At first glance, it's hard to find much new to worry about in JPMorgan Chase's second-quarter earnings report, either for the bank or the industry at large.
Most of the important numbers beat estimates, although those estimates dropped like crazy before the report as the outlook for interest rates this year went from lower-for-not-much-longer to lower-for-who-knows-maybe-forever. Still, loan growth was robust and credit quality trends appeared to remain strong. Soured credit card debt did tick higher from extremely low levels, though mortgages continued to improve and the firmwide ratio of loan-loss reserves to net charge-offs remained near 200 percent.
On the trading desks, markets revenue jumped 23 percent to $5.6 billion, with the fixed-income side surging a whopping 35 percent. One could argue this was mostly a result of a Brexit-induced trading frenzy and thus could be a dead-cat bounce for the collective mojo of the bond-trading desks. But who knows, maybe Wall Street will get blessed with another geopolitical apocalypse that makes the doomsayers warn of grave damage to the worldwide economy and causes the trading desk phones to ring off the hook. Fingers crossed!
If you simply can't enjoy a silver lining without the cloud, one place to look is commercial real estate. There you will find some of the most eye-popping growth rates in this report. Loans to that segment jumped 35 percent to $19.2 billion, and CEO Jamie Dimon gave the business a shout-out in the release for helping to increase core loan growth by 16 percent.
What, pray tell, is wrong with robust growth? Well, maybe nothing -- for now. But with the current economic expansion entering the senior-citizen phase compared with previous cycles, much attention is being paid to speculating on what inning of the baseball game the commercial real estate boom is in.
Here's a good read outlining the reasons to be cautious from former Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas adviser Danielle DiMartino Booth, who has become one of the internet peanut gallery's more eloquent gadflies of central bank policies. (Reminder: the term "gadfly" is a compliment around here!) And here's Tracy Alloway's take on why there is concern that banks won't be able to fund the $400 billion worth of commercial real estate loans that need to be refinanced in 2017, and other assorted concerns about the sector.
When asked on the conference call about any concerns regarding a commercial real estate book that was "growing like a weed," CFO Marianne Lake responded: "growing like a sunflower, not like a weed." She said the bank's been focused on regions and products deemed safest, is being "very, very careful" and serving borrowers with "really good credit quality."
For sure, this should be filed under the "industry at large" segment of the worry list rather than JPMorgan specifically, because even amid that robust growth, real estate lending is a few drops in a big bucket of loans for that bank compared with the exposure of some of its smaller competitors. And clearly, with JPMorgan being the stock leading the line dance at the current risk-on party in the market, no one seems to be too focused on their worry list today.
However, whether it's too early or not, get ready for commercial real estate to become a chief focus for financial market party poopers.
-- Rani Molla provided chart assistance
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.
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