The heads of America’s largest banks have been some of the country’s most prominent optimists over the past two years, shooing away questions about the potential effects of President Donald Trump’s trade policies, cheering his tax cuts and offering periodic reassurances that things would all work out for the American economy.
But manufacturing activity and job growth are slowing, and trade talks with China that have so far produced only a “Phase 1” agreement that still has to be written and signed. And bankers are starting to worry.
“Of course there’s a recession ahead — what we don’t know is if it’s going to happen soon,” Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, said during a call on Tuesday with journalists to discuss the bank’s third-quarter earnings.
Even as his bank announced record high revenue, Dimon warned the strong position of consumers in the United States had come under pressure from “increasingly complex geopolitical risks, including tensions in global trade.”
The warning was new: Just six months ago, during another discussion of the bank’s earnings, Dimon had predicted that American economic growth “could go on for years.”
“We’ll just have to wait and see,” he said on Tuesday.
JPMorgan’s quarterly earnings were no worse for wear. The bank took in a record $29.3 billion during the third quarter and earned $2.68 per share, beating analysts’ expectations by 23 cents. Its deposits grew by 3% compared with the same period last year.
The report from Goldman Sachs, which also announced third-quarter results, along with Citigroup and Wells Fargo, was less rosy. The bank’s net earnings of just under $1.9 billion for the quarter were 26% lower than the same period last year and 22% lower than the second quarter of 2019. Goldman also announced it had set aside $291 million for credit losses, a 67% increase from last year.
Citigroup’s revenue was $18.6 billion, slightly lower than the previous quarter but a bit higher than its third-quarter revenue a year ago. But its corporate lending revenue decreased by 6% compared with the same quarter last year.
Wells Fargo reported $22 billion in revenue for the quarter, slightly more than the $21.9 billion it generated in the same three months a year ago, and said it had $50 million left over from what it had set aside for loan losses in the most recent quarter.