Boy, if The Business Press Maven didn't know better, I'd think JPMorgan (JPM) actually made money this quarter. But unlike much of the business media, I do know better.
It was a one-time, nonrecurring accounting fluke that caused the so-called surprise "profit." That's hardly reason to break out the bubbly.
Keep in mind as we review some of the coverage of this earnings report that no better a source than JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon termed the results "very disappointing." He obviously wasn't buying into the notion that a one-time, nonrecurring accounting fluke meant anything significant.
But the business media? Well, there they go again.Read this CNNMoney.com headline and weep: "JPMorgan Chase posts surprise profit." The real surprise, though, came way down in the fourth paragraph, with this: "Helping boost the results was a one-time gain of $1.3 billion, related to its purchase of the failed savings and loan Washington Mutual last year. Excluding this, JPMorgan Chase said it would have reported a loss of 28 cents per share during the quarter." So for all ongoing purposes, they lost 28 cents. Then why the flashy, excited headline that raises hopes and expectations? But at least CNNMoney deigned to mention the one-time charge that rendered the profit all but meaningless. That wasn't the case with The New York Times. In an article with the not-so-very-disappointed headline "JPMorgan Reports Slim Profit in Tough Quarter," the lead picks up on the same note of misguided satisfaction: "JPMorgan Chase reported a $702 million profit for its fourth quarter on Thursday, topping forecasts for a quarter expected to be among the toughest in its history."
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