• Its trading revenue may slide 17%, Credit Suisse analysts say
  • Executives said to brace for 25% drop in investment banking

As Wall Street leaders warn publicly about this quarter’s plunging revenue from trading and deals, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., the bank most reliant on those operations, has provided no guidance. The mystery isn’t whether it is getting hit too -- it’s how hard.

Goldman Sachs’s income from investment banking -- advising takeovers and underwriting securities -- is projected to tumble 32 percent this quarter from a year earlier, Credit Suisse Group AG analysts wrote in a note on Tuesday. Internally, some senior executives are anticipating a drop of roughly 25 percent in that business, according to two people with knowledge of the matter, though the estimate may not be formal. Revenue from the bank’s larger trading business will probably fall 17 percent, the Credit Suisse analysts said.

Firms including JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc. have been warning that turbulent markets are battering their earnings, as stock swings, a slump in commodity prices and low interest rates prompt companies to delay share offerings and customers to pull back from trading. The first quarter is usually Wall Street’s strongest, as corporations and investors adjust strategies at the start of the year.

Goldman Sachs typically doesn’t provide any mid-quarter guidance.

“We have to take our direction from what other firms have said and what we have been able to observe in the marketplace,” Guy Moszkowski, an analyst at Autonomous Research, said in an interview. “The market environment is what it is, and it’s not good.”

Michael DuVally, a Goldman Sachs spokesman, declined to comment. Shares of the bank, led by Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein, are down 16 percent this year. To be sure, the company often ends up surpassing analysts’ revenue predictions -- beating them in 14 of the past 16 quarters.

Estimates for investment banking vary. Wells Fargo & Co.’s Matt Burnell told clients March 9 that Goldman Sachs’s revenue from those operations may fall 16 percent to $1.6 billion. Such scenarios still contrast with the start of last year, when the business posted what was then its best quarterly performance since 2007, generating $1.91 billion of revenue.

For trading, Burnell predicted a 21 percent drop, while analysts at UBS Group AG said it’ll probably slide 17 percent.

‘Real Challenge’

Wall Street rivals have been vocal about their woes this quarter. Morgan Stanley Chief Financial Officer Jonathan Pruzan told investors Tuesday that market volatility has made it hard for companies to sell securities or consummate deals. While the firm still has a healthy pipeline of initial public offerings and other transactions, they keep getting pushed back. And rattled clients aren’t trading as much, he said.

“Clearly, the external environment has been a real challenge,” he said. The firm, once more akin to Goldman Sachs, has been expanding its retail brokerage in recent years to insulate revenue from market gyrations, and in December it eliminated a quarter of its fixed-income staff.

Citigroup last week predicted a 25 percent drop in revenue from investment banking and a 15 percent decline from trading. JPMorgan’s investment bank said in February that a slowdown in debt and equity underwriting may contribute to a 25 percent drop in fee income. Revenue from sales and trading already was down about 20 percent, it said.

Weak trading drove Jefferies Group to a loss in the three months through Feb. 29, the first time that’s happened in the investment bank’s fiscal first quarter since 2008. Revenue from making markets in stocks and bonds plunged 82 percent.

“We are humbled by Jefferies’ quarterly loss and will strive to deliver the better results that our shareholders deserve,” CEO Richard Handler said when reporting results Tuesday. Trading has improved since early February, he noted.

Goldman’s Rankings

Goldman Sachs told investors in January it entered 2016 with a growing backlog of investment banking business, and its division -- run by Richard Gnodde, David Solomon and John Waldron -- has since held up against peers in industry rankings. The firm has maintained its position as the top adviser on mergers and acquisitions and leads underwriters handling equity offerings, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. It’s climbed to seventh place in underwriting corporate bonds.

Still, IPOs stagnated in January as stocks tumbled. By mid-March, corporations had set out to raise less than half the money they sought through share sales during the same period a year earlier.

Goldman Sachs’s revenue from underwriting equities will probably plunge 74 percent to $140 million, more than at any of its main U.S. rivals, according to the Credit Suisse analysts led by Susan Roth Katzke. They predict the firm will gain market share in debt underwriting, boosting revenue 9 percent to $450 million as U.S. competitors see declines. But Goldman Sachs’s biggest investment-banking business, advising deals, will probably fall 27 percent to $700 million, the analysts said.

Such moves would increase the dominance of trading, led by Isabelle Ealet, Pablo Salame and Ashok Varadhan. The bank’s institutional client services segment -- which includes desks handling customers’ dealings in stocks, bonds, currencies and commodities -- generated $15.2 billion of revenue last year. That’s almost 45 percent of firmwide revenue -- and more than double what investment banking produced.

After gauging this year’s bond markets, Goldman Sachs already decided to cut its fixed-income business deeper than a typical companywide push to eliminate underperformers, a person briefed on the matter said this month. Typically, the firm eliminates about 5 percent of its total staff to make way for new hires.

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