Bank earnings fail to impress investors as recession worries rise

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New York

JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup and asset management giant BlackRock posted results that topped Wall Street’s forecasts Friday, but investors were nonetheless a little disappointed at first.

Trading was choppy, with most bank stocks falling at the open before rebounding. Shares of JPMorgan Chase

(JPM) were up about 2.5% in late afternoon trading while BofA

(BAC) was up 2%. Wells Fargo

(WFC), which reported earnings that missed Wall Street’s targets, reversed earlier losses and was up 3%. Citi

(C) was up 2% while BlackRock

(BLK) was flat.

“The earnings were solid, but the market is concerned with recession fears,” said John Curran, managing director and head of North American bank coverage at MUFG.

Investors might have been concerned by the downbeat tone of the big banks. Executives are clearly still worried about inflation and the threat of a recession this year following several big interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve.

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon said in the bank’s earnings statement that although the economy is still strong and that consumers and businesses are spending and healthy, “we still do not know the ultimate effect of the headwinds coming from geopolitical tensions including the war in Ukraine, the vulnerable state of energy and food supplies, persistent inflation that is eroding purchasing power and has pushed interest rates higher.”

The bank added in the earnings release that it now expects a “mild recession” as a base economic case. CFO Jeremy Barnum added during a conference call with reporters that in addition to the slowdown that has already started in its home lending unit, it is starting to see “headwinds” in auto lending.

Meanwhile, BofA CEO Brian Moynihan noted that this is “an increasingly slowing economic environment” and Wells Fargo CEO Charlie Scharf said “we are carefully watching the impact of higher rates on our customers.” Wells Fargo recently announced plans to pull back on its massive mortgage business.

Banks are clearly worried about a looming recession, and Wall Street has taken notice.

Moody’s Investors Service analyst Peter Nerby noted in a report that “credit provisions are rising” at JPMorgan Chase and that Citi “built capital and reserves in anticipation of a slowdown in core markets.”

The Fed’s rate hikes aren’t helping either.

“Higher than expected interest rates pose a significant risk to the outlook for credit quality, loan growth and net interest margins,” said David Wagner, a portfolio manager at Aptus Capital Advisors, in an email.

Concerns about the economy were one reason why stocks plunged in 2022, suffering their worst year since 2008. As a result of the Wall Street slump, there was a major slowdown in merger activity and initial public offerings.

That hurt the investment banking businesses for the top banks. JPMorgan Chase and Citi each said that advisory fees plummeted nearly 60% in the quarter.

Goldman Sachs

(GS) and Morgan Stanley

(MS) will give more color about the health of Wall Street next Tuesday when they both report their fourth quarter results.

Goldman Sachs, which has aggressively built up a consumer banking unit over the past few years, has struggled to make money in that division. Goldman Sachs disclosed in a regulatory filing Friday that it has lost more than $3 billion in its consumer business since 2020.

There were some signs of optimism though. BlackRock, which owns the massive iShares family of exchange-traded funds, reported a rebound in assets under management from the third quarter to the fourth quarter as stocks soared in October and November.

“The current environment offers incredible opportunities for long-term investors,” said BlackRock CEO Larry Fink in the earnings release.


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