For the second day in a row, a large Wall Street bank beat the expectations of Wall Street analysts. Following LehmanBrothers'
Net revenue for the quarter rose 9% and the company managed to post sequential growth of 2%. Net income increased by a more modest amount, posting a 3% rise over last year.
The equities part of the capital markets segment grew 59% for the quarter -- producing all of the growth for the company's overall capital markets business. Growth stemmed particularly from the equity derivatives business and gains from energy venture investments. Fixed income, though, was not as strong for Bear Stearns -- business declined about 6% to $808 million.
The company's clearing business, one of the largest on Wall Street, showed 17% growth for the quarter. Margin debt balances were up 26% and short balances held by the firm were up 12%, though commissions were down. With these larger balances held by the firm, interest income also rose.
While management did not dwell on the topic, there is still an SEC investigation of the clearing business that needs to be resolved. Bear Stearns has already established reserves to deal with the matter, which stems largely from the mutual fund trading scandal, but negotiations haven't yet concluded.
Given that it would be in the bank's best interest to get this matter behind it as soon as possible, the delay in reaching a settlement suggests to this Fool that the SEC is making some strong demands -- perhaps even insisting upon a partial sale of the clearing business.
Of the major U.S. investment banks, Bear Stearns appears to be the cheapest. While the company pays a good dividend and posts solid margins, its returns on capital lag those of rivals like Lehman Brothers and Goldman Sachs
That said, Bear Stearns has grown at a quite healthy clip over the past 10 years. With a current P/E of about 10, investors who think this company can maintain a long-term double-digit pace of growth might see these shares as a bargain today.
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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).