2018 Bull/Bear Outlook: Is JPMorgan a Value Trap?

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Now that 2017 has come to a close, it is the perfect time for investors to contemplate what to expect in 2018. After all, this raging bull market is nearing nine years old, and it has been the strongest bull market that most investors have ever seen. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) rose 25% and the S&P 500 rose by almost 19.5% in 2017. Wall Street has cheered for tax reform, earnings growth and higher gross domestic product growth to continue this year, and who better to benefit from this than the banks.

24/7 Wall St. just came out with its annualized forecasting bias for the stock market in 2018. It looks like DJIA at 26,400 and at least 2,855 on the S&P 500 are now the baseline targets for this year.

It’s also worth pointing out that on the heels of tax reform, Credit Suisse is now targeting 3,000 and Oppenheimer is targeting 2,900 for the S&P 500 in 2018. At the end of 2017, the forward valuation for the S&P 500 Index was 18.5 times to 19.0 times expected earnings per share.

Currently JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) stock trades with a 13.5 forward price-to-earnings (P/E) multiple against 2018 expected earnings. This is cheap compared to the markets in general, but with the run that it saw in 2017 and the outlook for 2018, this could be a steal. However, analysts might see this as a value trap.

Investor be wary. Another well-known component of the Dow (IBM) has carried a low forward P/E multiple for a few years and seen its price slump. And while these are two different stories, this is a lesson investors can learn from.

Analysts are calling for JPMorgan to break even in 2018, or return a total of roughly 2%, which is almost entirely its dividend yield of 2.07%. This is not much at all compared to 2017 when the bank returned around 29%, but analysts are constantly re-evaluating their positions and with earnings around the corner this number could go up or down from here.

Looking ahead, this megabank expects to release its fourth-quarter financial results at the end of next week. Consensus estimates from Thomson Reuters that call for $1.68 in earnings per share (EPS) and $25.27 billion in revenue. The same period of last year reportedly had EPS of $1.71 and $24.33 billion in revenue.

Once earnings reporting season kicks off next week, investors will start to get a clearer picture of what to expect in 2018.

JPMorgan has a 52-week trading range of $81.64 to $110.03 and a market cap near $376 billion. Its weighting in the Dow is about 2.99%, but the rank is roughly eighth of the S&P 500.