimped last year with the economic effects of the pandemic, investors are optimistic that a recovery this year on the back of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package and widespread vaccinations could restore normalcy.

“We believe that the economy has the potential to have extremely robust, multi-year growth,” Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon said in a statement. “Our credit reserves of $26 billion are appropriate and prudent, all things considered.”

The bank’s net income rose to $14.3 billion, or $4.50 per share, in the quarter ended March 31, from $2.9 billion, or 78 cents per share, a year earlier.

Analysts on average had expected earnings of $3.10 per share, according to Refinitiv.

Revenue jumped 14% to $33.1 billion.

JPMorgan changed its full-year outlook, saying it expects expenses to be slightly higher and net interest income to be lower. Revenue-related expenses rose in the first quarter, while interest rates remained near historic lows.

Investment banking revenue surged to $2.9 billion on record levels of capital markets activity, fueled largely by a surge in initial public offerings by special purpose acquisition companies.

Wall Street’s boom has also been driven by record volumes of fundraising, debt refinancings, convertible bond deals and stock sales.

During the quarter, JPMorgan overtook investment banking powerhouse Morgan Stanley to become the banking world’s second biggest provider of worldwide M&A advisory, according to Refinitiv. The league tables rank financial services firms by the amount of M&A fees they generate. Goldman Sachs continues to lead the rankings.

Global investment banking fees hit an all-time record during the March quarter, according to data from Refinitiv, and banks like JPMorgan made the most of the dealmaking boom.

JPMorgan’s trading desks also trumped expectations, helped by the retail trading frenzy that has driven unprecedented rallies in “meme stocks” including GameStop since January.

Overall trading revenue rose 37% to $10.1 billion, with bond trading up 15%. Equity markets revenue jumped 47%.

JPMorgan’s shares were down 0.7% in pre-market trading.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc also beat Wall Street estimates with its profit report on Wednesday, with Wells Fargo & Co reporting later in the morning.

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