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You'd think a story in The Wall Street Journal about executives fleeing JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM ) might put pressure on its stock. But by the looks of it, that doesn't appear to be the case, as shares of the nation's largest bank by assets were briefly higher in intraday trading despite just such an account.
According to the Journal's blog MoneyBeat, two former high-ranking JPMorgan executives are in the process of poaching former direct reports to fill positions at the companies they now run. Charlie Scharf, the current CEO of Visa and one-time Dimon ally who followed him from Citigroup to BankOne and then to JPMorgan, has purportedly lured Ryan McInerney away from the bank to serve as Visa's president in charge of global client organization. McInerney had been the CEO of consumer banking at JPMorgan and served on the executive committee.
In addition, JPMorgan's recently departed co-COO Frank Bisignano, who took the helm at First Data Corp., has hired a former deputy from the bank, Christine Larsen, to be the data processor's new COO.
Moves like this, of course, are nothing new on Wall Street, and they may even play into JPMorgan's hand, as it's in the process of redeploying staff in response to the bank's mounting legal and regulatory troubles. According to SNL Financial, a research firm based in Charlottesville, Va., the bank currently has four regulatory enforcement actions outstanding against it -- this is the most of any other big bank -- and is expecting more. It's for these reasons, among others, that at the end of last week, my colleagues Ilan Moscovitz and John Reeves implored readers to simply avoid its stock altogether.
These issues aside, there are two catalysts that go a long way toward explaining why shares of JPMorgan, as well as many other banks, were briefly higher this afternoon. In the first case, data released by the Commerce Department -- click here for the official press release -- showed that new home sales grew by 29% on a year-over-year basis. And in the second case, the Labor Department reported that weekly jobless claims fell last week by 23,000 compared to the prior week -- the actual figures are available here.
It should go without saying at this point that the current employment situation in the United States is one of the biggest impediments toward a sustained economic recovery. And as you can see in the chart above, while the weekly jobless claims have bounced off their recent lows, the long-term trend is unquestionably headed in the right direction, as we're now roughly back to the same figures that prevailed at the beginning of 2008.
What does this mean for JPMorgan? Assuming the trend continues, it's clearly good news. The bank has been reporting record profits over the last few quarters, and these are only bound to grow if the economy picks up steam and lending follows suit.
With big finance firms still trading at deep discounts to their historic norms, investors everywhere are wondering if this is the new normal, or if finance stocks are a screaming buy today. The answer depends on the company, so to help figure out whether JPMorgan is a buy today, check out The Motley Fool's premium research report on the company. Click here now for instant access!