If you own shares of JPMorgan Chase, you had reason to celebrate this week. The obscenely large bank posted an obscenely large — and record-breaking — profit of $5.7 billion for the third quarter. That’s a heck of a lot of money to make in just three months. It’s roughly $18 for every man, woman and child in the United States. How can any one company make that much money? Well part of the answer is, as Bloomberg News noted, that “JPMorgan benefited from gains in mortgage lending as low interest rates and federal incentive programs encouraged homeowners to refinance.”
Those same low interest rates, however, are playing havoc on savers. We reported this week that ING Direct was slashing the rates it pays on savings, CD and interest-bearing checking accounts. Meanwhile, U.S. Bank began cutting the perks it offers to customers of its high-end checking accounts.
Still, we managed to find a silver lining in the cloud hanging over savers’ heads. Our own Simon Zhen suggested that falling rates could prompt banks to create “cooler” CDs as a way to hold on to customers.
There was good news too for folks who have grown sick of the entire banking experience. American Express and WalMart rolled out their Bluebird prepaid debit program nationwide — offering people another in the growing list of alternatives to a traditional checking account.
And two of the more interesting players in financial technology, Dwolla and mFoundry, announced a partnership that is likely to lead to wider use of P2P payments.
Adding to this sense that things aren’t quite as bad as they seem were two stories that might elicit smiles from even the most jaded among us.
First, the newest member of our staff, Laura Li, created a slideshow to remind us that banks were once things of tremendous architectural beauty.
Second, an agency of that same federal government that has done so much to help giant banks did something to help people who could actually do with a little assistance. The Department of Education unveiled an Androd app that lets blind people identify paper currency.
Now if only someone would step forward to help the unfortunate Mr. Wow, we’d feel better about everything.
Finally, the good folks at Consumer Reports issued their annual list of the best credit cards. We took a look at their recommendations and did a sort of review of the review. As it turns out, two of the top 3 cards on Consumer Reports’ list are issued by Chase. Perhaps that suggests we shouldn’t begrudge Chase its gargantuan profits. On the other hand, we weren’t quite as impressed as was Consumer Reports.