The nation's largest stand-alone investment bank, Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS), reported third-quarter earnings this morning that were flat compared to the year-ago period. For the three months ended Sept. 30, the company earned $2.88 per share compared to $2.85 per share last year.

Goldman's results are consistent with a now-familiar pattern of performance that's emerged from competitors. Revenues were decimated, falling by 20% on a year-over-year basis, while expenses were dramatically cut to make up for the difference.

"The third quarter's results reflected a period of slow client activity," said Chairman and CEO Lloyd C. Blankfein.

Reminiscent of both JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup reports, Goldman was hit particularly hard in its proprietary trading operations, where revenues fell by 32% over the last 12 months. The decline followed a period of low volume in the fixed-income markets stemming from concern about the Federal Reserve and the budget and debt limit impasses in Washington.

Speaking of the latter, Blankfein noted that, "As longer term U.S. budget issues are resolved, we could see an improvement in corporate and investor sentiment that would help lay the basis for a more sustained recovery."

The board also increased the firm's quarterly dividend from $0.50 to $0.55 per share.

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