Goldman profits fall 21% from year ago, hurt by trading

NEW YORK — Goldman Sachs said its first quarter earnings fell by 21% from a year earlier, hurt by a slowdown in trading.

The investment bank earned a profit of $2.25 billion, or $5.71 a share, down from a profit of $2.83 billion, or $6.95 a share, in the same period a year earlier. The results did beat analysts' expectations, however. The average estimate of six analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of $4.74 per share.

Goldman's profits were primarily hurt by their trading desks. Once a place of record profitability for the bank, Goldman's trading desks have struggled under lighter trading combined with periods of extreme volatility that are hard to navigate.

Net revenues in Goldman's fixed income, currency and commodities division was $1.84 billion, down 11% from a year ago. Stock trading was even worse, reporting net revenues of $1.77 billion, down 24%.

David Solomon, Goldman's chairman and chief executive officer, described the quarter as a "muted start to the year," in a written statement.

Other parts of Goldman's businesses struggled as well. The bank reported a 12% decline in net revenues in its investment management businesses, and a 14% decline in net revenues in its investing and lending business.

Goldman has undertaken significant efforts in recent years to diversify the company into new forms of banking and financial services. The bank has a growing consumer banking franchise known as Marcus, which offers high-interest online savings accounts and CDs as well as debt consolidation personal loans. Goldman also recently jumped into the credit card business, becoming the issuing bank for Apple's new credit card.

The bank still does not break out Marcus, or its consumer bank franchise, as a line item on its results. However the bank did see a significant jump in interest income in the quarter, reporting net interest income of $1.22 billion, up 33% from a year earlier.

Goldman's return on tangible equity, a measurement that describes how well a bank is performing with underlying assets, was 11.7%. Banks like Goldman and its competitor Morgan Stanley aim for a return on equity above 10%.

Firm-wide Goldman said it had net revenues of $8.81 billion, down 13% from last year, below analysts' estimates, according to Zachs.

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