Investment Banking

Revenue Drops 40% at Goldman’s FICC Unit

“We didn't navigate the [fixed-income] market as well as we aspire to or as well as we have in the past," Goldman's CFO says.
Matthew HellerJuly 18, 2017

Goldman Sachs shares fell 2.5% on Tuesday as investors focused on the continuing troubles of the bank’s fixed income, currency, and commodities client execution unit rather than its quarterly earnings beat.

For the second quarter, Goldman delivered earnings per share of $3.95, ahead of analysts’ estimates of $3.43 EPS, while its net revenues of $7.89 billion beat the forecast of $7.5 billion.

The bank posted its third-best quarter for debt underwriting revenues, with $721 million in fees, and equities had its best quarter in two years, with $1.89 billion in revenue.

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But at the FICC unit — traditionally, a Wall Street powerhouse — revenue fell 40% to $1.16 billion, the worst quarterly performance since the fourth quarter of 2015. CFO Marty Chavez said the commodities business had its worst-ever quarter.

“It was a difficult quarter on all fronts,” he told analysts in an earnings call, adding, “We didn’t navigate the market as well as we aspire to or as well as we have in the past.”

Goldman said the unit generated “significantly lower net revenues in interest rate products, commodities, credit products and currencies” and “operated in a challenging environment characterized by low levels of volatility, low client activity and generally difficult market-making conditions.”

As The Australian Financial Review reports, heavy bond-buying by the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan has driven down long-term interest rates in Europe and Japan, but also stifled market volatility, trapping long-term bond yields in very tight trading ranges.

The low volatility, in turn, has encouraged investors to pour their money into passive funds, rather than the actively-managed funds offered by big investment banks.

JPMorgan, Bank of America, and Citigroup also suffered lower earnings from their fixed income divisions in the second quarter, but according to Business Insider, “the scale of the decline at Goldman Sachs is likely to worry Wall Street analysts and investors.”

Goldman’s FICC unit also had a tough first quarter, with revenue increasing by just 1% on the year-ago period and dropping from the final three months of 2016.