Morgan Stanley reports record first-quarter profit and revenue

Key Points
  • Morgan Stanley's sales and earnings lines blew past Wall Street expectations for the March quarter.
  • The firm's net income rose to $2.7 billion for the quarter, up more than 40 percent from a year earlier.
Morgan Stanley CFO discusses earnings beat

Morgan Stanley on Wednesday reported record net income and revenues for the first quarter as the bank's equity trading unit navigated renewed financial market volatility even better than competitors like Goldman Sachs.

The firm's top and bottom lines blew past Wall Street expectations. Its shares closed flat Wednesday.

Here's how the banking giant fared against analyst estimates:

  • Earnings per share: $1.45 cents per share vs. $1.25 expected by Thomson Reuters.
  • Revenue: $11.1 billion vs. $10.363 billion expected.
  • Wealth management: $4.4 billion vs. $4.5 billion expected by StreetAccount.
  • Fixed income, commodities and currencies trading: $1.9 billion vs. $1.67 billion expected.
  • Equities trading: $2.6 billion vs. $2.24 billion expected.

"We delivered very strong results this quarter, with record revenues and net income — and an ROE above our target range," CEO James Gorman said in a statement. "Each of our businesses performed well, with significant client engagement across our global franchise, and Sales and Trading a particular highlight in a more active environment."

James Gorman, chief executive officer of Morgan Stanley
Qilai Shen | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Net income rose to $2.7 billion for the quarter, up more than 40 percent from a year earlier.

"Relative to peers, Morgan Stanley produced standout results," Nomura Instinet analyst Steven Chubak wrote in a note to clients Wednesday.

Morgan Stanley's equity trading revenue increased to $2.6 billion in the period, up 30 percent from a year ago. The bank said it benefited from "higher levels of client activity" during the quarter. In comparison, Goldman Sachs posted equity trading sales of $2.31 billion for the quarter.

The company's fixed income, commodities and currencies trading sales rose 12 percent during the quarter, a dramatic improvement from the 46 percent revenue decline in its fourth-quarter. Morgan Stanley's asset management revenues increased to $626 million from $517 million last year.

Chief Financial Officer Jonathan Pruzan said he expects the market "environment won't be as conducive going forward," according to Reuters.

Other major U.S. banks posted solid results this earnings season.

Goldman Sachs reported better-than-expected results on Tuesday, while J.P. Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Citigroup all beat analysts' earnings per share expectations on Friday. All four bank stocks declined in the first trading session after their results.