Diane Swonk: What bank earnings mean for the economy at large

Headquarters of the U.S. investment bank JPMorgan Chase in New York.

Jeremy Hobson: We got earnings this morning from JP Morgan Chase, that's the first big Wall Street bank to report its quarterly results. The bank beat expectations with a quarterly profit of $4.3 billion.

And that's where we'll start now with Diane Swonk, chief economist with Mesirow Financial, who's with us live from Chicago as she is every Thursday. Good morning.

Diana Swonk: Good morning.

Hobson: So Diane, what are you going to be looking for as we start to get these earnigns from the big banks?

Swonk: Well, for the broader economy what we want to know is how they make money. Are they making money on their own investment banking, on their own trading accounts -- or are they making money by lending more to consumers and businesses. So far it seems as though only the largest of firms and middle-market companies with the most pristine of credit are getting a lot of loans out there. Consumers are still having a pretty tough time.

Hobson: Well, and as these banks -- like JP Morgan -- report, of course they're going to try to paint the prettiest picture of their earnings so that we all thing they're doing great. But do we really know how healthy the banks are?

Swonk: Well the banks certainly are more healthy than they were in 2008; that doesn't say much. But the stress tests that we saw in the United States far exceeded many's expectations into how stressful they were for the U.S. banks. I do think they're in pretty good shape relative to Europe, which is much more of a cosmetic stress test and really not revealing much at all about the strength -- in fact, probably revealing the weakness of European banks.

Hobson: Diane Swonk, chief economist with Mesirow Financial, thanks as always.

Swonk: Thank you.

About the author

Diane Swonk is chief economist with Mesirow Financial, based in Chicago.

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