The five largest banks in the United States reaped tens of billions of dollars in profits in the first half of the year, thanks in part to a strong economy and to the lingering effects of President Donald Trump’s tax cuts.
Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo have all seen their tax rates decline to 22% or less as a result of the cuts, compared with rates of around 30% three years ago, one of the most consistent sources of strength apparent in quarterly earnings reports issued this week.
JPMorgan’s tax rate fell to just under 15% in this year’s second quarter, although the bank said it would probably inch higher later in the year. Wells Fargo’s tax rate for the quarter was just over 17%, and Bank of America’s was 18%.
The reduced rates helped offset a general decline in Wall Street trading revenue and added some pep to what would have otherwise been unremarkable quarterly performances by most of the banks.
Bank of America had the strongest results across the board among the five. It earned $7.3 billion from April through June, 8% more than it did during the same period last year. It also reported growth in deposits and loans to consumers.
“We see solid consumer activity across the board,” Bank of America’s chief executive, Brian Moynihan, said in a statement. He added that the country’s economy still appeared to be “steadily growing.”
JPMorgan’s overall results were strong, too: It earned $9.7 billion for the quarter, 16% more than in last year’s second quarter. Its credit card business boomed, but revenue from other kinds of lending fell.
Activity on Wall Street has faltered recently, with investors unsure of how to plan for fallout from Trump’s continuing trade war and the increasing likelihood that the Federal Reserve will begin to cut interest rates after a brief period of increases.
“We don’t know what kind of rate cut we’re going to get, and we don’t know why,” Paul Donofrio, Bank of America’s chief financial officer, said. “That’s important.”
Lower interest rates could cause banks to earn less in interest on loans. Bank of America and JPMorgan both warned that the Fed’s likely shift toward lowering rates means that they would probably earn less in the second half of the year than they originally anticipated.
Goldman Sachs was the only one of the five big banks to declare some type of win on Wall Street, although it was a partial one: an increase in revenue from trading stocks and certain kinds of derivatives. At $9.5 billion, Goldman’s overall quarterly profit was down 2% from the same period last year. It was the only one of the five to report a decline.
Citigroup may have gotten the most significant lift from a lower tax rate. The bank’s chief financial officer, Mark Mason, said the strength in Citi’s adjusted per-share earnings — $1.83, higher than Wall Street analysts’ expectations — was mostly a result of the lower rate and of a decline in its outstanding shares. The decline stemmed from Citi’s repurchasing shares.
Citi, Bank of America, JPMorgan and Wells Fargo said last month that they planned to repurchase a combined $105 billion in shares over the next year.