JPMorgan posts record annual profit as bond trading rebounds

(Reuters) - JPMorgan Chase & Co JPM.N posted its biggest-ever annual profit on Tuesday as its bond trading business bounced back in the last three months of the year, setting an upbeat tone for the big U.S. banks reporting this week.

Revenue rose at all but one of JPMorgan’s four main businesses, beating analysts expectations and sending the bank’s shares 2.2% higher. Executives were positive and clear-eyed about the outlook for 2020, as well.

“Our outlook heading into 2020 is constructive, underpinned by the strength of the U.S. consumer,” said JPMorgan Chief Financial Officer Jennifer Piepszak on a call with analysts. “In spite expected slower global growth and the backdrop of geopolitical uncertainties, we remain well-positioned.”

Big bank rivals Citigroup C.N and Wells Fargo WFC.N also reported earnings on Tuesday. Citi beat profit estimates thanks to a jump in trading revenue and strong credit card sales, while Wells Fargo's profits slumped on a rise in legal reserves. [nL4N29J366]

At JPMorgan, the only business to post a decline was commercial banking, which reported revenues fell 3% on lower net interest income and higher expenses due to investments in the business.The bank’s bond trading revenue jumped 86% compared to a year earlier when financial markets were walloped industry-wide by a sell-off driven by trade and global growth concerns. Revenue from equity markets rose 15% to $1.5 billion.

Piepszak conceded that its returns in bond-trading benefited from “a favorable comparison against a challenging fourth quarter last year,” but said there were examples of strength across the business.

Debt underwriting fees in the investment bank rose 11 percent year over year, in part thanks to the increased activity in bond issuance which made for competitive pricing conditions, she said.

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

Overall revenue at JPMorgan’s corporate and investment banking unit, which houses its trading and underwriting businesses, surged 31% to $9.47 billion.

The consumer and community banking business, which accounts for almost half of the bank’s revenues, reported a $14 billion, or 3% rise, over last year.

Chase credit card customers used their plastic to the bank’s benefit this holiday season. The bank reported credit card, merchant services and auto revenue surged $6.3 billion or 9%, with credit card loans up 8%.

But revenues were under pressure this quarter from lower deposit margins because low interest rates meant that the bank earned less on deposits it loaned out. Home lending revenue was also down 5% to $1.3 billion.

Total loans, excluding home lending, rose 3% in the quarter. Home loans were down 17%.

Deposits flowed into the consumer bank in the fourth quarter, helping to offset a decline in loans, as Chase opened around 100 new bank branches 2019 in many new cities where it previously had not been located. Deposits grew 5% compared to a year ago.

CEO Jamie Dimon said the U.S. consumer continued to be in a strong position. “Their wages are up, their assets are up, their investments are up, their home values are up,” he said on a call with reporters.

The bank's net income rose to $8.52 billion, or $2.57 per share, in the quarter ended Dec. 31, from $7.07 billion, or $1.98 per share, a year earlier. Net revenue rose 9% to $29.21 billion. (

Analysts, on average, had expected the bank to earn $2.35 per share on revenue of $27.94 billion, according to Refinitiv data.

Net interest income fell 2% to $14.3 billion.

Reporting by Anirban Sen in Bangalore and Elizabeth Dilts Marshall and Sweta Singh in New York; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Nick Zieminski