Not long ago, investors in JPMorgan Chase were a notoriously pessimistic crowd. More often than not, that at least had the advantage of them being either proven right or pleasantly surprised come results day. Expectations have come a long way since then – a fact best illustrated by Wednesday’s drop in JPMorgan’s share price despite another set of record quarterly results.
JPMorgan continues to cope better with recent interest rate rises and declining lending margins than some other US banks such as Wachovia. In the third quarter, its investment bank was arguably gaining on many of its pure-breed rivals and was a beneficiary of Amaranth’s meltdown.
In retail banking, efforts to cross-sell other products, notably credit cards, appear to be paying off. The unit’s overall results were slightly disappointing. That, however, was mainly due to a $235m downward adjustment to the estimated value of future mortgage servicing revenues. That appears largely to reflect a suitably cautious longer-term view on how indebted households might cope with the burdens they have taken on.
Credit conditions may remain solid across the board but JPMorgan is right to warn that things will get worse. At least every fairly successful quarter strengthens the case that its Bank One purchase has made results less susceptible to nasty surprises.
The main trouble remains that investors have already amply rewarded the bank’s transformation. JPMorgan’s shares have outperformed those of rivals pretty consistently for four years. With its shares valued on 13 times this year’s earnings, they are now trading in line with the sector, but at a premium to most larger peers. This, together with JPMorgan’s reliance on still potentially volatile trading, makes it is hard to see any standing ovations in the offing.