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Morgan Stanley profit misses as bond traders stumble in volatile markets

Kitco News

(Reuters) - Morgan Stanley (MS.N) missed analysts’ estimates for quarterly profit on Thursday after spikes in volatility in the end of the fourth quarter hurt trading, sending its shares down 5 percent.

The bank was hit by a combination of losses in fixed-income trading and declines in its huge wealth management unit. Larger rivals JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) and Citigroup Inc (C.N) also reported sharp declines in bond trading revenue.

Morgan Stanley is more reliant on wealth management than other banks, which is supposed to better protect it from market fluctuations. In the latest quarter, however, its wealth management business revenue fell 6 percent, hurt by lower client assets.

“2018 was a great year that finished on a disappointing note” Chief Executive Officer James Gorman said on a post earnings call with analysts. “We do not believe the fourth quarter is the new normal.”

The bank’s total sales and trading net revenue fell 7 percent to $2.49 billion, for the quarter ended Dec. 31, led by a 30 percent decline in fixed income revenue. Equity trading revenue was flat at $1.93 billion.

Morgan’s trading are in contrast to that of Goldman Sachs (GS.N) that showed a 2 percent growth in its trading business, led by a 17 percent rise in stocks trading, which dwarfed the losses at its bond trading business.

“After strong results from peers yesterday, Morgan Stanley’s quarter appears weak, and we expect shares to underperform,” said Brian Kleinhanzl, an analyst at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods.

Morgan Stanley’s M&A advisory business was a bright spot, with dealmakers delivering a 41 percent rise in revenue.

Morgan Stanley’s net revenue fell 10 percent to $8.55 billion, falling well short of analysts’ average expectation of $9.30 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Net income applicable to Morgan Stanley more than doubled to $1.53 billion from a year ago when the bank booked a tax-related charge. On a per share basis, it earned 80 cents per share, missing analysts estimate of 89 cents per share. (reut.rs/2Rz7rlz)

On an adjusted basis, the bank earned 73 cents per share, compared with 84 cents per share a year ago.

Morgan Stanley's shares fell 4.9 percent to $42.30 in early trading. In the last twelve months, the stock has fallen nearly 22 percent, versus a 12.5 percent decline in the financial index .SPSY and a 5.6 percent drop in the S&P 500 index .SPX over the same period.

Reporting by Aparajita Saxena in Bengaluru, Elizabeth Dilts in New York; Writing by Sweta Singh; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty

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