Goldman shares regain footing as Wall Street sorts out tough quarter of high expenses






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THE RATINGS GAME
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Goldman Sachs Group Inc. shares rose despite downward pressure in the broad market on Wednesday after a big move into the red in the previous session, as uncertainty around its expenses weighed on the stock.

Goldman Sachs stock rose 0.4% even as stocks fell sharply in the broad market. On Tuesday, the stock dropped 6.4% on the heels of its fourth-quarter earnings.

Morgan Stanley fell back by 0.5% on Wednesday after strong gains in the previous session as analysts praised the performance it its wealth management unit.

Also Read: Here’s why Citigroup’s stock stands out among the biggest U.S. banks

While Goldman Sachs missed both its profit and revenue targets, the slack performance in its investment banking and other lines of business affected by the tough market for equities and deal-making did not greatly surprise Wall Street.

“While this quarter was weak, that was largely expected,” UBS analyst Brennan Hawkin said Wednesday in a research note.

Of all the numbers on the radar, analysts said Goldman’s higher-than-expected fourth-quarter expenses and the unknown cost of its 3,200-person layoff this week weighed on the stock.

Since Goldman carried out its job reduction in January, expenses related to the action won’t be disclosed until first-quarter results in April. Goldman may also provide some clues at its investor day on Feb. 28.

“Outsized expenses drove the stock’s underperformance, as uncertainty regarded the expense run-rate loomed,” said Keefe, Bruyette & Woods analyst David Konrad. “The earnings call did not provide clarity on near term expense expectations.”

The firm’s results amounted to “a perfect storm of declining revenues in a challenging market, a difficult labor market and overinvestment by the company,” said Konrad, who reiterated an outperform rating on the stock.

UBS analyst Hawkin reiterated a neutral rating on Goldman and said the bank’s fourth-quarter expenses included a higher-than-expected compensation ratio and lofty non-compensation expenses.

Richard Bove of Odeon Capital Management reiterated a hold rating on Goldman and also opined about its expenses.

“The firm is committed to resolving its problems, as may be imagined,” Bove said. “However, it appears that the solutions necessary to place Goldman back on track are not totally under its control. Moreover, it is unclear as to whether the costs associated with backing away from some businesses may still be high. This continues to be a great company.”

Meanwhile, Morgan Stanley drew kudos for the performance of its wealth management unit.

UBS analyst Hawkin said wealth management’s pre-tax profit margin of 29.2% beat his 29% target, and its revenue of $6.63 billion came in ahead of his $6.22 billion estimate.

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