Goldman Sachs posted better-than-expected quarterly earnings on Monday but its revenue took a hit amid tough market conditions for its trading business.
For the first quarter, the bank generated $2.25 billion of profit, or $5.71 a share, easily beating analysts’ estimates of $4.89 per share. But revenue fell 13% to $8.81 billion, compared to expectations of $8.9 billion.
Goldman’s first revenue miss in two years reflected what CEO David Solomon called a “challenging” trading environment as slowing global economic growth and dovish central bank rhetoric resulted in lower government bond yields, flattened yield curves in the U.S. and Europe, and significant declines in market volatility.
Revenue from the firm’s institutional client services trading division, its biggest business by far, dipped 18% to $3.61 billion in revenue for the quarter. Analysts had expected $3.69 billion, marking the fourth-straight miss and eighth in nine quarters.
Goldman shares fell 3.8% to $199.91 on news of the earnings Tuesday.
“Of the six biggest U.S. banks, Goldman is the most dependent on Wall Street activities, and that exposes them to the decline in trading in the quarter,” CNBC noted.
In an earnings call, Solomon said the big rebound for the stock market led to lower volatility and that “ongoing political risk” — most notably, U.S.-China trade tensions and the U.K.’s Brexit negotiations — kept some investors on the sidelines.
Goldman cushioned the impact of the revenue drop on its bottom line by, among other things, booking $3.26 billion in pay and benefits for the quarter, 20% less than a year ago and well below the $3.58 billion estimate. It also trimmed headcount by 2% from the fourth quarter.
CFO Stephen Scherr said Goldman was conducting “broad and deep” reviews of its businesses to improve client services, with no revenue source escaping scrutiny.
“Let me be clear, our efforts are not designed as a cost-cutting exercise, which we could accomplish quickly,” he said. “Instead, this is an effort to invest in talent technology platforms and straight-through processing to drive new sources of revenue, improve efficiency and drive higher margins.”