(Bloomberg) -- Wall Street’s traders are picking up the slack as income from lending slumps across the industry.

In a rare sweep, fixed-income and equities traders at five of the largest US banks beat estimates for the first quarter. Altogether they posted nearly $2 billion more from trading than analysts expected, eking out a small gain from a year ago in defiance of an anticipated decline.

“Interest in investing in equities has increased,” Jim DeMare, Bank of America Corp.’s head of global markets, said in an interview Tuesday. Broadly, geopolitical tensions and economic uncertainty have “caused investors to rethink their strategy, which drives opportunity in the markets.”

The haul helped ease the blow from disappointing net interest income, driven lower by increased pressure to pay out more for deposits. JPMorgan Chase & Co. ended a spree of seven record consecutive quarters with its NII results last week. Lenders had been bracing for an end to the quarterly windfalls they reaped as the Federal Reserve lifted interest rates — which prompted Evercore ISI analyst Glenn Schorr to write “the beat-and-raise party had to end at some point.” 

As lending income slowed, banks returned to relying on their core Wall Street operations. Bank of America traders notched one of their best first quarters on record on Tuesday, boosted by a surprise 15% increase in equities trading to $1.87 billion. Morgan Stanley’s fixed-income trading business posted $2.49 billion in revenue, compared with estimates of $2.33 billion, while equities revenue was $2.84 billion. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. traders delivered $7.63 billion in revenue on Monday, surging past analyst estimates. At JPMorgan, both fixed income and equity trading beat forecasts. 

Read more: Bull Case Fizzles for Big Banks to Earn Ever-More on Lending

“The overall level of markets revenue has stabilized at meaningfully above what was normal in the pre-pandemic period,” JPMorgan Chief Financial Officer Jeremy Barnum said Friday, citing volatility and uncertainty around rate expectations and “natural background growth” as drivers. “For now, that does seem to be the new normal.”

Deal Rebound

While senior executives were reluctant to make predictions about trading results, they emphasized a pickup in another Wall Street business: investment banking. The group also uniformly trounced estimates for debt and equity underwriting, and predicted more to come. 

“Where we stand today, it’s clear that we’re in the early stages of a reopening,” Goldman Sachs Chief Executive Officer David Solomon said Monday. “I’ve said before that the historically depressed levels of activity wouldn’t last forever. CEOs need to make strategic decisions for their firms, companies of all sizes need to raise capital, and financial sponsors need to transact to generate returns for their investors.”

It’s a welcome reprieve after a massive slowdown over the past two years. Economic uncertainty stemming from rising interest rates and geopolitical tensions hampered investment-banking results, whiplash for banks and their shareholders on the heels of a pandemic-era boom in 2021. 

“We expect the steady build of this business to continue,” Morgan Stanley Chief Financial Officer Sharon Yeshaya said on a conference call Tuesday. “The underlying trends suggests that confidence is increasing.”

--With assistance from Katherine Doherty.

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