JPMorgan Chase ( JPM) is a little over the top in its efforts to cheer up gloomy investors.Reading this morning's press release announcing a 10% drop in first-quarter net income to $2.1 billion, or 40 cents a share, I got the impression this was the best news ever. The bullet points at the top of the release shout out Victory! Here it is verbatim:
JPMorgan Chase Reports First-Quarter 2009 Net Income of $2.1 Billion, or $0.40 per Share * Generated record firmwide revenue of $26.9 billion and pretax, pre-provision profit of $13.5 billion (on a managed basis1): * Record revenue and net income in the Investment Bank; #1 rankings for Global Debt, Equity and Equity-related volumes and Global Investment Banking Fees * Solid growth in liability balances in Commercial Banking and Treasury & Securities Services * Washington Mutual integration on track, driving Retail Banking growth in deposits by 62% and in checking accounts by 126% * Net assets under management inflows of $119 billion over the past year in Asset ManagementThat certainly is good stuff, especially in this environment. But there's just a bit too much cheerleading and hyperbole in there. They are trying way too hard to prove everything is fine, in fact better than fine. Previous earnings releases were a little more matter of fact with straight-forward financial details in each of the bullets at the top. This time, though, it's all about the adjectives like "record" revenue and "solid" growth. How about that record revenue? No kidding - you mean that after adding all the revenue streams from the takeover of Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual the company is bigger than it used to be? You'd hope so. Dig a little deeper and you find that noninterest expenses jumped 50% to about $13.4 billion in part due to Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual. JPMorgan also doubled its provisions for credit losses to $8.6 billion, which is probably prudent in this environment. I'm told by TheStreet.com banking reporter Laurie Kulikowski that JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon was much more somber and realistic on this morning's earnings conference call, so maybe it's just the PR department that went a little nuts with this news release.
Or maybe JPMorgan wanted to make sure it got the same kind of attention that Wells Fargo ( WFC) and Goldman Sachs ( GS) received for the recent reports about net profit despite all the financial doom and gloom. No doubt JPMorgan also wants to establish some distance from Bank of America ( BAC) and Citigroup ( C), which are likely to focus on operating profit to strip out painful charges and costs that will brutalize their bottom lines. Ultimately, it's just a sign of the times. JPMorgan Chase posted a net profit and record revenue and they want to get some credit for it. Fair enough. No need to shout about it.