NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- JPMorgan Chase (JPM - Get Report) a year ago laid out a path toward "normalized" earnings of $27.5 billion, and that figure may be pushed significantly higher at the bank's annual investor conference on Tuesday.
The nation's largest bank holding company earned $17.9 billion, or $4.35 a share during 2013, with earnings lowered significantly by $7.2 billion, or $1.85 a share in after-tax litigation expenses, including a build-up of litigation reserves, during the third quarter. This prepared the company for $17.5 billion in residential mortgage-backed securities settlements with government authorities and private investors during the third quarter. JPMorgan's 2013 earnings also suffered from $1.1 billion, or 27 cents a share in fourth-quarter legal expenses, which included the company's deferred prosecution agreement with the Department of Justice over its role in the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme.
To put the normalized annual earnings goal of $27.5 billion into better perspective, JPMorgan earned a record $19.0 billion, or $4.48 a share, during 2012, despite losses exceeding $6 billion, before tax, from the "London Whale" hedge trading debacle.
JPMorgan's executives may be relieved that the company hasn't seen much in the way of negative headlines this month, following the Madoff settlement in January and a seemingly endless array of headlines -- many seemingly driven by leaks from regulators and the Justice Department -- last year.
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The company's stock is the second-cheapest among large-cap U.S. banks, trading for just ___ times the consensus 2015 earnings estimate of $6.35 a share, among analysts polled by Thomson Reuters, based on Thursday's closing price of $57.58. The consensus 2014 EPS estimate is $4.98.
When looking at all 288 U.S. bank stocks for which consensus 2015 EPS estimate are available, JPMorgan is among only 18 names trading for less than 9.5 times forward earnings estimates. When limiting the list to actively traded names with average daily trading volume of at least 50,000 shares, JPMorgan is the 6th cheapest.
Looking ahead to Tuesday Jefferies analyst Ken Usdin expects the company to need "a little help" reaching the $27.5 billion target, because of continued pressure on the bank's net interest margins, since the Federal Reserve continue to keep the short-term federal funds rate in a historically low target range of zero to 0.25%.
But in a note to clients on Tuesday, Usdin wrote that "We believe JPM can deliver the full $27.5B given last year with some help from incremental cost control and other new growth initiatives."
"The range implies EPS of $6.50-$7.00 on today's share count, but longer-term, we believe capital deployment can drive EPS toward $7.50," Usdin added, alluding to expected common-share buybacks.
Usdin rates JPMorgan a "buy" with a price target of $66, implying 15% upside over the next 12 months.
Credit Suisse analyst Moshe Orenbuch is even more upbeat for JPMorgan's investor conference, as he expects the bank's normalized annual net income target could rise as high as $29 billion, "which would put EPS roughly at ~$7.50 depending on the share count."
"While this EPS level may be somewhat aspirational over the near-term given environmental factors, we think the target is achievable over the longer-term as legal and mortgage expenses normalize and JPM realizes benefits of its growth initiatives," Orenbuch wrote in a client note Friday.
A silver lining for JPMorgan Chase will be the eventual decision by the Federal Open Market Committee to raise the federal funds rate, which together with the tapering of "QE3" bond-purchases by the Fed are expected to lead to a parallel rise in long-term and short-term interest rates. The company in its annual 10-K filing on Wednesday estimated that a parallel rise in long-term and short-term rates of 100 basis points would increase its annual net interest income by $2.518 billion, while a parallel rate-rise of 200 basis points would grow net interest income by $4.718 billion, based on its Dec. 31 balance sheet.
Orenbuch estimates JPMorgan will face litigation expenses of $2.5 billion during 2014, and also estimates the company has $8 billion in remaining litigation reserves, providing plenty of cover.
Orenbuch rates JPMorgan "outperform," with a price target of $70, implying 22% upside over the next year.
JPMorgan's shares were up down slightly during the first minutes of trading, to $57.56.
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