Daily Brief: America's Big Banks Are In Stormy Seas

Daily Brief: America's Big Banks Are In Stormy Seas

over 1 year ago3 mins

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Big banks JPMorgan, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and Morgan Stanley reported a mixed bag of earnings on Friday.

What does this mean?

The US's biggest banks reported their results on Friday, and they were full of ups and downs. On the one hand, big banks boasted of plush consumer businesses: after all, they’re still making money from credit and debit card fees as folk keep spending despite the worsening economy. On top of that, higher interest rates helped balloon JPMorgan’s “net interest income” – that’s money it makes from lending minus the interest it pays – by 34%, and that helped America’s biggest bank grow its overall revenue by 10% versus this time last year.

US banks' net interest income

On the other hand, though, the banks’ investment banking (IB) revenues plummeted as cautious companies stepped back from things like big mergers – which banks advise on for a fee – in this wearisome economic climate. In fact, Morgan Stanley’s IB revenue was 55% lower than the same time last year, which pulled its overall revenue down by 12%.

Morgan Stanley IB revenue

Why should I care?

Zooming out: Run for cover.

Banks build up cash reserves to cover themselves in case hard-up borrowers default on their loans, and adding to those cash piles took a massive bite out of their bottom-line profit last quarter. In fact, JPMorgan topped up reserves by a chunky $800 million, and its CEO blamed a dismal combination of sky-high inflation, rising interest rates, war in Ukraine, and a few other factors for the bank’s cautious move.

The bigger picture: Deep breaths.

Despite all the talk of a recession, we’re not actually doomed to repeat 2008’s financial crisis. Regulators learned a harsh lesson back then, and they’ve kept financial institutions on a short leash ever since, making sure their reserves are plump enough to cushion the blow a recession might bring. So if you’re looking for the smoke that comes as a crisis kindles, you probably won’t find it in the US banking system.

Keep reading for our next story...

China Floats While The World’s Flailing

China image

Fresh data out on Friday showed that China’s inflation was pretty gentle in September.

What does this mean?

Western countries may well be looking eastward with envy right now, comparing their own whirlwind price increases to China’s softer inflationary breeze. You can’t blame them: consumer prices in the world’s second-biggest economy were up just 2.8% in September compared to the same time last year. Granted, that’s the biggest increase since April 2020, but it’s still below economists’ expectations – and a damn sight better than the US’s 8.2%. China’s milder inflation was primarily driven by food prices, propelled by a shortage of pork (a food staple in the country) and temperatures that didn’t suit finicky fruit and veg. So when you really get down to brass tacks, month-on-month core inflation – which strips out volatile prices like food and energy – actually slowed to a mere 0.6%, the weakest it’s been since March 2021.

China inflation

Why should I care?

Zooming in: China’s inflation is so 2022.

Forget inflation, some analysts reckon that China could be poised for a price-dropping “era of deflation”, with demand on pretty shaky legs at the minute. The main culprit seems to be its floundering property market, which makes up a third of the country’s entire economy: it saw its twelfth-straight month of declining house prices in August – an anniversary that no one wants to celebrate. No wonder, then, that economists expect the government to announce a slew of new support measures.

China house prices
China house prices | Refinitiv, NBS

The bigger picture: Good news, gang.

Those deflation predictions might be bad news for China, but it could be just what the rest of the world needs. China’s the world’s biggest exporter, so any drop in its prices would mean other countries cough up less on imports. With a little luck, that could help take inflation off the boil across the globe.



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