Looks like the Jefferies earnings harbinger were right, because with another quarter down, and here is another painful report by JPM, which just launched the Q4 earnings season for financials with a miss on both the top and bottom line, reporting $1.19 in EPS, well below the $1.32 consensus, and just barely above the lower estimate of $1.16. This was a decline from both the previous quarter (by 17 cents) and from a year ago (by 11 cents). Revenues missed as well, with JPM reporting $23.552 billion in top line, a decline of $560 million from a year ago ($1.6 billion lower than Q3), and below the $24.0 billion consensus. And while JPM's latest recurring, non-one time "one-time, non-recurring" charge came as a surprise to most (although how over $30 billion in legal charges can be considered one-time is beyond us), at the same time JPM once again resorted to the oldest trick in the book, taking the benefit of some $704 million in loan loss reserve releases, nearly offsetting the entire negative impact of the legal charge.
Of course, the reported revenue should not be confused with the GAAP revenue, which actually was $1 billion less at $22.5 billion, the lowest quarterly real revenue in over a year!
The miss happened despite JPM repurchasing another $1.5 billion in common stock, leaving $2 billion in buyback capacity for Q1 2015.
The weakness in earnings was widespread, and now that JPM's prop desk is dead and buried, and the bank has to make money the old fashioned way using NIM, the fact that Mortgage Banking Income dropped from both the prior quarter and Q4 2013 will hardly inspire much confidence in the firm. Still the result was better than some had expected - the reason: Total headcount down over 7,500 for the year.
And then there was investment banking, where net income tumbled $715 Million from Q3, to 4972 MM, as a result of a $1.2 billion plunge in the most important Fixed Income Markets revenue to just $2.533 BN, below the $2.64 billion consensus estimate, down $1.21BN from Q3, and down a whopping $748MM from Q4 2013. The good news, if any, is that Equity Markets, while also declining BY $147MM from the prior quarter, actually posted a modest gain of $222 MM from a year ago to $1.1 billion; still a far cry from what the firm normally generates in Fixed Income
Of note: after taking its VaR to what may be a historic low of $35 in Q3, JPM has slowly started increasing it, with Q4 VaR rising to $40, below the $42 a year ago.
And then there was the "old faithful" piggy bank of EPS boosting: loan loss reserve releases. Because even though JPM took the highest provision for credit losses in Q4 since Q1, which rose to $840 million, up from $757MM in Q3, and from $692 in Q2 on what supposedly was "improved portfolio credit quality", it also decided to ramp up its loan loss reserve release which jumped to $704 million in Q4, the highest artificial boost to earnings since 2013, when it took the benefit of $1.3 billion in loan loss reserve releases.
Altogether, another weak report by the bank that is slowly but surely taking a long, hard look at Goldman's suggestion that it may have more value broken up than in its current state. And if Jamie Dimon isn't, than his shareholders surely are.
Full earnings presentation (link) below: whatever you do, don't look for the Net Interest Margin slide (usually first in the Appendix as can be seen here) - after it hits a record low in Q3, JPM decided to just do away with its entirely!