Archive

Reuters blog archive

from Breakingviews:

Morgan Stanley gets most relief from first quarter

By Antony Currie

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Few banks have reported much to crow about in their first-quarter earnings. But Morgan Stanley can claim relief, at least, from the $1.45 billion in net income it unveiled on Thursday. Chief Executive James Gorman presided over a far better start to the year than in 2013, including bucking the Wall Street trend in fixed-income trading. More importantly, Gorman looks closer to hitting targets than rivals like Bank of America and Citigroup.

Even so, Morgan Stanley’s showing was not as good as Goldman Sachs managed. The bank run by Lloyd Blankfein earned an annualized return on equity of 10.9 percent in the quarter, compared with 8.9 percent at Gorman’s shop – though Goldman relied on some $500 million more in investment gains than Citi analysts had expected. Morgan Stanley’s ROE is therefore still running shy of the 10 percent seen as a decent proxy for banks’ cost of capital. But momentum seems to be building toward that goal.

In one illustration of this, Morgan Stanley’s fixed-income, currency and commodities unit cranked out a 35 percent increase in its top line from the first quarter last year. BofA eked out a 2 percent increase, while Citi, JPMorgan and Goldman were down between 11 percent and 21 percent. The equities trading unit also had a good quarter, with its $1.7 billion of revenue just besting Goldman’s showing for the second time in three periods.

from Global Investing:

Buying back into emerging markets

After almost a year of selling emerging markets, investors seem to be returning in force. The latest to turn positive on the asset class is asset and wealth manager Pictet Group (AUM: 265 billion pounds) which said on Tuesday its asset management division (clarifies division of Pictet) was starting to build positions on emerging equities and local currency debt. It has an overweight position on the latter for the first time since it went underweight last July.

Local emerging debt has been out of favour with investors because of how volatile currencies have been since last May, For an investor who is funding an emerging market investments from dollars or euros, a fast-falling rand can wipe out any gains he makes on a South African bond. But the rand and its peers such as the Turkish lira, Indian rupee, Indonesian rupiah and Brazilan real -- at the forefront of last year's selloff --  have stabilised from the lows hit in recent months.  According to Pictet Asset Management:

from Global Investing:

Indian shares: disappointment may lurk

Should Indian shares really be at record highs?

The index is up 3.6 percent this year. Foreign funds have been pouring money into Mumbai shares, betting that the opposition BJP, seen as more reform-friendly than the incumbent Congress, will form the next government. They purchased $420 million worth of Indian stocks last Friday, having bought $1.4 billion over the past 15 trading sessions.

There is also the fact that the rolling crisis in emerging markets, having smacked India during its first round last May, has now moved on and is ravaging places such as Russia and Nigeria instead. The rupee has firmed almost 2 percent this year to the dollar, as last year's 6.5 percent/GDP current account deficit has contracted to just 0.9 percent of GDP.  Many international funds such as Blackrock and JPMorgan Asset Management have Indian stocks on overweight and Bank of America/Merrill Lynch's monthly survey showed investors'  underweight on India was one of the smallest for emerging markets.

from Breakingviews:

Lazard puts M&A feet firmly in big boys’ camp

Photo

By Antony Currie

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Lazard has put its feet firmly in the big boys’ camp. The advisory and asset management firm didn’t just make progress on financial targets that Chief Executive Ken Jacobs set two years ago. Its bankers also goosed revenue in the second half of the year. That makes Lazard look more like Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan than smaller rivals Evercore and Greenhill.

from Alison Frankel:

New ruling puts Fannie, Freddie in line for windfall MBS recovery

Has there ever been a more lopsided multibillion-dollar case than the Federal Housing Finance Agency's fraud litigation against the banks that sold mortgage-backed securities to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac? I don't think U.S. District Judge Denise Cote of Manhattan, who is overseeing securities fraud suits against 11 banks that haven't already settled with the conservator for Fannie and Freddie, has sided with the banks on any major issue, from the timeliness of FHFA's suits to how deeply the defendants can probe Fannie and Freddie's knowledge of MBS underwriting standards in the late stages of the housing bubble. But even in that context, Judge Cote's summary judgment ruling Monday - gutting the banks' defenses against FHFA's state-law securities claims - is a doozy.

In effect, Cote's decision will permit FHFA to recover more from MBS issuers than Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would have made if their MBS investments had paid as promised. Of course, FHFA and its lawyers at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan and Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman still have to show that the banks knew or had reason to know that their offering documents misrepresented the mortgage-backed securities they were peddling to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. But if FHFA meets that burden, the banks can't ward off claims under the state securities laws of Virginia and the District of Columbia by blaming Fannie and Freddie's MBS losses on broad declines in the economy and the housing market.

from Breakingviews:

Deutsche ditch divines commoditized commodities

Photo

By Antony Currie
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Deutsche Bank’s decision to ditch commodities portends just how commoditized the business may be. The German lender is quitting energy, agriculture, base metals and dry bulk trading. That should free up capital without hurting results. And while it ought to ease the pain from a deep swoon in commodities, profits remain elusive for almost all banks involved.

from Breakingviews:

Solo stars Goldman and Morgan Stanley share stage

Photo

By Jeffrey Goldfarb
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Wall Street’s biggest rivalry is fading further into history. Back in the days of so-called relationship banking, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley slugged it out for exclusive assignments. Now, when it comes to mergers and new stock sales, they are working together more often.

from Breakingviews:

Jefferies shows fixed income isn’t for everyone

Photo

By Antony Currie
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Jefferies shows that fixed income isn’t necessarily for everyone. The revenue the U.S. investment bank generated from trading bonds, currencies and commodities slumped 85 percent, to just $33 million, in the three months to September. That’s a far bigger drop than its larger rivals across Wall Street are expecting. As a relative newcomer, Jefferies appears to be struggling with volatility. The same may prove true for others that are downsizing their FICC businesses.

from Breakingviews:

Morgan Stanley M&A boutique factory keeps cranking

Photo

By Rob Cox
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Morgan Stanley’s M&A boutique factory just keeps cranking. Paul Taubman, the bank’s former joint president, is the latest alumnus to ply his trade independently, helping Verizon on the $130 billion buyout of Verizon Wireless from Vodafone, announced this week. He follows Joe Perella, Bob Greenhill, Frank Quattrone, Michael Tory and others. It’s both a curse and a compliment that so many Morgan Stanley bankers hang out their own shingles.

from Global Investing:

Russia — the one-eyed emerging market among the blind

It's difficult to find many investors who are enthusiastic about Russia these days. Yet it may be one of the few emerging markets  that is relatively safe from the effects of "sudden stops" in foreign investment flows.

Russia's few fans always point to its cheap valuations --and these days Russian shares, on a price-book basis, are trading an astonishing 52 percent below their own 10-year history, Deutsche Bank data shows.  Deutsche is sticking to its underweight recommendation on Russia but notes that Russia has:

  •