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Why Q1 Earnings May be Ill-Fated for JPMorgan (JPM) Stock

A huge respite from legal costs, effective cost cutting and increased revenues had helped JPMorgan Chase & Co. JPM to churn out juicy fourth-quarter results – beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate on both the top and the bottom lines – despite tough market conditions. But that failed to translate into any strength for its stock, as evident from its year-to-date plunge of over 11%.

In the absence of any known catalyst that can turn the tables, the stock might not have any better luck after the company releases first-quarter results on Apr 13. In fact, if the results disappoint, the stock could lose further value.

However, an earnings beat doesn’t look very difficult for JPMorgan, as the Zacks Consensus Estimate is pretty conservative at $1.26 after a number of downward revisions over the last couple of months.   

Our quantitative model doesn’t point to an earnings beat though. Here’s why:

JPMorgan doesn’t have the right combination of the two key ingredients – positive Earnings ESP and a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) or better – for increasing the odds of an earnings surprise.

Zacks ESP: The Earnings ESP for JPMorgan is +2.38%, but it alone isn’t enough to enhance the chance of an earnings beat.
 
Zacks Rank: JPMorgan carries a Zacks Rank #5 (Strong Sell), which makes our earnings prediction difficult. Also, we caution against Sell-rated stocks going into an earnings announcement, especially if the company has seen negative estimate revisions.

The lackluster performance by the JPMorgan stock so far this year can be attributed to the uncertainty over the Fed’s rate hike schedule, concerns related to banks’ exposure to the distressed energy sector and the expected ill effects of the low rate environment on the finance industry. We believe the chance of first-quarter results validating the concerns is high. The industry-wide disruption across the key operating segments can dampen JPMorgan’s overall performance in the quarter.
          
Likely Factors at Play

The anticipated adverse impact of plunging oil prices, a weakening global economy and low interest rates resulted in low client activity and volatility in the financial markets. As a result, JPMorgan has already hinted at dismal trading activities (particularly fixed-income and equity trading) in the first quarter, which is typically a strong quarter for the industry.

Further, the continued shift toward electronic platforms may have weighed on the investment banking performance of JPMorgan.
 
Moreover, JPMorgan’s revenues from advisory and underwriting may have been dampened by the persistent decline in M&A activities and a weakening IPO market in the wake of the global rout.

At its Investor Day conference, JPMorgan's corporate and investment bank chief Daniel Pinto said that that the company’s first-quarter investment banking revenues are expected to be down 25% year over year. He also revealed a 20% decline in markets revenues due to a tough comparison with the year-ago period.  

The mortgage business is not expected see any improvement either. People might have rushed to get homes financed to avoid higher rates later, but that did not help the bank’s business anyway. Low margin on fresh mortgages due to low rates made the mortgage business miserable. Further, repayment and charge-off of mortgage loans at a rate faster than fresh originations might have led to a declining trend in outstanding mortgage loans.

JPMorgan continued with its efforts to keep expenses at check. The company had outflows related to legal settlements, but there was nothing as such to impact its earnings unusually. The company has agreed to settle two of its biggest cases – one related to Lehman Brothers and the other pertaining to Insurer Ambac – for about $2.5 billion. However, it doesn’t expect any of the settlements to materially affect its earnings.   

Stocks That Warrant a Look

Here are a few bank stocks that you may want to consider, as our model shows that these have the right combination for an earnings beat this time around:

With an Earnings ESP of +1.96% and a Zacks Rank #3, MB Financial Inc. MBFI is expected to report on Apr 18.

Fidelity Southern Corporation LION has an Earnings ESP of +2.86% and carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). It is scheduled to report results on Apr 21.

The Earnings ESP for Heartland Financial USA, Inc. HTLF is +3.28% and it carries a Zacks Rank #3. The company is scheduled to release results on Apr 25.

Want the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. http://www.zacks.com/registration/pfp/?ALERT=RPT_7BST_LP194&... blog">Click to get this free report >>


Want the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. Click to get this free report
 
JPMORGAN CHASE (JPM): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
HEARTLAND FINCL (HTLF): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
MB FINANCL INC (MBFI): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
FIDELITY SOUTHN (LION): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
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