1Q EARNINGS: JPM Chase Data Offers Some Signs for Industry; Regionals Losing Loan Share; Harbinger for Investment Banking

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Byline: Matthew Monks

Though many focused on the upside earnings surprise in JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s first-quarter profit report, just as noteworthy, and perhaps more so, were the apparent gains in market share on both sides of its balance sheet.

The New York company said Thursday that it extended $150 billion of credit to 4.5 million customers in the first quarter. It noted a surge in mortgage originations and automotive lending. In the fourth quarter the company made more than $100 billion of loans.

The first-quarter total was "a huge amount of money," James Dimon, JPMorgan Chase's chairman and chief executive, said in a conference call Thursday with reporters. "I think one of the huge misperceptions out there is that banks aren't lending" during the recession.

Gary B. Townsend, the CEO of Hill-Townsend Capital LLC, said the loan growth indicates that the company is stepping in to fill a void vacated by reeling regional banks and alternative loan providers like hedge funds.

"The loan numbers are impressive in the context of an economy that shrank in the first quarter," Townsend said. JPMorgan Chase is using its "heft to elbow out" rival lenders.

On the retail side, it said its consolidation of Washington Mutual Inc. was "on track." The purchase of the failed thrift's banking operations last year helped drive JPMorgan Chase's financial services division to a profit of $474 million in the quarter, compared with a $311 million loss a year earlier.

Average deposits in the retail bank rose 2% from the fourth quarter and 62% from a year earlier, to $345.8 billion. The growth from a year earlier was largely a result of the Wamu acquisition.

William Fitzpatrick, an analyst with Optique Capital Management in Milwaukee, said the 2% growth was impressive, given the heated competition for deposits.

"It's a great opportunity to be scooping up market share," he said. "The growth in deposits is very encouraging. That would suggest that they are taking share from their more challenged competitors."

Dimon said JPMorgan Chase's lending ability would not be hampered if it were granted permission to pay back the $25 billion it took from the Treasury Department last year - something the company would like to do "as soon as possible." Repaying the funds would not affect the company's capital ratios, he said, and it would not need to raise capital to close the deal.

"Obviously, we're waiting for guidance from the government," Dimon said. "Folks, it has become a scarlet letter."

The stigma of federal aid is one reason JPMorgan Chase plans to opt out of the burgeoning Public-Private Investment Program, in which private investors will purchase troubled assets with federal loans. …