Wall Street banks may be poised for a turnaround in the key fixed income, currencies, and commodities, or FICC, trading business – but only one firm really looks to be pulling ahead.
While the major banks generally posted decent rebounds in FICC revenues for the second quarter, most were still down or flat compared with the first half of 2016.
JPMorgan, which earned $7.6 billion in FICC revenues in the first half of 2016, was the only firm to post an increase for the period. It was up 7% compared with the first half of 2015.
- At Goldman Sachs, FICC revenues of $3.6 billion for the first half of 2016 were down 24% compared with the year-ago period. At Morgan Stanley, FICC revenues of $2.2 billion for the first half of 2016 were down 36% compared with the year-ago period. At Citigroup, FICC revenues of $6.6 billion for the first half of 2016 were flat compared with the year-ago period. At Bank of America Merrill Lynch, FICC revenues of $4.9 billion for the first half of 2016 were flat compared with the year-ago period.
JPMorgan’s quarterly FICC revenues were the highest for the firm since Q1 2015, when they were $4.1 billion. You’d have to go back to Q1 2013 to find significantly better results ($4.8 billion).
The firm chalked the strong results up to higher revenues in rates; currencies and emerging markets; credit; and securitized products.
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 last year.
That’s a big problem for the banks. FICC trading, also known as bond trading, is an important business, as it makes up a significant portion of the revenue pool.
But as most firms began to turn away from the business, JPMorgan has said it will 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.”
- JPMorgan Chase & Co.
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.
It’s important to note the potential effects of the so-called Brexit on JPMorgan’s trading results. When the UK decided in June to leave the European Union, the firm posted record foreign-exchange trading volumes, at one point processing 1,000 trading tickets per second, according to Dimon.
That will have had an affect on the firm’s foreign-exchange revenues, but JPMorgan was up in numerous divisions. And it’s unlikely that it would account for a 35% jump in revenues.
On a call with journalists last Thursday, Lake said the strong quarter was not attributable solely to Brexit.
“With oil stabilizing, policy stabilizing in China, obviously with the global monetary policy discussions, Brexit, there’s just a lot of activity in the client base,” she said. “And so we were strongly up in rates, up in emerging markets and currencies, and also spreads tightened and the risk appetite came back in the spreads products.”