JPMorgan and Citigroup Report Slow Trading in Otherwise Strong Results

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It’s not a bad time to be a bank — unless you’re a trader.

Two of the nation’s biggest banks disclosed weak trading results on Friday, as relatively calm markets have made it difficult to wring money from the business.

JPMorgan Chase announced that revenue from both its fixed income and equity trading fell 14 percent in the second quarter of 2017, to $4.8 billion.

The other big bank, Citigroup, said that its comparable trading revenue declined 7 percent, to $3.9 billion.

Yet the decline in trading did not dent what was an otherwise glowing report for JPMorgan, whose $7 billion in profit for the quarter was up 9 percent from the year-ago period.

JPMorgan more than made up ground with areas like commercial banking and asset and wealth management, both of which posted strong double-digit gains.

“The U.S. consumer remains healthy, evidenced in our strong underlying performance in consumer and community banking,” Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan’s chief executive and chairman, said in a statement.

In a conference call with analysts, Mr. Dimon expressed frustration that political gridlock and “stupidity” was restraining economic growth.

“What I’m saying is, it will be much stronger growth had we made intelligent decisions and we were not gridlocked,” he said, noting that “we are unable to build bridges; we’re unable to build airports.”

“It’s almost an embarrassment being an American citizen traveling around the world and listening to this,” Mr. Dimon said, employing an expletive.

Citigroup reported a 3 percent decline in profit for the second quarter, to $3.9 billion, though its earnings per share still exceeded analysts’ estimates. And its 6 percent decline in fixed-income trading revenue from the quarter a year ago was less than expected.

The slowdown in trading, predicted in May by banking executives, highlighted what has been a tough period for traders of many stripes.

What trading thrives on is volatility, jolts in the markets that displace asset prices and create opportunities to make money.

But consider what has not happened. The Federal Reserve has not changed its plan to gradually raise interest rates. Congress has not passed either of the Republicans’ health care overhaul bills, and it appears to be deadlocked on other major initiatives. Other disruptive political moments — including a defeat of the centrist, pro-European Emmanuel Macron in June’s French elections — did not come to pass.

That placidity sits in stark contrast to what happened in 2016, from Britain’s decision to leave the European Union to the election of Donald J. Trump as president.

That has reportedly led to a lot of downtime for traders, which some of them have used to play golf or video games.

What the two banks, two of the biggest in the United States, have suffered will probably be reflected in competitors’ results. Bank of America has estimated that its trading business will probably be down more than 10 percent.

Banks will have to rely on other divisions to make up for what once was their most profitable business line.

Citigroup enjoyed strong performance in investment banking and corporate lending.

Still, shares of big banks, which had surged in the wake of plans to increase dividends with the passage last month of the Federal Reserve’s stress tests, fell on Friday morning.