If you're trading method favors hunches, crossed-fingers and throwing wishes into wells, buy JP Morgan (JPM) on today's strength in the prelude to their earnings release on Friday.
If, however, you favor clear-eyed reason, forgo the stock, at least until after the earnings report. Is that asking too much? After all, Wall Street is expecting 80-85 cents a share, but the real story is the deplorable loss from the London Whale, the trader responsible for a heretofore-unknown quantity of pain.
How big is the loss? How will JP Morgan attempt to offset the loss? Will JP Morgan be solidly profitable, as Jamie Dimon bumptiously promised, and if they are-will it even matter?
If JP Morgan's promised profit is the highly manufactured product of loan loss or litigation reserves or any other gamesmanship, it won't the Business Wire it's carried on.
The upshot is: Friday promises to be messy, with a chance of cloudy. JP Morgan will put out every stunt in the book and traders still might not know the final extent of the London Whale losses, pegged anywhere between $2-$8 billion and up.
Traders are treating Friday as a punctuation mark, a defined end to JP Morgan's recent troubles. But a smoke and mirror earnings report won't settle much. Besides, the public is not in a forgiving mood about the sins and transgressions of banks.
Meanwhile, back on planet earth: JP Morgan-along with Citigroup (C), Bank of America (BAC), Goldman Sachs (GS), Morgan Stanley (MS) and Wells Fargo (WFC), which also reports Friday, are dealing with challenges from an unspooling China to an American housing market that seems forever stuck in the mud.
You want to face everything from a whale to the mud on a hunch? Be my guest. But clear-eyed reason seems the order of the day.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.