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Bank earnings show higher lending at lower rates

Wells Fargo's net income was $5.6 billion in the second quarter of this year. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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Banks are the name of the game Friday, as Wall Street digests quarterly earnings news from Wells Fargo, Citigroup and others. Citi beat analyst expectations, though profit fell by 17 percent from a year ago to $4 billion. Wells Fargo’s net income fell to $5.6 billion, down from $5.7 billion in the second quarter of 2015.

The announcements follow Thursday’s better-than-expected report from JPMorgan Chase. After a rocky first quarter for many banks, JPMorgan made $6.2 billion in the second quarter, fueled by strong trading profits and growth in lending.

Analyst Nancy Bush with NAB Research had one big takeaway from JPMorgan Chase’s earnings.

“There is no sign – let me repeat, no sign – of a U.S. recession in these results,” Bush said.

Despite worries about a downturn, Bush said, people are depositing more money, and taking advantage of low interest rates to buy cars and houses. The bank’s consumer and business loans were up 16 percent from last year.

“Obviously, the gains in the economy are not equally distributed throughout the population,” she said. However, “there’s nothing in the consumer outlook right now that says that some of these doom and gloom scenarios that we’ve been hearing are going to come to pass,” she said.

Longer-term, low interest rates pose a risk to bank profits. Banks don’t earn as much from the loans they do make, or from other investments with lower yields.

After Brexit, interest rates are likely to stay low for some time, said analyst Erik Oja with S&P Global Market Intelligence.

“When there’s global uncertainty, there’s an additional rush into U.S. long-term Treasury securities, and that drives down interest rates,” he said. “In addition, global investors will sit on their wallets.”

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