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Bank Profits Collectively Declined by 70% in Q2

By Eric Volkman - Aug 26, 2020 at 1:39PM

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There was one clear reason for the queasy drop: loan-loss provisioning.

According to a report issued by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) on Tuesday, in Q2 the nation's lenders collectively experienced a 70% year-over-year drop in net profit to $18.8 billion.

Up until this year, recent banking industry net profits had stayed relatively steady. From Q2 2018 to the final quarter of last year, they tended to hover around the $60 billion mark.

In Q1 and Q2 of 2020, the main reason for the steep fall in profitability is clear: loan-loss provisioning. Banks routinely allocate capital to hedge against potential loan defaults. Before the coronavirus pandemic, that provisioning was comparatively modest, particularly given the long-tail rise of the economy. But once the pandemic hit and businesses started to close, fears of widespread defaults rose dramatically.

A person cutting a set of U.S. currency bills.

Image source: Getty Images.

Loan-loss provisioning is a line item that directly affects profitability, hence the sudden and sharp erosion of bottom-line results. According to the FDIC's data, in Q2 American banks increased such provisioning by a massive 380%, to nearly $62 billion.

Almost every major U.S. bank has experienced that higher provisioning/lower profitability dynamic since the onset of the pandemic. Collectively, the big four in the sector -- Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, and Wells Fargo -- added $57 billion for loan-loss provisioning in the first six months of this year.

Fortunately for the major banks, the capital markets have been very active throughout the pandemic, with trading volumes helping cushion the blows to top and bottom lines. For example, the $7.3 billion JPMorgan Chase reaped in Q2 from fixed-income trading alone helped propel it to its all-time highest quarterly revenue figure ($33.8 billion), and to a net profit of almost $4.7 billion.

Eric Volkman has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Stocks Mentioned

JPMorgan Chase & Co. Stock Quote
JPMorgan Chase & Co.
JPM
$115.76 (3.03%) $3.40
Bank of America Corporation Stock Quote
Bank of America Corporation
BAC
$33.96 (1.68%) $0.56
Citigroup Inc. Stock Quote
Citigroup Inc.
C
$51.66 (0.78%) $0.40
Wells Fargo & Company Stock Quote
Wells Fargo & Company
WFC
$43.76 (2.31%) $0.99

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