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JPMorgan Bucks Mortgage Trend

Trouble in the mortgage markets is not fazing JPMorgan Chase (JPM), which is actually looking to add personnel to its lending unit.

During a presentation at the Merrill Lynch Banking & Financial Services Conference on Tuesday, CEO Jamie Dimon said the firm was looking to build its six core businesses: Banking, retail, credit cards, commercial banking, treasury and securities services and asset management.

JPMorgan is also looking to expand its mortgage business. The move is contrary to other lenders and banks including Countrywide Financial (CFC), which has had to slash thousands of jobs as a result of declining originations and a general malaise over the mortgage industry.

"We think this is one of the great opportunities," Dimon said.

The plans to hire come as the company prepares to bring $12 billion to $20 billion of subprime, Alt-A loans and jumbo mortgages onto its balance sheet, Dimon said.

JPMorgan Chase has emerged relatively unscathed by the credit crunch thus far, compared to other large diversified banks such as Citigroup (C) and Merrill Lynch (MER). Those two firms were forced to take billions in writedowns as a result of declining values on their exposure to collateralized debt obligations, or CDOs. The large writedowns ultimately led to the departure of CEOs Chuck Prince at Citi and Stan O'Neal at Merrill Lynch.

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