A reader pointed me to this story in The Guardian citing Goldman insiders saying this could be the investment bank’s most profitable year ever.
Staff in London were briefed last week on the banking and securities company’s prospects and told they could look forward to bumper bonuses if, as predicted, it completed its most profitable year ever. Figures next month detailing the firm’s second-quarter earnings are expected to show a further jump in profits.
A couple months back I said that it would be unlikely for the banks to repeat their spectacular first-quarter results in the second quarter, because it depended on fixed-income revenues being even higher than during the peak of the boom. It looks like I was wrong.
Like most things, there are two ways to interpret this. For the optimists, if some of the big banks are making big profits, that gets us back to a normally functioning financial sector sooner and reduces the chance that they will face a panic in the short term. As many people have pointed out, including us, this is basically the Obama Administration’s strategy.
For the pessimists, the phoenix-rising-from-the-ashes profitability of the big banks is a direct result of massive government aid in the form of cheap money, liquidity programs, and let’s not forget the bailout of AIG; it’s also the result of reduced competition resulting from the consolidation of Bear Stearns into JPMorgan, the failure of Lehman, and the weakened state of Citigroup and Bank of America/Merrill. So the government bought a partially healthy banking sector (the big question is what Citi and B of A will report) with public funds, the few winners (Goldman, JPMorgan) are more powerful than ever, and the government is hoping to get an anemic regulatory reform package through Congress in exchange.
By James Kwak