JPMorgan Chase, (JPM), Bank of America (BAC), Citigroup (C), and Wells Fargo (WFC) all blew away Wall Street earnings estimates when they reported first quarter results on Wednesday and Thursday this week.
But with the exception of Wells Fargo, bank shares fell or moved up modestly on the results.
I had been hoping that a blow out quarter from JPMorgan Chase would have sent Call Options soaring–and I’d bought some for my personal accounts ahead of earnings. Instead I wound up taking a modest loss.
Which painful as it was, was also reassuring. Enough somebody’s out there read the results with a skeptical eye and saw flaws in the fundamentals of what looked like record results. And that’s reassuring to me at a time when there’s so much pure speculative froth in stock prices.
Take a look at JPMorgan Chase’s first quarter results released Wednesday, April 14, before the market open. Earnings of $4.50 a share obliterated Wall Street projections by $1.38 a share. At $32.3 billion revenue was up 14.3% year over year and beat projections by $1.99 billion.
And yet shares of JPMorgan Chase fell $1.87% on the day. The next day they did move higher by 0.63%. And today, Friday, April 16, the shares gained 0.74%. Still that’s essentially a wash for the week on record results.
Why the tepid response?
Somebody, lots of somebodies actually, read on past the headline numbers.
The bank got a huge one-time boost to earnings from the release of $5 billion in reserves that it had set aside against possible credit losses during the pandemic. Sure that release was great news (the company also took a $1.1 billion charge off on bad loans), but it is still a one time event–the bank can’t release this $5 billion in reserves again next quarter.
Average deposits soared–climbing 32% and client investment assets rose 44% thanks to the continued stock market rally.
But average loans were down 7% in the quarter.
When it comes to its core business–lending money now so that the bank can collect interest payments in the future–JPMorgan Chase is still reporting results that are just “Meh.” The entire banking sector is suffering from continued soft demand for loans.
And an investor who is looking not just at earnings but at the quality of earnings would come away wondering how much he or she wanted to pay for one time additions to earnings when the stock was already up 21.17% for 2021 as of April 15 and up 71.57% over the last year.