JPMorgan posts strong final quarter of 2020, sounds optimistic for 2021

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Jamie Dimon is feeling better about 2021.

The JPMorgan Chase chief announced Friday morning that his bank released $2.9 billion — or about 10 percent — from the massive cash horde it built to absorb future loan losses related to the pandemic.

The decision shows that “America’s Banker” is a bit more sanguine about the future and also carried the bank to a monster final quarter of 2020.

America’s largest bank reported earnings per share of $3.79, crushing Wall Street’s estimate of $2.62. JPMorgan also posted revenue of $30.16 billion, easily beating the street’s $28.7 billion estimate.

The megabank’s quarter was strong enough that Dimon did not even need the 72 cents he gained per share by putting $2.9 billion back on his books, but cutting into his rainy day fund sends a strong message to Wall Street and Washington.

But Dimon’s message wasn’t all sunshine.

“While positive vaccine and stimulus developments contributed to these reserve releases this quarter,” the 64-year-old executive said in a statement. “Our credit reserves of over $30 billion continue to reflect significant near-term economic uncertainty and will allow us to withstand an economic environment far worse than the current base forecasts by most economists.”

JPMorgan’s performance was strong across the board for 2020 as the Federal Reserve’s accommodation helped consumer deposits grow 30 percent, a booming IPO market pushed global investment banking fees up 34 percent, and frothy markets helped JPMorgan’s trading desk to a 20 percent surge. 

Overall, Dimon made it clear he was cautiously optimistic about the picture for 2021, predicting “a cloudy next two quarters” and reminding press on the call that “4,000 people a day are dying.”

“I think you will have a better economy in the second half of 2021,” Dimon predicted, saying it wasn’t just good for the bank but good for America. “Hopefully we’ll be getting through this mess.”

But Dimon also urged caution saying “If these vaccines don’t work, all bets are off.”

The bank declined to answer whether it had closed President Donald Trump’s personal accounts like Signature Bank announced it had earlier in the week.

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