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Jan 16, 2020

Morgan Stanley completes banks' winning week

Morgan Stanley Bond-Trading Revenue Lifts Profit to All-Time High


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Morgan Stanley fixed-income traders completed a clean sweep by Wall Street banks, surpassing analysts’ estimates and joining the rest of the industry in staging a roaring comeback.

Like its bigger counterparts earlier in the week, Morgan Stanley reported a massive surge in bond-trading revenue that lifted annual profit to an all-time high. Fees from the unit more than doubled while equity trading was virtually unchanged, according to a statement Thursday. The firm also beat analysts’ estimates for merger advice and stock and debt underwriting.

“Firmwide revenues were over US$10 billion for the fourth consecutive quarter, resulting in record full year revenues and net income,” Chief Executive Officer James Gorman said in the statement.

The final three months of 2019 offered relief for banks stung by a years-long slump in the fixed-income market. Investors had been expecting a rebound from 2018’s especially terrible fourth quarter, and the big banks delivered. At Morgan Stanley, the figure advanced 126 per cent to US$1.27 billion. Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg had predicted a 67 per cent rebound.

Shares of the company, which jumped 29% last year, advanced 2.1 per cent to US$54.06 at 7:29 a.m. in early New York trading.

Morgan Stanley, the world’s biggest stock-trading firm, said revenue from that business was $1.92 billion, slightly below analysts’ estimates.

Investment-banking revenue increased 11 per cent to US$1.58 billion on the strength of its underwriting business. Analysts had been expecting declines for the deal-advisory unit and gains for underwriting.

Wealth-management revenue surpassed expectations with an 11 per cent gain to US$4.58 billion. The firm leans on managing money for wealthy individuals and clients for more than half its revenue.

Under Gorman, Morgan Stanley made expanding in wealth management its top priority in the years following the financial crisis. Some analysts now say that business has matured, meaning the trigger for more gains for the firm hinges on trading and other capital-market activity.