Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS), LehmanBrothers (NYSE:LEH), and Bear Stearns (NYSE:BSC) all turned in strong recent results -- and when Morgan Stanley's (NYSE:MS) turn came around, it delivered as well.

Revenue and earnings both rose strongly year over year, and both landed well ahead of analyst guesses -- almost 14% on the top line and 28% (as reported) on the bottom line. Revenue itself was up 48% (up 5% sequentially), as all units contributed double-digit growth. Far and away, the strongest growth came from the institutional securities business, followed by the Discover credit card operations. Profitability was also significantly higher, more than doubling the year-ago figure on a pre-tax basis; the resulting return on equity was much higher as well.

The aforementioned institutional securities business saw revenue rise 71% year over year (and 5% sequentially). Though revenues from underwriting rose a strong 77% year over year, fixed-income trading revenues blew them away, increasing 95% to about $2.4 billion.

Interestingly, while both fixed-income and equity trading were strong (the latter up 54%), the value at risk only rose about 10%. I'm not sure how fair it is to correlate growth in trading revenue to growth in VAR, but I'm intrigued that Morgan Stanley appeared to get more "bang for the buck" relative to what Goldman saw with its increase in risk levels.

How long will this party last for Morgan Stanley? It's nearly impossible to think that the company can keep doubling its trading revenue. I'm also wondering whether management can meet its growth goals through acquisitions in asset management and credit cards -- particularly since many of its rivals want to buy their way into asset management in a bigger way.

My complaints with Morgan Stanley remain more or less the same. They're just not the best at what they do, this strong quarter notwithstanding. I'd argue that Goldman is a better bank, Citigroup (NYSE:C) or Merrill Lynch (NYSE:MER) are better asset managers, and MasterCard (NYSE:MA) is a better idea in credit cards. All the same, these earnings might still give Morgan Stanley its time in the sun 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).