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Opinion

Cautious Goldman clashes with upbeat Morgan Stanley tone

Goldman Sachs cut out trading completely in the first quarter – at least that’s what the language of its earnings filing indicates.

The bank managed to avoid using the t-word at any point in its earnings announcement, although it mentioned clients 29 times and made 46 references to investment.

Goldman actually put in a very respectable trading performance in the first quarter, with strong results across fixed-income and equities markets. It continues to take a much more cautious approach to capital deployment than its peers in advance of the implementation of pending regulatory changes, however.

This suggests that Goldman has either been spooked by the public relations battering it endured last year or that its less-disciplined competitors are underestimating the effects of coming changes to key sales and trading markets.

History suggests that the latter is more likely to be the case.

While Goldman Sachs CFO David Viniar was guarded to the point of gloominess in his conference call with analysts to discuss first-quarter results, Morgan Stanley CFO Ruth Porat was much more upbeat.

Porat and Morgan Stanley chief executive James Gorman were attempting to convince analysts that Morgan Stanley had finally turned the corner in reviving a sales and trading franchise that has been underperforming for four years.

Equity results backed their premise. Sales and trading revenues of $1.7

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