Banks continue to release earnings, and we just got a look at Goldman Sachs' (GS 0.02%) latest results. The short version is that although Goldman took a massive $1.1 billion legal charge in the fourth quarter, the numbers look very strong all around. Goldman Sachs' trading revenue rebounded sharply, asset management generated more than expected, and the consumer banking business continues to grow rapidly despite lower interest rates putting pressure on margins.
Here's a rundown of some of the key points investors need to know and where Goldman Sachs could be heading from here.
The headline numbers look great
On the top and bottom lines, Goldman handily surpassed expectations. The investment banking giant has a history of shattering earnings expectations but posted a rare miss in the third quarter, so this is likely a welcome relief to investors.
For the fourth quarter, Goldman generated $9.96 billion in revenue -- 23% more than it did a year ago and more than $1.4 billion more than analysts had been looking for. This was Goldman's highest fourth-quarter revenue since before the financial crisis.
On the bottom line, the bank earned $7.64 per share, which surpassed expectations by more than $2.00. It's important to note that Goldman had a $1.1 billion legal charge in the quarter that is not included in these numbers -- with the legal charge, earnings were just $4.69 per share.
Where did so much extra revenue come from?
While a nice bump wasn't unexpected after seeing fourth-quarter earnings from JPMorgan Chase (JPM 0.39%) and other bank stocks, Goldman Sachs' trading revenue soared at the end of 2019. Bond trading revenue spiked by 63% in the quarter and shattered expectations, while equities trading revenue grew by 12%.
Elsewhere in Goldman's business, asset management revenue soared by 52% to $3 billion, mainly fueled by the strong performance of the stock market and private equity holdings during 2019.
Big changes are coming to Goldman
Goldman Sachs recently announced that it is reorganizing its business to reflect its growing focus on consumer banking. The success of its Marcus savings and lending platform, as well as the recent rollout of the Apple Card, could be just the beginning of Goldman's ambitions when it comes to banking products for the masses.
Goldman's consumer and wealth management division currently makes up just 14% of the total revenue, and consumer banking made up just 16% of that portion during the fourth quarter (but it grew by 23% year over year despite a falling-rate environment). In other words, this is currently a tiny portion of Goldman's business, but it has lots of room to grow in the coming years.
The bottom line
The takeaway is that this was a strong quarter for Goldman, with the exception of its legal charge. The bank maintained its No. 1 market share in worldwide M&A deals, as well as in equity and common stock offerings. Also, Goldman spent $5.34 billion to repurchase 25.8 million shares during 2019, reducing its share count by about 7%. This was the primary reason Goldman's book value per share grew by 5.4% in 2019 to $218.52.
Goldman still has one of the lowest price-to-book valuations in the banking sector, and if the bank's consumer banking ambitions start to come to fruition, it could be a very cheap stock at these levels.