NEW YORK - Goldman Sachs reported another blowout quarter Tuesday to conclude a highly profitable 2020 despite the coronavirus pandemic, which provided lucrative opportunities to the investment bank while battering much of the US economy.
Goldman's profits soared to $4.4 billion in the final quarter of the year, more than double the earnings from the same period a year ago, as it scored higher revenues in all four operating divisions and easily topped analyst estimates.
The just-ended quarter showed a continuation of the heady trends from Goldman's third quarter: more strength in equity and fixed-income trading amid financial markets volatility and huge growth in financial advising revenues as corporate clients pursued mergers or raised equity against a fast-changing macroeconomic backdrop.
And amid coronavirus-induced restrictions on movement, the financial giant saw lower travel and entertainment costs.
Chief Executive David Solomon praised the company's performance, but cautioned that the outlook for the global economy remains dependent on getting Covid-19 under control with a successful vaccination campaign.
"I urge political leaders at all levels and across all jurisdictions to do everything possible to implement a coordinated and comprehensive distribution plan," Solomon said during an earnings conference call.
"In its absence, economic recovery will be unnecessarily delayed."
Several key economic sectors remain in deep trouble due to the prolonged downturn, including energy, airlines, hospitality and commercial real estate.
EYEING MAIN STREET GROWTH
Goldman enjoyed especially strong growth in fourth quarter revenues in investment banking, up 27 percent, and global markets, up 23 percent.
Overall revenues rose 18 percent from the year-ago period to $11.7 billion.
For all of 2020, Goldman Sachs reported profits of $8.9 billion, up 13 percent, on a revenue increase of 22 percent to $44.6 billion.
Goldman's results came on the heels of a series of mixed earnings releases Friday from rival financial heavyweights JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Wells Fargo.
Bank of America on Tuesday reported fourth-quarter earnings of $5.2 billion, down 23 percent from the year-ago period on a 10.5 percent drop in revenues.
Like JPMorgan and others that reported last week, Bank of America's results were boosted by an $828 million reserve release after earlier provisions for bad loans from coronavirus were not needed.
However, Bank of America suffered a 16 percent drop in net interest income due to lower interest rates.
Goldman, which has a much smaller consumer-oriented business than those other large banks, ended up with a net increase in provisions for credit losses of $293 million, citing the need for reserves for credit card loan growth.
Goldman Sachs has been building up its consumer-oriented Marcus business since 2016, and Solomon indicated plans to continue to invest in the venture.
Goldman is getting ready to launch a new investment platform on Marcus that will permit individuals to put in as little as $1,000 through Goldman programs on asset allocation and exchange traded funds.
Goldman is also preparing a new digital checking offering for later this year, Solomon said.
Solomon reiterated that Goldman is intent on building Marcus into a long-term business and will set the bar "extremely high" on acquisition targets.
Solomon said additional investments in the venture could delay the targets for the consumer business to reach profitability, but would not affect firm-wide financial targets.
Goldman shares fell 2.3 percent to $294.20 in early afternoon trading, while Bank of America fell 0.7 percent to $32.77.
Analysts attributed the sell-off in part to a rise of more than 30 percent in leading bank shares in the prior two and a half months.