If you are a big bank CEO not named Brian Moynihan or Jane Fraser, 2020 has you in a bit of a bind. On the one hand, the near death of the global economy from COVID-19 proved a banner, record-setting year. On the other hand, sharing that bizarre bounty with the folks who made it happen under trying circumstances (if you can call working from your beach house or ski lodge or otherwise newly-purchased second home a trying circumstance) would make for some pretty bad optics in a country where 4,000 people a day are dying and a quarter of the survivors are having trouble paying their bills.

So just how awkward are the bonus conversations going to be among Wall Street’s best? Pretty fucking awkward!

Morgan Stanley said fourth-quarter profit rose 51% from a year earlier…. With its focus on wealthy Americans and big corporations and money managers, Morgan Stanley is less exposed to mass unemployment and small-business closures than more Main Street banks….

Stock- and bond-trading revenue at Morgan Stanley rose 32% to $4.22 billion, a bigger jump than any other bank. Investment-banking fees increased 46% to $2.30 billion mostly due to $1 billion in revenue Morgan Stanley generated for underwriting initial public offerings and other stock offerings. Those fees more than doubled from the fourth quarter of 2019.

Goldman generated $44.56 billion in annual revenue, the most since 2009, harking back to the last time the bank successfully navigated a crisis and its aftermath. Trading revenue for 2020 reached a 10-year high.

The $4.51 billion in fourth-quarter profit that the Wall Street firm reported on Tuesday, or $12.08 per share, was more than double Goldman’s profit from the same quarter a year earlier. Both quarterly net income and quarterly revenue of $11.74 billion were much better than the expectations of analysts….

Speaking of awkward, here’s the world’s most morose Australian explaining why the general underemployed and disease-wracked populace shouldn’t converge on 1585 Broadway with pitchforks and torches, and also why those barricading themselves therein shouldn’t get too excited about the above.

Chief Executive James Gorman said on a conference call with analysts that continuing at last year’s pace likely isn’t sustainable.

“There’s a lot of market activity, I think, in the reasonable near term,” Mr. Gorman said. “Whether it is at the level of 2020, I mean, you’d have to bet against that just on pure odds.”

Morgan Stanley Profit Shoots Higher, Fueled by Wall Street [WSJ]
Goldman Sachs, With Big Earnings Jump, Is Having a Profitable Pandemic [WSJ]

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