Morgan Stanley on Thursday posted first-quarter profit that missed analysts’ expectations and warned that a sole bright spot for the industry, robust trading results, may prove to be fleeting.
The bank said in a release that earnings dropped 30% to $1.7 billion, or $1.01 a share, compared with the $1.14 estimate of analysts surveyed by Refinitiv. Companywide revenue of $9.49 billion was also below the $9.73 billion estimate. Morgan Stanley shares dipped about 1% in early trading.
Morgan Stanley said that the coronavirus pandemic impacted each of its major businesses, creating turmoil in financial markets that hit the value of loans, investments and some trading assets, and sapped interest income and investment banking fees. At the start of 2020, that was partly offset by robust trading results that benefited from the sudden surge in volatility, but the bank warned that that boost could peter out as the crisis wears on.
“Though we are unable to estimate the extent of the impact, an extended period of depressed economic activity necessitated to combating the disease, and the severity and duration of the related global economic crisis, will adversely impact our future operating results, and the attainment of our financial targets,” the bank warned, adding that the new environment might feature “many of the same negative impacts and without the potential benefit of higher client trading activity experienced in the first quarter.”
The firm’s massive wealth management division posted revenue of $4.04 billion, an 8% decline that missed analysts’ estimates, on lower interest income and asset values. Revenue in the firm’s investment management division fell 14% to $692 million, below the $757.8 million estimate, as the bank took asset writedowns.
As it was at rival banks, trading results were strong: Revenue jumped 30% from a year earlier, and fixed income desks generated $2.2 billion in revenue, half a billion dollars more than expected. Equities desks also outperformed, making $2.42 billion in revenue, almost $200 million more than expected.
Under Chief Executive Officer James Gorman, Morgan Stanley has emphasized its wealth management division as a steadier business than its trading operations. But Morgan Stanley still has the biggest stock trading business on Wall Street, and rivals have reported large gains from trading during a volatile first quarter.
“Over the past two months, we have witnessed more market volatility, uncertainty and anxiety as a result of the devastating COVID-19 than at any time since the financial crisis,” Gorman said Thursday in the statement. “While it’s too early to predict how this will unfold, Morgan Stanley navigated the quarter well given the conditions, and our results bear testament to the strength of our balanced business model.”
Analysts will be curious if Gorman explicitly retracts any of the performance goals the bank announced in January. The bank said it would hit companywide returns of 13% to 15% within two years, and 15% to 17% beyond that.
Analysts will also want to hear about the $13 billion takeover of E-Trade that Morgan Stanley disclosed in February.
Morgan Stanley is the last of the six largest U.S. banks to report results. JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and Citigroup all posted sharp declines in profit tied to the coronavirus pandemic.
Here’s what Wall Street expected:
Earnings: $1.14 a share, 18% lower than a year earlier, according to Refinitiv
Revenue: $9.73 billion, 5.4% lower than a year earlier
Wealth management: $4.28 billion, according to FactSet
Trading: Equities $2.23 billion, fixed Income $1.71 billion
This story is developing. Please check back for updates.