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EARNINGS PREVIEW: US Investment Banks Brace For Lower Trading Results

By Liz Moyer and Brett Philbin Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES TAKING THE PULSE: A confluence of concerns -- from European debt uncertainty to weak U.S. housing to questions about growth in Asia -- weighed on the markets in the second quarter, and as a consequence, on bank revenues from trading activities. For investment banks like Goldman Sachs (GS), which has derived more than half of its revenues from trading for the last few years, that weakness will likely lead to lower profits in the quarter, despite gains from investment banking because of a revival in deal activity. "Trading activity levels continued to deteriorate, especially in the more complex and higher margin products" in the quarter, said Sandler O'Neill + Partners analyst Jeff Harte in a note to clients, adding that fixed income currencies and commodities trading revenues are likely to be down roughly 25% to 30%, while equity trading revenues are projected more than 10% lower. COMPANIES TO WATCH: Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) - reports July 19. Wall Street Expectations: Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expect Goldman to post earnings of $2.38 a share. Expected revenues of $8.1 billion would be down 3% from last year's second quarter. The consensus does not include the $264 million cash sale of Litton Loan Servicing to Ocwen Financial Corp. (OCN) in June. Last year Goldman reported profits of 78 cents a share on revenue of $8.8 billion. Excluding a $550 million fine paid to the Securities and Exchange Commission and a U.K. payroll tax, last year's second quarter per-share profits would have been $2.75. Key Issues: Second quarter results in equity and FICC trading are expected to decline. But Goldman might have another issue: a 7% decline in June in its stake of Industrial & Commercial Bank of China, its biggest investment holding. That may result in a $224 million mark-to-market loss for the quarter, according to an estimate by Sandler O'Neill + Partners. Morgan Stanley (MS) -- reports July 21. Wall Street Expectations: Analysts expect Morgan Stanley to post a loss of 61 cents a share on revenue of $8 billion. The expected quarterly loss is due to a $1.7 billion charge from the restructuring of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc.'s (8306.TO) investment in Morgan Stanley, which closed during the quarter. A year ago, the investment bank reported earnings of $1.09 a share, including discontinued operations, on revenue of $8 billion. Key Issues: The second quarter will be somewhat noisy for Morgan Stanley, which closed the conversion of Mitsubishi's ownership from preferred shares to common shares a quarter earlier than it had originally expected. The deal, which should result in a charge of roughly $1.00 a share, saved Morgan Stanley from having to make $800 million in annual dividend payments. Plunging trading volumes should continue to weigh on Chief Executive James Gorman's efforts to revive Morgan Stanley's underperforming trading business. On the investment banking front, Morgan Stanley took the lead role in many of the Street's hottest technology initial public offerings, though fees from those deals won't be booked until they close. Declining debt underwriting levels should offset higher equity underwriting activity during the quarter. Morgan Stanley will have a difficult time boosting the pre-tax profit margin in its wealth management business, a key goal for its brokerage joint venture. The firm needs to double its 10% margin to reach its 20% goal. (The Thomson Reuters and year-earlier figures may not be comparable due to one-time items and other adjustments.) -By Liz Moyer and Brett Philbin, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2512; [email protected]

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