The nation's second-biggest bank is warning investors that underwater homeowners may walk away from their mortgages.
In a Monday filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, JPMorgan Chase told investors and regulators that homeowners who owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth may not continue to make their payments -- even when they're able to.
"Declining home prices have had a significant impact on the collateral value underlying the firm's residential real estate loan portfolio," the bank stated. "In general, the delinquency rate for loans with high LTV [loan-to-value] ratios is greater than the delinquency rate for loans in which the borrower has equity in the collateral.
"While a large portion of the loans with estimated LTV ratios greater than 100% continue to pay and are current, the continued willingness and ability of these borrowers to pay is currently uncertain."
Because of its size and reach, the bank, with more than $2 trillion in assets, is a bellwether for the industry, as well as for the broader economy. If the financial services giant can't reassure investors that underwater homeowners will continue to be willing to make their payments, it's a sign of how much the recent phenomenon of "strategic defaults" has grown.