Morgan Stanley profit jumps in third-quarter as equity sales and trading revenues climb

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Investment bank Morgan Stanley says that its third-quarter earnings almost doubled as the firm’s equity sales and trading revenue rose.

THE RESULTS: The bank earned $1.01 billion from July to September after stripping out an accounting charge. That compares with earnings of $560 million year earlier. That profit works out to 50 cents per share before the charge, compared with 28 cents per share in the same period a year earlier. Financial analysts polled by FactSet expected earnings of 40 cents. Analysts generally strip out one-time items.

Total revenue amounted to $8.1 billion, up 6.5 per cent from $7.6 billion a year earlier.

HOW IT HAPPENED: Equity sales and trading was a bright spot for the bank and revenues in that part of its business increased to $1.7 billion from $1.3 billion in the period. Investment revenue also rose in the period after the bank sold an investment in an insurance broker. Profit at the bank’s wealth management unit also rose.

Morgan Stanley is transforming itself to adapt to a post-financial crisis world, trimming back parts of its investment bank while increasing its focus on individual clients.

“Our results point to the increased consistency, strength and balance we are deriving from our business model,” CEO James Gorman said in a prepared statement. “Overall, our stronger year-over-year revenues and net income reflect the progress we have made.”

THE WEAK SPOT: In common with other banks that reported earnings this week, fixed income trading was a weak spot. Morgan Stanley said that its fixed income and commodities trading revenues fell to $835 million from $1.5 billion from a year ago. Goldman Sachs and Citigroup also saw their trading revenue in this area drop in the quarter. The slump was caused by jittery investors who were uncertain about whether and when the Federal Reserve would begin to reduce its bond purchases of $85 billion a month, said Goldman.

THE MARKET REACTION: Morgan Stanley’s stock rose 69 cents, or 2.3 per cent, to $29.62 in early trading. Its shares have risen more than 47 per cent this year.