Updates with latest share price, added information about the results.

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- JPMorgan Chase ( JPM) shares were closing in on a new 52-week high Wednesday after the bank topped Wall Street expectations for its first-quarter profit by a dime early Wednesday, aided by a strong revenue performance from its investment bank unit.

JPMorgan said it earned $3.3 billion, or 74 cents a share, for the three months ended in March with total revenue coming in at $28.2 billion. That performance was flat with its profit in the fourth quarter but up 55% from the same period a year earlier, in which it made $2.14 billion, or 40 cents a share.

The average estimate of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters was for a profit of 64 cents a share in the latest quarter on revenue of $26.47 billion.

The better-than-expected revenue was a switch from the miss JPMorgan experienced in the fourth quarter when it fell short on the top line, and the shares rallied on the news. The stock was up 2.9% to $47.21 in morning trades. The high of $47.41 for the session was just below the stock's 52-week peak of $47.47, which dates back to Oct. 15, 2009. The performance was also lifting the rest of the big banks.
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Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon cited the performance of the investment bank unit, especially in fixed income markets, for the strong earnings, but noted the company's "good results" were still partially offset by high losses in its consumer credit portfolios. He also expressed confidence in the progress of the U.S. economy in his comments.

"While the economy still faces challenges, there have been clear and broad-based improvements in underlying trends," said Dimon in a press release. "We believe these improvements will continue and are hopeful they will gather momentum, resulting in a strong recovery."

The investment bank unit posted revenue of $8.32 billion for the latest three months with $5.5 billion of that attributed to its fixed income markets activities. The total revenue figure for the unit was off slightly from $8.37 billion in the same period last year, but it rose markedly from $4.93 billion in the fourth quarter.

JPMorgan said investment banking fees produced revenue of $1.4 billion, an increase of 5% from a year ago, with debt underwriting revenue rising 23% year-over-year to $728 million.

On the consumer credit front, the company said its Chase portfolios showed improvement in delinquencies. Provisions for credit losses for its retail financial services and card services units totaled $3.7 billion and $3.5 billion, respectively, with both numbers representing declines on a year-over-year and sequential basis.

JPMorganâ¿¿s big banking brethren will be reporting over the next two weeks or so with earnings results coming due from Bank of America ( BAC) on Friday, Citigroup ( C) on Monday, Goldman Sachs ( GS) reporting April 20, and Morgan Stanley ( MS) and Wells Fargo ( WFC) reporting April 21.

JPMorganâ¿¿s stock finished Tuesday at $45.87, pulling back 27 cents after closing above $46 on Monday for the first time since mid-October. Year-to-date, the shares have gained a respectable 10.1%, ahead of the 5.7% rise for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, but lagging the roughly 30% appreciation of the KBW Bank Index ( BKX).

--Written by Michael Baron and Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

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