Morgan Stanley bond trading revenue surges, profit handily beats estimates

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A sign is displayed on the Morgan Stanley building in New York© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A sign is displayed on the Morgan Stanley building in New York

(Reuters) – Morgan Stanley (N:) wrapped up the earnings season for big U.S. banks on a resounding note, comfortably beating quarterly profit estimates and raising the possibility that the Wall Street bank could raise its strategic targets.

The bank met most of its key quarterly financial targets set by Chief Executive James Gorman, powered by strength in its bond trading and underwriting businesses.

Morgan Stanley’s robust performance in trading mirrored a similarly upbeat showing from bigger rivals Goldman Sachs (N:) and JPMorgan (N:), thanks largely to easier comparisons with a year ago when financial markets were roiled by trade and global growth concerns.

Morgan Stanley’s revenue from sales and trading rose 28% to $3.19 billion. Bond trading sales more than doubled to $1.27 billion from a year earlier.

Revenue from investment banking, which includes advising on deals and helping corporations raise money, rose 11.2%, buoyed by higher bond and equity underwriting.

“We delivered strong quarterly earnings across all of our businesses … This consistent performance met all of our stated performance targets,” Gorman said in a statement.

Under Gorman, Morgan Stanley has been hitting key financial targets consistently for some time, which suggests he may announce new targets soon, according to analysts.

Morgan Stanley’s returns on equity for the full year 2019, fell to 11.7%, from 11.8%, a year earlier, while return on tangible equity dropped marginally to 13.4%.

However, the two profitability measures met the bank’s earlier targets for a return on equity of between 10% and 13% and a return on tangible common equity of between 11.5% and 14.5%.

For the full year, wealth management reported a pretax profit margin of 27.2%, within the firm’s target of 26%-28% pretax profit margin for the year.

In the fourth quarter, the bank was hurt by severance costs of $172 million related to a 2% reduction of its workforce globally due to an uncertain global economic outlook.

Investment management revenue nearly doubled to $1.36 billion, with overall net revenue rising by 27% to $10.86 billion.

Shares of the bank were up around 2% in high volume premarket trade.

The bank said earnings attributable to common shareholders rose to $2.09 billion, or $1.30 per share, in the quarter ended Dec. 31, from $1.36 billion, or 80 cents per share, a year ago. (

Analysts had expected a profit of 99 cents per share, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

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