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JPMorgan's first quarter could've been a whole lot worse

Sam Ro
Managing Editor

JPMorgan's (JPM) Q1 could've been a whole lot worse.

Earnings for the first three months of the year fell to $1.35 per share from $1.45 a year ago. However, this cleared the low $1.24 per share expected by analysts.

"We delivered solid results this quarter with strong underlying drivers," CEO Jamie Dimon said. "While challenging markets impacted the industry, we maintained our leadership positions and market share in the Corporate & Investment Bank and Asset Management, reflecting the strength of our platform."

Shares were up 2.7% in pre-market trading.

Investment banking and trading was expected to be a mess

Banking analysts have long warned about weakness in Wall Street's investment banking and trading businesses.

"We expect that trading results in the first quarter will show that the poor trading environment that plagued the second half of 2015 continued into 2016," KBW analyst Frederick Cannon said on Sunday. "As a result, we expect the group to post the worst first-quarter trading revenues since the financial crisis."

And that poor trading environment makes it that much more difficult for investment bankers to close deals.

"We expect investment banking revenues to be weak this quarter, mainly due to continued market volatility that froze capital markets activity—particularly in equity capital markets (ECM) where initial public offering (IPO) volumes declined more than 67% year-over-year (Y/Y)," Cannon said.

JPMorgan's investment banking revenue fell 24% year-over-year to $1.23 billion, and it was worse than the $1.36 billion expected by analysts. However, fixed income and equity trading revenue fell 11% to $5.17 billion, which was better than the $4.58 billion expected.

Overall, JPMorgan reported Q1 revenue of $24.08 billion, which was stronger than the $23.8 billion expected.

Energy debt continues to be a problem

One of the big stories in the global markets and economy continue to be persistently low energy prices. While this may be good news for consumers, it's bad news for the investors and creditors of drillers.

"The provision for credit losses was $304 million, compared to $61 million in the prior-year quarter, reflecting higher reserves for the Oil and Gas portfolio and Natural Gas Pipelines," JPMorgan said in its earnings release.

"To date, deterioration [in credit quality] has been largely energy-related with minimal loss realization; we expect some loss realization to follow prior quarters' deterioration," Credit Suisse's Susan Roth Katske said on Tuesday. "What's the benefit of the recent increase in oil prices... we don't expect management to sound the 'all clear.'"

Indeed, while oil prices have stabilized and come back a bit, it will be a while before the dust settles and we realize just how badly the energy price crash rippled through the industry.

Sam Ro is managing editor at Yahoo Finance

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