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Jamie Dimon offers answer to earnings estimate game

Jamie Dimon
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Jamie Dimon

JPMorgan Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon weighed in Thursday on an issue that dogs investors every earnings season: How to compare companies' profit and loss numbers to Wall Street estimates.

With the quarterly accusations flying that companies talk down their outlook to analysts in order to beat lowered expectations, Dimon wrote in an email to CNBC: "Report two real numbers; this year versus last year."

He's saying take the analyst estimate out of the equation, and hold companies accountable on how their businesses have grown or shrunk compared to the same quarter a year earlier.

To be sure, Wall Street certainly gets those numbers and myriad other metrics, but generally holds companies most accountable to how their numbers compare to analyst expectations.

It's worth noting that JPMorgan beat Wall Street estimates with its earnings this week. But first-quarter profit fell 6.7 percent from a year earlier.


Money managers are also wondering whether the system needs to be overhauled.

Atul Lele, chief investment officer of Nassau, Bahamas-based financial firm Deltec International Group, told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Thursday: "The companies are sandbagging especially so in this environment, where there's a lot of uncertainty. It gives them the opportunity to sandbag."

Lele, a former head of strategy and economics at Credit Suisse, accused analysts of not doing a lot of independent research on the companies they cover.

"Most of the time the analysts just listen to what the companies are telling them," he said. "The company is sandbagging it ... and the analysts just put in the numbers the company guided towards."

Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at Washington-area economic advisory firm The Lindsey Group, was more reserved about the usefulness of analyst estimates.

"I guarantee about 70 percent of companies will beat estimates. And that happens every single quarter. That's really more of the normal. That should be the benchmark that people should go off of," he contended Thursday on "Squawk Box."

"If it's more than 70 percent I would consider it a good quarter relative to expectations. Anything below 70 percent, I think about would be a bit disappointing," said Boockvar, who before The Lindsey Group spent a brief time at hedge fund Omega Advisors and 18 years at Miller Tabak.

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— CNBC's Andrew Ross Sorkin contributed to this report.