JPMorgan Chase & Co. offices in New York. (Scott Eells / Bloomberg )
JPMorgan Chase & Co. reported a 33% jump in profit in the first quarter as the nation's largest bank by assets saw the economy and housing market strengthen.
The New York-based bank said it earned a record $6.5 billion, or $1.59 a share, for the three-month period ended March 31, up from $4.9 billion, or $1.19 a share, for the same period a year ago.
Continued improvement in the housing market led to a 37% jump in mortgage originations, while the bank also saw strong growth in investment banking and asset management.
“If you look at the current American economy … businesses large and small are stronger, the banking system is much stronger," Jamie Dimon, the bank's chairman and chief executive, said in a call with reporters. "I would say it's quite strong.”
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The bank did see a slowdown in some units. Dimon cited softer loan growth in the first quarter.
"Small businesses remain cautious about the recovery and fiscal uncertainty, and are not investing their capital," Dimon said in a statement.
The bank's revenues declined to $25.8 billion in the first quarter, down from $26.8 billion a year ago. Banks continue to feel the squeeze of interest rates remaining near-record lows as the Federal Rerserve pumps billions of dollars into the economy.
Boosting quarterly profit was a drop in expenses tied to litigation. JPMorgan booked $2.5 billion in additional litigation expenses in the first quarter of last year.
JPMorgan also benefited from a decrease in how much it set aside for loan losses -- $617 million in the first quarter, down from $726 million in the same period a year ago.
Dimon said the looming government spending cuts because of the federal budget "sequester" were unlikely to halt the economy's growth, since it accounts for only 2% of government spending.
“Housing has turned the corner -- home prices going up, stock prices are up. We're in pretty good shape,” Dimon said. “The sequester itself is not that big a deal."
JPMorgan's shares shed 13 cents, or 0.3%, to $49.18 in early trading on Wall Street as major U.S. indexes also opened lower.
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