JPMorgan's Credit Question Mark

Forget "What have you done for me lately?" -- many investors are now asking their investments, "What will you do for me tomorrow?" For major banks and investment banks such as Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS  ) and Lehman Brothers (NYSE: LEH  ) , that question is currently coming through loud and clear, as investors look for signs that their companies will avoid major turmoil from the credit markets in the coming quarters.

Today, Motley Fool Income Investor pick JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM  ) reported its second-quarter earnings. Though down from the first quarter of this year, the bank's earnings per share were up 22% year over year. The result easily topped the expectations of Wall Street analysts, who had projected $1.08.

Five of JPMorgan's seven segments showed positive year-over-year net income growth in the quarter. In particular, the investment banking, asset management, and corporate segments all displayed strong growth in the quarter. Investment banking, the bank's largest division, upped net income 41% year over year, and asset management gained 44%. The corporate segment, which includes the firm's private equity investing, produced net income of $382 million, versus $16 million in the prior year.

On the flip side, the firm's second- and third-largest divisions, retail financial services and card services, both showed lower profit versus last year. Though revenue in the retail financial services segment was up 15%, provisions for credit losses jumped from $100 million to $587 million. The firm attributed this increase to weak housing prices and expected losses from loans with high loan-to-value ratios. It also reported that home equity charge-offs more than tripled year over year, to $98 million.

JPMorgan's results for the quarter clearly show the benefits of its business diversification, as it was able to weather the storm from credit losses through strength from some of its other segments. Shares were down on Wednesday, though, likely reflecting the belief among investors that the credit storm will continue -- or get worse -- and the offsetting strength may not be there to cushion the blow.

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JPMorgan Chase is aMotley Fool Income Investor pick. Dividend lovers who enjoy market-beating returns can try out the service free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. The Fool's disclosure policy has never once been caught with its pants down. Of course, it doesn't actually wear pants...


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