Goldman Sachs profit soars on post-election surge in trading

By By Olivia Oran and Richa Naidu Markets Reuters

(Copyright Reuters 2017)

Goldman Sachs Group Inc reported a nearly fourfold rise in quarterly profit on Wednesday, benefiting from a surge in trading following Donald Trump's surprise win in the U.S. presidential election.

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The fifth largest U.S. bank by assets, which relies more on revenue from trading stocks and bonds than other Wall Street companies, posted a 25 percent jump in trading in the fourth quarter compared with the prior year.

Goldman reported revenue from trading fixed income, currency and commodities soared 78 percent to over $2 billion, making the business the biggest revenue driver for the firm.

Morgan Stanley , Goldman's closest rival, reported on Tuesday that revenue from fixed-income trading more than doubled in the latest quarter.

Equities revenue at Goldman fell 9 percent to $1.6 billion. The bank relies heavily on hedge fund clients, which drove less trading activity at the end of 2016, UBS analyst Brennan Hawken said.

While Goldman typically relies more on trading than its competitors, it has been trying over the last few years to wean itself off the business and move to stable markets such as investment management.

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Goldman has also made a push into consumer lending, launching an online platform called Marcus late last year.

Net income attributable to common shareholders soared to $2.2 billion in the quarter from $574 million a year earlier, when the Wall Street bank was hit with a $5 billion legal settlement.

Earnings per share rose to $5.08 from $1.27.

On an adjusted basis, the bank earned $5.08 per share, beating the average analyst estimate of $4.82, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Total net revenue jumped 12.3 percent to $8.2 billion, above the average estimate of $7.7 billion.

"After a challenging first half, the firm performed well for the remainder of the year as the operating environment improved," Chief Executive Officer and Chairman Lloyd Blankfein said in a statement.

Goldman shares edged up nearly 1 percent in premarket trading, having risen about 30 percent since the election. Bank stocks soared in the aftermath of Trump's win as investors bet that his policies would lead to a stronger U.S. economy and less stringent banking regulation.

Gary Cohn, Blankfein's longtime No. 2, left Goldman during the fourth quarter to serve as director of the National Economic Council in the Trump administration.

Chief Financial Officer Harvey Schwartz and investment banking co-head David Solomon have replaced Cohn as co-presidents of the firm.

Goldman, which launched a program in 2016 to cut $700 million in annual costs, said operating expenses dropped 23 percent to $4.8 billion in the latest quarter.

Full-year expenses fell 18.9 percent to $20.3 billion, the lowest since 2008, the bank said.

Annualized return on equity, a measure that shows how well a bank uses shareholder money to generate profit, was 11.4 percent in the quarter, above the 10 percent that analysts believe is needed to cover a bank's cost of capital.

Investment banking revenue, including income from advising on mergers and acquisitions as well as underwriting bond and share offerings, fell 3.9 percent to $1.5 billion.

The bank maintained its position as the world's No. 1 M&A adviser in 2016 with a 35.9 percent market share of completed deals, according to Thomson Reuters data, ahead of Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase & Co .

Revenue from investment management rose 3.4 percent to $1.6 billion.

(Reporting by Richa Naidu in Bengaluru and Olivia Oran in New York; Editing by Ted Kerr and Jeffrey Benkoe)