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Goldman Sachs profit hit by lower trading revenue

January 16, 2015

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Stock prices whiz by on a ticker near the Goldman Sachs booth.Photograph by Chris Hondros — Getty Images

Goldman Sachs (GS) reported a 7% drop in quarterly profit Friday, as investment banking revenue slid and an unexpected bout of market volatility in December hit revenue in its business that trades bonds, currencies and commodities.

Goldman’s net income fell to $2.17 billion, or $4.38 per share, in the fourth quarter from $2.33 billion, or 4.60 per share, a year earlier.

Analysts had expected earnings of $4.32 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Investment banking revenue fell 16% to $1.44 billion, while revenue in the bank’s division that trades bonds, currencies and commodities — a traditional strength for Goldman — fell 29% to $1.22 billion.

Excluding gains related to repayment of debt and the sale of a majority stake in the firm’s European insurance business in 2013, revenue in that division fell 19%.

“Looking ahead, we see evidence of a continued pick up in momentum for the global economy that will improve the opportunity set for 2015,” Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein said in a statement.

Fixed income trading has come under pressure in recent quarters due to weak client trading volumes and stricter capital rules in the aftermath of the financial crisis.

A surprising burst of volatility in December exacerbated the problem by discouraging many investors from taking positions.

Barclays analysts had expected Goldman to report a 13% decline in revenue from its fixed income, currencies and commodities (FICC) trading business.

JPMorgan Chase & Co’s (JPM) FICC revenue fell 14% in the quarter, Citigroup’s (C) 16% and Bank of America’s (BAC) 30 percent.

Of the big U.S. banks reporting this week, only Wells Fargo (WFC) managed a rise in profit, largely because it is more focused on retail and commercial banking.

Revenue in Goldman’s investing and lending division, which puts the bank’s own capital to work by investing in companies and lending to them, fell 26% to $1.53 billion.

Goldman used 36.8% of its revenue for compensation last year, slightly down from 2013. Many analysts had expected the compensation ratio to be flat to slightly lower as the bank tried to make up for weak revenue.