The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a substantial toll on society. It has taken the lives of over 200,000 Americans. And it has caused a significant downturn in the economy. Unemployment rates are record high and the United States gross domestic product has taken a dive. However, one segment of society that has been impervious to the virus is Wall Street, specifically large banks.
This is shocking news, however, as many of the foundational components of banking have been damaged by the virus. For instance, a report from CNN Business News claims that “Interest rates are at historic lows, hurting their ability to make money off lending. Americans and many companies are strapped for cash, raising the prospect of big loan losses. And the economic outlook remains hugely uncertain.”
Despite this, however, the largest lender, JP Morgan Chase or JPM reported $9.4 billion in profit between July and September. This is a 4 percent increase from the year before. Their success was puzzling for many, and far exceeded Wall Street Analysts’ expectations.
The question then becomes, why are they doing so well? JPMorgan Chase is doing well because of the market boom that is occurring. The market boom has resulted in pressure for companies to sell debt and equity and consider mergers.
Despite the positive trends JPMorgan is enjoying, it is also important to consider where their shortcomings reside.
While big banks are making sizeable profits, their stock values are not doing nearly as well. For example, JPMorgan’s shares are down 28% and Citi has experienced a decrease of 45%.
Moreover, executives at JPMorgan are largely weary. In a statement from Chief Financial Officer Jennifer Piepszak, she said “there’s still a lot of uncertainty.” She continued to say, “we still have 12 million people unemployed.”
The beliefs of economic uncertainty on behalf of executives is reinforced by the trends of non-banking companies. For example, companies are STILL burning cash. One company that expressed this was the movie theatre chain AMC.
AMC reported that they predict they could use up all their funds and run out of money by the end of the year. This is unfortunate news and reflects the rather grim reality many businesses have faced as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Overall, banks and the financial industry appear to be doing well despite the other issues in the economy, perhaps suggesting that they are a degree out of touch with reality.