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A modest M&A rebound has refueled the Goldman Sachs steamroller.

Goldman took the top spot in Thomson Reuters’ latest merger-and-acquisitions advice rankings, which list the most active investment banks in arranging deals around the globe.

Maybe money actually does sleep


Goldman has taken part in 255 announced deals worldwide this year worth $392 billion, Thomson Reuters said. That puts it ahead of No. 2 J.P. Morgan and No. 3 Morgan Stanley , each of which took part in about $340 billion worth of deals, and No. 4 Credit Suisse, with $270 billion worth.

Morgan Stanley was the No. 1 global M&A bank at this time last year, Thomson Reuters said.

The U.S. rankings shake out much the same way, with Goldman leading the pack, followed by the dethroned Morgan Stanley and then J.P. Morgan, a unit of JPMorgan Chase .

The report says merger activity in the third quarter picked up to its strongest level since the second half of 2008, though it remains just a shadow of its bubble-fueled 2007 peak. Announced M&A deals rose 21% from a year ago to $1.68 trillion, Thomson Reuters said.

Even so, deals this year are on track to barely hit half of the 2007 record of $4.16 trillion.

Goldman’s return to league table glory comes at a time when investors are bracing for a round of tough third quarter earnings reports and puzzling over how hard the banks will be hit by new capital rules and the like.

The report is also the first issued since Goldman concluded its three-month-long shoving match with the Securities and Exchange Commission over charges the firm defrauded investors in a 2007 subprime debt sale. The charges hammered the firm’s stock when they were announced in April and led to talk that Goldman had put its gilt-edged reputation at risk.

Goldman ended up forking over $550 million to settle the case, while admitting the mistakes were made. But suspicions have persisted that whatever Goldman’s missteps, motives weren’t entirely pure at the SEC either, which perhaps is why what looked at the time like a landmark case hasn’t ended up being much more than a sideshow.