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'God's work' indeed: Goldman's 2013 great but not stellar: WSJ

Adam Jeffery | CNBC

Based on its 2013 track record, Goldman Sachs' trade recommendations confirm the obvious: The firm is goodbut maybe not as good as everyone thinks.

An analysis by The Wall Street Journal took a look at Goldman's top trades of the year, which the paper notes would have returned 5.1 percent over the last year. That is a big mark-up from previous years, the Journal reported, as Goldman's recommendations returned 1.6 percent in 2012 and a paltry 0.3 percent the previous year.

Yet Goldman's record isn't as impressive as it seems. According to the Journal, each trade had its own target—and the actual results were not nearly as lucrative as the firm's original targets.

Goldman's foreign currency recommendations were particularly off, with its call to short the Australian dollar against the Norwegian Krone returning 3.8 percent—well below its 18 percent expected profit. A call to go long a basket of commodity currencies was especially rocky: It ended up losing 6 percent—a far cry from the anticipated 18 percent return.

In 2009, Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein was roundly derided for saying the firm was doing "God's work" through its banking activity.

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