Yesterday JPMorgan's chief executive for corporate and investment banking, Daniel Pinto, sparked hope that the collapse in investment banking revenue and profits plaguing the banking industry in the first quarter had ended, when he said that JPM is on track for a mid-teens percentage increase in markets revenue in Q2 compared with a weak period a year earlier (he also added that compensation in fixed-income is down 25% over the past five years and headcount is down 10%). This guidance however was quickly dashed by Jamie Dimon today when the CEO said during a Bernstein investor conference not to project a 15% increase in trading revenue.
Whether JPM was merely using a "trial balloon", or is truly a shining star of profitability in an otherwise dreary banking field, is unknown however any hope of a broad rebound for banks was quickly dashed when Citigroup CEO Mike Corbat said that unlike JPM, Citi's Q2 net income will be roughly 25% lower than the same period a year earlier. Corbat, speaking at the same Bernstein conference, said that he expects second-quarter net income to be roughly flat with the first quarter of this year. In the first quarter, the company reported $3.5 billion of profits, about 25% less than the $4.65 billion it reported on an adjusted basis in the second quarter of 2015.
It is unclear what Citi's revenue forecast was but unless the bank is suddenly doubling compensation, it is unlikely that it would see any material rebound in top line growth.
As Reuters notes, Citigroup has been grappling with a long-term decline in capital markets revenue and higher costs to comply with regulation. The company has been spending to reduce staff and office space, while also beefing up its credit card business.
Corbat was questioned repeatedly at the conference about the company's push to promote its "Double Cash" credit card that pays users 2 percent of what they spend, and about its aggressive bidding to take the Costco store co-branded card business from American Express.
He said the card investments will pay off because the card business is expected to provide a return on assets of about 2.25 to 2.35 percent over the economic cycle, or twice the target for the entire company. It was not immediately clear what the average FICO of "double cash" recipients was.
And while JPM's immediate future is supposedly rosier than most, Jamie Dimon did issue one warning, which happens to be familiar to regular readers: the danger from auto loans. At the same Bernstein presentation, Dimon said the market for U.S. automobile lending is “a little stressed” and that he foresees higher losses ahead for some competitors. “Someone will get hurt in auto lending” he said, but quickly added it won't be JPMorgan.
As Bloomberg writes, "Americans surged into dealers’ showrooms as cheap gasoline and a growing job base helped boost auto sales to a record year for sales in 2015. Lenders followed: The average amount financed for new-car loans at finance companies rose to $27,986.15 in the fourth quarter of 2015, the highest level since the Federal Reserve began tracking that data in March 2008. Now, banks are worried the party could be over. U.S. auto sales fell in May for the second monthly decline this year and reinforced the idea that demand for cars and trucks has plateaued. The results for last month, whose Memorial Day weekend promotions make it a bellwether for gauging buyer appetite, show consumer demand for cars leveling off faster than executives predicted."
Some industry participants were skeptical:
Capital One Financial Corp. CEO Richard Fairbank said that he likes his company’s auto-lending business and he’ll keep an eye on risks including falling used-car prices. “We have been raising flags about the underwriting practices that we have seen in the industry,” Fairbank, 65, said at the meeting.
Analysts predict a surge in previously leased vehicles for sale will pressure used- and new-car prices, which could lead to consumers owing more on a loan than the auto’s value. The Manheim U.S. Used Vehicle Value Index fell in three out of the first four months of the year, dropping 2.4 percent to 122.8.
As shown before, recent used car prices have plunged at a pace comparable to 2008:
Others, however, agreed: U.S. Bancorp CEO Richard Davis, speaking at the same conference, said the auto-lending market is “overheated,” mainly because of pricing competition. “We like the business, but it’s not for the faint of heart,” said Davis, 58, who runs the nation’s biggest regional bank. “It’s a business you have to watch through the cycles, and right now it is probably at its least attractive. But in what could be a day, a month or a year, it could be very attractive.”
Yes, and all that would be needed is for the ECB, or BOJ, or Fed, to start monetizing subprime auto loans. It may very well happen.