JPMorgan profits drop 50 percent

JPMorgan Chase reported a 50 percent drop in quarterly profits, to $2.37 billion, beating expectations. Revenue dropped 11 percent. The bank wrote down $2.6 billion from the value of its loan portfolio and added $5.1 billion to its credit reserves. Investors seemed pleased with the results. (AP in Yahoo! Finance) JPMorgan said it was hit by a slumping job market, which left customers unable to pay credit-card debt and other loans. (Bloomberg) Separately, The Wall Street Journal reported that Merrill Lynch will take another $6 billion to $8 billion in asset writedowns this quarter, which would push it to its third straight quarterly loss. (Reuters)

France Telecom weighs $54 billion aquisition

France Telecom is considering a $54 billion bid for TeliaSonera, Sweden’s largest telecommunications company, France’s Le Figaro reported. France owns 27 percent of France Telecom and reportedly backs the deal; Sweden owns 37 percent of Telia and Finland 13.7 percent. (MarketWatch) The acquisition would push France Telecom ahead of Deutsche Telekom, but not Spain’s Telefonica, in market value, and give it access to Nordic and Turkish markets. The deal’s “lack of geographical overlap” should ease antitrust concerns, said Dexia analyst Roby Goyens. But “that’s perhaps also one of the weaker points—in terms of potential synergies,” he added. (Reuters)

Intel earnings ease tech concerns

Intel, the world’s top computer chip maker, reported a 12 percent drop in quarterly profit, to $1.44 billion, roughly in line with estimates. But it issued an optimistic outlook for 2008, affirming its profit-margin targets for the year. (Reuters) The expectations for “healthy demand” in its core computer and server chip business reassured investors worried about the economic downturn severely crimping demand in the tech sector. ( The results are “encouraging,” especially for North America and Europe, said analyst David Wu at Global Crown Capital. “Those markets appear pretty good for Intel. And what’s good for Intel is good for PCs.” (AP in Yahoo! Finance)

Faith and funds

Wall Street plays host to about 50 Catholic, Protestant, and Islamic mutual funds, with combined assets of about $17 billion. A decade ago, such funds has assets worth $500 million. Piety has paid off for these funds, too, with a five-year average annualized return of 10.5 percent. Faith-based funds avoid businesses that offend the sensibilities of their marquee religion, which in most cases means steering clear of tobacco, alcohol, gambling, and pornography stocks. For Islamic funds, it also means avoiding banks and other interest-charging firms. “Not investing in financials proved to be good for us recently,” said Nicholas Kaiser, who manages the Islamic Amana Income Fund. (