Thursday, January 18, 2007

Is My Understanding of the English Language Becoming Obsolete?

In today's Wall Street Journal, Joe Dickerson, an analyst at Atlantic Equities LLP, is quoted saying that J.P. Morgan "is making tangible progress on leveraging its diverse business model to the bottom line." Atlantic Equities is a London independent research firm.

What does he mean? By "diverse business model," does he mean that J.P. Morgan has multiple business models? Or does he mean that the bank's business model is based on a diversity of business (each with its own business model)?

I have a personal preference for the more straightforward verb "lever" over the rethreaded noun, "leverage." Whatever my preference, I know I am spitting into the wind on this one. That said, how does one lever a diverse business model to a bottom line? That is not a matter of levering or amplifying.

So what does he mean? My hunch is that J.P. Morgan has made progress integrating banks it has bought and achieving some economies of scope between such diverse businesses as securities trading, investment banking, retail banking, and credit cards. And perhaps he is right.

If I were an investor in J.P. Morgan, my worry would be this: The bank is gaining an earnings boost from over levered consumers who are falling back on their credit cards lines. Will that interest income disappear in the future when some of those balances evaporate into loan loss reserves?

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