Goldman Sachs had a significantly more profitable quarter than expected, lifted by continued strength in the trading of stocks and bonds and gains from certain investments.
The bank reported earnings of $3.62 billion, far higher than Wall Street analysts had projected, and revenue of $10.78 billion for the third quarter.
At a time when the markets were particularly active, Goldman continued its winning streak in trading, with significant gains from handling bond products tied to interest rates, mortgages, corporate credit and commodity prices, which together drove bond division revenue up 49 percent from the same period last year. Stock trading revenue was also higher, but by a less substantial margin.
Revenue in the firm’s asset-management division was up 71 percent, driven by investments in stocks held by Goldman.
Company shares rose nearly 4 percent in early trading.
Lower credit losses expected
Bank of America earned $4.9 billion in the third quarter, up from $3.5 billion in the second quarter, but down from $5.8 billion in the same period a year ago.
Revenue fell 11 percent from a year ago, to $20.3 billion.
The bank’s quarterly provision for credit losses was smaller than the previous quarter, at $1.4 billion in the third quarter, compared with $5.1 billion. The bank said it was expecting fewer losses in its consumer loans, but more in its commercial loans, particularly in industries hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic such as travel and entertainment.
Layoffs add to expenses
Third-quarter earnings for Wells Fargo were $2 billion on revenue of $18.9 billion.
The bank’s earnings were affected by the cost of a round of layoffs — $718 million. Another expense the bank faced in the third quarter: nearly $1 billion trying to help customers struggling to repay their loans come up with new payment plans to keep them from defaulting.
Both Bank of America and Wells said robust activity on Wall Street helped strengthen their earnings.
Stocks were listless on Wednesday, drifting higher in early trading as investors considered another round of earnings reports from big banks.
The S&P 500 rose slightly in early trading. Stocks in Europe were slightly lower, while shares in Asia had close the day mixed.
The lack of direction was evident in other markets, too. Oil futures were trading were up about 0.2 percent, while U.S. 10-year Treasury notes gained in price.
The lull on Wall Street comes after stocks surged in the first two weeks of October. Investors are watching for developments in Washington, specifically on a potential stimulus deal between Democrats and the White House, as they also worry about uncertainty around the election in November.
In Europe, Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain has set a deadline of Thursday to reach a trade deal with the European Union, although there are fresh signs that the talks may continue beyond the deadline.
Among the companies to report their results on Wednesday, Goldman Sachs rose slightly in early trading after reporting a jump in revenue from its trading business. Wells Fargo and Bank of America were both lower after their results.
Pilgrim’s Pride, the giant U.S. poultry producer, jumped in early trading after it said it would pay more than $110 million to settle federal charges it helped fix prices on chicken. In June, the company’s chief executive and three other current and former executives at companies that supply chicken to groceries and restaurants across the United States were indicted on a price-fixing charge.
Negotiators on Wednesday resumed discussions over a coronavirus relief package, even though Democrats and Republicans remain wildly divided over the scope and size of another stimulus bill and privately warn that another agreement may have to wait until after the Nov. 3 election.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, spoke on Wednesday for about an hour, discussing the language of the administration’s latest $1.8 trillion framework as compared to House Democrats’ $2.2 trillion stimulus plan, which Ms. Pelosi pushed through the House earlier this month.
They agreed to speak again on Thursday, and have their staff continue to exchange documents and language proposals.
”One major area of disagreement continues to be that the White House lacks an understanding of the need for a national strategic testing plan,” Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Ms. Pelosi, said on Twitter. “The Speaker believes we must reopen our economy & schools safely & soon, & scientists agree we must have a strategic testing plan.”
It is unclear, however, whether the two officials will be able to strike a deal. Ms. Pelosi remains adamant that the administration’s proposal remains inadequate, with her top lieutenants blasting out condemnations of the latest framework in recent days.
President Trump has pushed negotiators to “go big!!!” days after abruptly ending talks, but Senate Republicans remain reluctant to accept a broad sweeping bill, citing concerns about the cost of such a package after approving nearly $3 trillion in legislation earlier this year.
Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, has said he plans to have the Senate vote to advance a scaled-back bill that would amount to a fraction of the $2.2 trillion bill Ms. Pelosi has demanded, but that is unlikely to pass without the Democratic support needed to clear the 60-vote threshold.
