J.P. Morgan

(JPM) - Get Report

, the nation's fifth-largest bank holding company, said Monday that a robust business environment contributed to an acceleration in growth in January and February, compared with the last quarter of 1999.

"Earnings so far this year have been excellent,'' Douglas A. Warner 3rd, J.P. Morgan's chairman, said in a statement. "Results in January and February were significantly ahead of the average monthly pace of last year's fourth quarter."

According to a survey by

First Call/Thomson Financial

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, Wall Street analysts expect J.P. Morgan to earn $2.32 a share, compared with $3.01 in the year-earlier period and $2.63 in the fourth quarter of 1999.

The company's stock surged, closing up 5 15/16, or 5.6%, at 112.

Speaking at an investor briefing, Warner said the growth stemmed from a broad base of its operations, especially equities, fixed income, investment banking and asset management. Its proprietary investing and trading activities were also profitable, Warner said.

Brokerage firms are expected to post strong results in the first quarter because of a continued rise in stock-market activity, while investment banks are continuing to benefit from a hot climate in the mergers-and-acquisitions sector.

"We've been raising our estimates for all the investment banks that report the February quarter because investment banking, trading and secondary and primary activity are all higher," said James Hanbury, an analyst at

Schroder & Co

. "The same things are true for J.P. Morgan."