JPMorgan’s 3rd quarter results improve as bank sees few loan losses

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — JPMorgan Chase saw its profits improve marginally in the third quarter, a notable change after the nation’s largest bank had to set aside billions in the last two quarters to cover losses from the coronavirus pandemic.

The New York-based bank said today that it earned a profit of $9.44 billion, or $2.92 a share, in the July to September period. That’s up from a profit of $9.08 billion, or $2.68 per share, in the same period a year earlier. The results beat analysts’ expectations for earnings of $2.23 per share, according to FactSet.

The biggest surprise in JPMorgan’s results was the bank’s decision not to set aside any significant funds to cover potentially bad loans. JPMorgan had $611 million in loan loss provisions this quarter, a fraction of the $10.47 billion the bank set aside in the second quarter.

Since the pandemic spread across the U.S. in March, banks like JPMorgan had been setting aside billions to cover loans that once were fine but suddenly were in question due to the economic shutdowns. Banking executives argued that they were aggressively trying to mark down loans in the early months of the pandemic, in an effort to not surprise investors and regulators with chronic losses over several quarters.

Further, many economic indicators have markedly improved since the pandemic shutdowns of April and May. Unemployment, albeit still high, is down from historic records earlier in the year and many states have done phased re-openings of their economies over the summer. This has led a good number of investors and economists to predict that — at least economically — the worst is over when it comes to the pandemic.

“It is as if COVID-19 never happened,” said Octavio Marenzi, CEO of Opimas, a management consultancy firm.

Along with fewer loan losses, JPMorgan also had a solid quarter in its investment bank. The division reported profits 52% higher than a year earlier, helped by a surge of revenue from its trading desks.

JPMorgan is the first of the major banks to report its results this week. Its shares rose 1.4% in premarket trading.