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Fitch downgrades JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Fitch downgrades JPMorgan Chase & Co.

May 11th, 2012 in News

NEW YORK (AP) - Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor's Ratings Services each downgraded their assessment of America's biggest bank, JPMorgan Chase & Co., on Friday.

The rating agencies' move comes a day after JPMorgan disclosed a surprise $2 billion trading loss in a portfolio designed to hedge against risks the company takes with its own money.

Fitch said the size of the loss is manageable but the risk it brings is not. The magnitude of the loss and JPMorgan's hedging position imply a lack of liquidity. The loss also raises questions about its practices, oversights and other key issues, according to the rating agency.

Fitch said JPMorgan's risk to its reputation and governance no longer merit an "AA-" rating and lowered its long-term issuer default rating one notch to "A+", which remains in investment-grade territory. It also lowered a number of other ratings on the New York company and placed it on review for possible future downgrades.

At its current "A+" rating though, JPMorgan remains among the elite.

Fitch said that the company is the leader in the U.S. with a growing international business. It also has a sufficient cushion to absorb any unlikely losses. But the complexity of its operations makes it difficult to fully assess the bank's exposure to risk, and the long-term implications for its reputation remain to be seen.

As a result, Fitch believes JPMorgan's ratings remain at risk for downgrade until its governance practices, appetite, oversight and reputational impact can be more fully examined.

Upon assessing JPMorgan's hefty trading loss, S&P lowered its outlook on the company to "negative" from "stable." A negative outlook implies the possibility of a future rating downgrade.

The negative outlook reflects concerns raised by the miscalculations that played a role in the hedging losses, S&P said.

"We believe the possibility for broader problems with hedging strategies is not consistent with what we viewed as the company's sound risk management practices," said S&P credit analyst Stuart Plesser.

S&P still sees JPMorgan's broad lines of businesses and geographic diversification as positive factors for the company, and noted that hedging strategy losses are unlikely to weaken JPMorgan's customer relationships or core banking businesses.

S&P affirmed its "A/A-1" issuer credit ratings on JPMorgan, and its "A+/A-1" ratings on the company's banking subsidiaries.

JPMorgan's shares fell more than 9 percent, or $3.78, to close at $36.96 Friday, and its blunder sent shares of many financial companies down for the day. The stock shed another 22 cents in after-hours trading, to $36.74.