JPMorgan keeps key profit goal, cautious on U.S. recession risks

NEW YORK (Reuters) – JPMorgan Chase & Co, the biggest U.S. bank by assets, said on Tuesday it expects to face rising costs for deposits, a key part of its business, and slowing global economic growth.

FILE PHOTO: A view of the exterior of the JP Morgan Chase & Co. corporate headquarters in New York City May 20, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Segar/Files/File Photo

Still, senior executives, speaking at the bank’s annual investor day, painted a picture of stable financial performance and maintained a key profit goal for the next three years.

Chief Financial Officer Marianne Lake said while JPMorgan is strong in many of its businesses, the bank was uncertain whether the near-term future for interest rates and the U.S. economy would provide the underlying strength that could boost its bankwide profit targets.

JPMorgan’s annual investor day is closely watched by investors as the bank accounts for about 14 percent of U.S. banking industry revenue, according to estimates by analysts at Barclays.

Lake said the bank expects growth in deposits to slow and the interest it pays for them to rise, reducing profit margins on its loans. At the same time, new regulations are making those loans less profitable and pushing the bank to invest more in securities.

“The further out you go, the less confidence we have that we won’t see” changes in interest rates and a downturn in the economy, Lake said, when asked why the bank did not raise its target for profitability.

Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon said the bank’s decision not to raise its profitability target was not a warning about the economy. “We are not predicting a recession. We are prepared for a recession,” Dimon said.

Like last year, the bank said it expects its return on tangible common equity, a key profit measure for how well it uses shareholder money, to be 17 percent over the medium term, which the bank considers roughly three years.

The bank may exceed its key growth targets, Lake said, but its forecast is set with a cautious view of future risks, including global trade worries as well as Britain’s pending withdrawal from the European Union, or Brexit, she said.

“Recent declines in business sentiment have driven recessionary risk higher,” she said, referring to the United States.

Still, she added, “the U.S. economy remains consumer-led, and consumers are strong and healthy.”

JPMorgan faces a balancing act: reassuring investors while not making pledges that are likely to haunt it in the future amid growing economic turbulence.

In the fourth quarter, JPMorgan and several other big banks took a hit in their fixed-income trading operations as a market swoon kept clients on the sidelines.

Trading revenue in the first quarter is expected to be down in the “high teens” in percentage terms after an unusually strong quarter a year earlier when the U.S. tax overhaul boosted results, said Daniel Pinto, head of JPMorgan’s corporate and investment bank.

In a recession, Dimon said, the bank would continue to invest in its businesses. “We would take advantage of a recession to build our branches, network, etcetera. We would take advantage of a recession.”

While executives trumpeted market share gains from recently increased spending on technology and marketing, they also acknowledged problems.

“It is a tough time to be in the mortgage business,” said Gordon Smith, chief executive officer of consumer and community banking.

Mike Weinbach, head of home lending, said mortgage originations will likely remain “near cyclical lows” in the coming years. The industry is struggling with excess capacity for making loans, even as the cost of new loans continues to rise, he said.

The bank sketched out its views before the stock market opened in a slide presentation ahead of the investor day. (bit.ly/2GMaYXR)

JPMorgan shares fell 1.2 percent at $104.84 after dropping as much as 2 percent early in the session.

The bank stuck with its previous targets of an expense overhead ratio of 55 percent as adjusted expenses were set to rise this year by $2.3 billion, or 3.6 percent.

The higher expense forecast includes $600 million of new technology investments and $1.6 billion for marketing, front-office hiring, new branches and a new headquarters building.

The additional spending is down from $2.7 billion a year ago, when it boosted the technology budget by $1.4 billion.

Reporting by Elizabeth Dilts, Aparajita Saxena and David Henry; Editing by Anil D’Silva and Jeffrey Benkoe

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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