Marianne Lake doesn't goof around. On earnings calls, the JPMorgan CFO's sober British calm provides a useful counterweight to Jamie Dimon's uninhibited spitballing. So there was no hint of humor in her voice when Lake, speaking at Deutsche Bank's 2017 Global Financial Services Conference Wednesday, explained the bank's lackluster recent trading revenues:
“There is not a lot to trade around. There haven’t been that many idiosyncratic events, and we need a few more of them.”
For those whose jobs don't involve staring at equities prices all day long, that might seem like an extraordinarily dry way of describing a quarter that has seen once-in-a-generation headlines like “Senators Discuss Impeachment” and “U.S. President Literally Threatens Germany,” etc. There are few words that better describe the tumultuous state of the current global political climate than “idiosyncratic.”
But political distemper doesn't necessarily touch markets. Volatility in the S&P is at record lows and 1-percent daily moves have been few and far between since the election. Revelations like, say, the fact that the president's son-in-law is willing to cooperate with authorities over a massive investigation into the administration possibly maybe sort of colluding with a foreign government to win an election – well, what's the impact on equities, anyway?
What traders really need is another Brexit, a market-shaking event that provided plenty of grist for traders' mills around this time last year. Lake said JPM's trading revenues were down around 15 percent from the second quarter 2016.
Maybe we would all do well in these anxious times to take on the meditative indifference of the equities market to the whipsaw of the daily news cycle. That is, until the bear comes around.