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JPMorgan smashed it out of the park

JPMorgan kicked of earnings season for banks on Friday and crushed it.

The firm beat analyst expectations across investment banking and trading — and had a historically strong quarter in one business in particular. 

In fixed income, or FICC, trading, JPMorgan reported revenues of $4.33 billion for the quarter — up 45% from the same quarter a year ago — smashing analyst expectations of $3.17 billion. The beat was driven by higher revenues in rates, credit, and securitized products, the firm said.

To be clear, that’s a huge quarter. In fact, it’s the biggest for JPMorgan since the first quarter of 2013, when the firm reported FICC revenues of $4.8 billion.

And it comes in a period that is usually one of the quietest of the year. First quarters are usually the strongest for trading businesses.

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JPMorgan

This could be good news for Wall Street. If you’ve been paying attention to the fixed-income world, you know that business has had a terrible run in recent years. FICC revenues fell 9% across major banks in 2015.

Many firms have been cutting FICC headcount, including Deutsche Bank, Credit SuisseGoldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley, which cut 25% of the division last year.

But as most firms began to turn away from the business, JPMorgan said it would stick to its guns.

“We’re investing in it,” CEO Jamie Dimon said at the bank’s investor day in February. “We’re investing in it more on the technology side.”

CFO Marianne Lake later echoed that sentiment, saying at the time that JPMorgan’s fixed-income markets business continued to perform as its rivals retrenched.

That started to look as if it was paying off in the second quarter this year, when JPMorgan reported solid revenues of $3.96 billion, its strongest since Q1 2015. There was some question at the time over whether Brexit had had a significant impact on banks’ FICC trading revenues during that quarter.

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Coalition

When the UK decided in June to leave the European Union, JPMorgan posted record foreign-exchange trading volumes, at one point processing 1,000 trading tickets per second, according to Dimon. That would have had an impact on the firm’s foreign-exchange revenues, but JPMorgan was up in numerous divisions, including rates, credit, emerging markets, and securitized products. 

Now it appears even more clear that JPMorgan is seeing a real pick-up in the business.

We’re not totally surprised by the news — in fact, a number of analysts, including Deutsche Bank’s Matt O’Connor, UBS’ Brennan Hawken, and Macquarie’s Piers Brown predicted a stronger quarter in FICC, especially for JPMorgan.

But the fact that that firm had such a strong does raise the question of whether we’ll see positive surprises from any other the other firms.

Citigroup and Wells Fargo are set to report third-quarter earnings later on Friday, while Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley report next week.

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