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Goldman Sachs profit falls 11 percent, but beats estimates

Goldman Sachs reported an 11 percent drop in first-quarter profit on Thursday as client activity remained constrained and fixed-income revenue shrank.

The Wall Street bank said its net income fell to $1.95 billion, or $4.02 per share, in the first three months of the year from $2.19 billion, or $4.29 per share, in the same period of 2013.

But the earnings beat the average analyst estimate of $3.45 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S, and the bank's shares rose 1.7 percent in premarket trading. (Click here for the latest quote.)

Read MoreWealth management, trading boosts Morgan Stanley

Goldman's rivals also reported a drop in revenue from fixed-income trading in the quarter, but Goldman has more at stake than others because it has a less diverse business mix.

Adam Jeffery | CNBC

Goldman's revenue from fixed income, currency and commodities (FICC) trading fell 11 percent from a year earlier to $2.85 billion in the quarter ended March 31.

"Investment Banking and Investment Management generated solid results, while market sentiment shifted throughout the quarter, constraining client activity in various parts of our franchise," Chairman and Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein said in a statement.

Goldman makes most of its money from trading and investing in capital markets. This sets it apart from JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, and Bank of America, which have big consumer lending businesses, and Morgan Stanley, which has a large wealth-management arm.

The bank trades securities for clients, underwrites stocks and bonds, advises on mergers and has an investment-management business that caters to institutions and wealthy individuals.

It also has a merchant banking business that makes investments and loans with its own money.

Earlier on Thursday, Morgan Stanley—Goldman's closest rival—reported a 55 percent jump in first-quarter earnings as higher revenue from the bank's institutional securities business augmented another strong quarter from wealth management.

Morgan Stanley said its FICC revenue increased 13 percent in the first quarter.

Read More Gold to tank in 2014: Goldman Sachs

In other areas, Goldman's results were mixed but reflected broader Wall Street trends.

Debt underwriting revenue fell 5 percent to $660 million due to a decline in refinancing activity, which had driven earnings for the past few years.

However, equity underwriting revenue rose 12 percent to $437 million as a slew of companies filed for initial public offerings.

Revenue in the company's investing and lending business fell 26 percent to $1.53 billion, reflecting the decline in fixed-income activity.

Goldman Sachs' shares, which have fallen more than 20 percent since the start of the year, were trading at $159.76 before the opening bell after closing at $157.22 on Wednesday.

By Reuters

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