It's Good to Be Goldman

Life ain't bad for Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS  ) these days. Quarterly earnings just destroyed analyst expectations by more than 100%.

Seriously. 100%. I don't know what happened here -- were analysts embarrassingly wrong, or was Goldman stupendously strong? It really doesn't matter. Revel in it while it lasts.

Net income came in at $3.39 per share, crushing analyst estimates of $1.60 per share. Revenue was $9.43 billion, ahead of expectations of $7.09 billion. Net income was actually higher than in the same quarter last year -- a period when investment bankers enjoyed Christmas parties instead of congressional hearings.

Almost all of the strength came from the bank's fixed income, currency, and commodities (FICC) operations, where revenue jumped 109% -- leading to a 40% revenue jump in the trading and principal investments segment. In fact, the results of Goldman’s other two segments were pretty depressing -- investment banking revenue fell 30% and asset management revenue fell 29%.

That sole strength in FICC -- where Goldman makes markets for its clients and invests its own capital -- could be a telling sign for other banks that report earnings in the next few weeks. FICC is primarily a brokerage operation that creates fees off of spreads received from market-making activity, unlike traditional bank business that relies on a borrowers' ability to repay loans. In a weird, ironic way, the market volatility that's wreaked havoc on the financial industry as a whole has been a boon to market makers like Goldman.

So far, we've seen strength from Goldman's trading operations and Wells Fargo's (NYSE: WFC  ) merger economics with Wachovia. Since both are special situations, it's hard to predict whether their strength will carry over to the other large banks, namely Citigroup (NYSE: C  ) , Bank of America (NYSE: BAC  ) and JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM  ) . We'll find out soon, though, as they report earnings over the course of the next week.

Perhaps the best news was confirmation of a long-expected move: Goldman will issue a $5 billion stock offering to help repay taxpayers in full for the $10 billion of TARP capital injected last fall. Banks still technically need regulatory approval before repaying TARP funds, but Goldman almost certainly wouldn't set up a huge stock offering if it didn't already have a wink-wink authorization from its Washington overseers.

Add it up, and things are really coming together for Goldman. Shares have doubled since January, its business model still allows it to rake in profits, and it's about to permanently distance itself from pitchfork-wielding taxpayers.

Recession or no recession, it's good to be Goldman.

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Fool contributor Morgan Housel doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.


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  • Report this Comment On April 14, 2009, at 4:03 PM, Melaschasm wrote:

    My first reaction to Goldman's announcement last night was very similar to this article. Today the market has punished Goldman with a 9% reduction in value (so far).

    Is the market over reacting to dilution concerns, or does the fact that Goldman is talking about selling stock, not bonds mean that the credit markets are not improving as much as was suspected a couple days ago?

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