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JPMorgan/US banks: cash back

Over the past couple of years mega US banks have returned ever-larger proportions of their profits to shareholders, in the form of dividends and share repurchases. Regulators in Washington are satisfied that balance sheets can cope with the worst downturn imaginable. The banks can therefore buy back, and then cancel, more shares than they issue through options and grants.

In JPMorgan’s case, the number of shares outstanding dropped 5 per cent from a year earlier to 3.39bn, more than analysts’ forecasts, bringing total falls since a post-crisis peak to more than 15 per cent. At Citigroup, which also made bullish noises on Friday, the share count dropped 8 per cent in the third quarter.