JPMorgan Chase said Friday that fourth-quarter net income jumped 47 percent as the company was able to set aside less money to cover loan losses.
The New York bank earned $4.83 billion, or $1.12 per share. That compares with $3.28 billion, or 74 cents a share, during the same quarter last year. Analysts surveyed by FactSet forecast the bank would earn $1 per share.
In pre-market trading Friday, JPMorgan shares were down 17 cents to $44.28.
The bank increased the amount set aside for litigation by $1.5 billion. In the fourth quarter, several private investors sent letters or sued banks and tried to get them to buy back bad home loans, saying that the loans were improperly written.
In a call with the media, CEO Jamie Dimon said he believed that the hurdles for investors to force banks to buy back such loans are high and expects to fight the claims in court.
Income from JPMorgan's investment banking unit fell 21 percent from last year, but was up 17 percent from the third quarter on higher fees related to underwriting debt issues. However, the widely watched salary and bonuses in this division increased over three times to $1.8 billion in the fourth quarter, compared to $549 million in the same quarter last year.
The company in its release didn't indicate when the bank would resume paying out its much-anticipated dividends. Investors will look for answers in a conference call scheduled later Friday morning.
Momentum has been building after Dimon hinted in recent investor presentations that the bank could raise its annual dividend from 20 cents per share to as much as $1. If it gets approval from the Federal Reserve, JPMorgan could start paying higher dividends starting in the second quarter, which begins April 1.
Most U.S. banks were forced to cut their dividends after the financial crisis in order to preserve cash. After almost two years of profits and strengthening balance sheets, banks like JPMorgan are ready to raise their dividends.
JPMorgan aggressively rolled out new credit cards in 2010, leading to a 9 percent increase in new accounts compared to the previous year. Customers who were late paying credit card bills by 30 days dropped to 3.6 percent, from 5.52 percent in the previous year.
The bank set aside $3 billion for future losses from all its divisions, down by $5.9 billion, or 66 percent, from the prior year. However, a closer look at its mortgage business shows that Americans are still hurting and finding it difficult to meet home loan payments.
The bank added $2.1 billion to the amount set aside for losses in home loans written by Washington Mutual, the failed bank it bought in 2008. Most of it was related to souring home equity loans.
For the full year, JPMorgan had net income of $17.37 billion, or $3.96 a share, up 48 percent from $11.73 billion, or $2.26 a share.
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