A group of tech, finance, media and other executives are calling on Americans to stay cool during a heated election season. “The health of our economy and markets depends on the strength of our democracy,” the LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman said in a statement signed by more than 50 business leaders, published first in Wednesday’s DealBook newsletter.
The group, convened by the Leadership Now Project, also includes Eddie Fishman, the chief operating officer of D.E. Shaw; Seth Klarman, the chief executive of Baupost Group; Lisa Lewin, the chief executive of General Assembly; Marissa Mayer, the former Yahoo and Google executive; and Alan Patricof, the founder of Apax and Greycroft.
The executives expressed support for three principles:
“America has successfully held elections through previous challenges, like the Civil War, World Wars I and II, and the 1918 flu pandemic,” the statement concludes. “Now, it is our turn.”
The statement is a testament to the times. “Nothing about 2020 is usual,” said Michael Porter of Harvard Business School, who advises the Leadership Now Project. He said there was “an essential role for business in addressing political dysfunction,” citing recent data showing that political gridlock is causing a “disastrous decline” in the United States’ competitiveness.
A contested election is a big worry for business. If recent market moves are any indication, businesses are making peace with the possibility of higher taxes under a Biden administration as a trade-off for a definitive election result. Some Wall Street advisers have been preparing clients for the possibility of a contested election, as President Trump repeatedly casts doubt on mail-in ballots and is noncommittal on what he will do if he loses the vote.
That’s why some executives, like the group putting their names to the Leadership Now missive, may feel the need to state what was once obvious.
For some companies, the only response to the pandemic has been to hunker down and try to avoid running out of cash before their customers can return.
Pret, the 37-year-old British sandwich and coffee chain that’s ubiquitous in central London, is now clearly willing to try anything, Eshe Nelson reports:
Pret wants to sell its food in supermarkets, and has already begun selling coffee beans on Amazon.com.
It has signed up to all the major food delivery platforms to bring its sandwiches, soups and salads to its work-from-home customers.
It opened a so-called dark kitchen in North London to prepare its food strictly for delivery, modeled on the success of Sweetgreen and Shake Shack, and hopes to open another dark kitchen in either New York or New Jersey soon.
It is devising a special menu of hot evening meals for delivery, such as a Chipotle Chicken Burrito Bowl.
And then there is the coffee subscription, an effort to drive people back to the stores: Five drinks a day made by a barista (coffees, teas and smoothies) for £20 a month. On the face of it, it could be an extraordinarily good deal. With two lattes a week, a subscriber will break even. And the first month is free. (Small print: You can’t order five drinks at once — there must be 30 minutes between each drink order.)
The skyscraper, the iconic urban office tower, still captivates by offering jaw-dropping views and the thrill of hovering in the clouds. But in the pandemic, the groundscraper — a building as horizontal as a skyscraper is vertical — has been grabbing attention.
There is no hard-and-fast definition for a groundscraper, which some loosely describe as a million or more square feet in only a handful of stories. Tech companies in Silicon Valley have long embraced the low-rise approach.
These earth-hugging structures have traditionally been considered less exalted than their soaring brethren, but some aspects of these buildings — such as the ability to reach offices via stairs, rather than elevators — have become doubly attractive during the pandemic.
“The interest in groundscrapers reflects our evolving views on how we come together in office spaces,” said Sam Chandan, dean of the Schack Institute of Real Estate at New York University’s School of Professional Studies.
Classic examples include the Old Post Office in Chicago, a nine-story limestone landmark that is three city blocks long and a block wide, and the James A. Farley Building, a former post office that takes up two double-wide blocks in Midtown Manhattan. Groundscrapers built in this century have taken striking forms:
The Vanke Center in Shenzhen, China — which was designed by Steven Holl Architects to house apartments and a hotel in addition to offices — consists of angular, interconnected segments on stilts.
In Frankfurt, Germany, a gently curved office building called the Squaire was erected over an airport rail line and looks almost like a high-speed train that has just pulled into the station.
Google is planning an 11-story groundscraper in London.
Such buildings can accommodate the health and wellness concerns that were at the fore of office design before the pandemic. Employees can get their steps in by hoofing it to colleagues on another part of a vast floor or climbing stairs rather than pushing an elevator button. And the large rooftops can be landscaped for outdoor meetings and recreation.
But the pandemic has pointed to another benefit: Groundscrapers tend to have multiple entrances, in contrast to the typical skyscraper, which funnels everyone through a single lobby. The decentralization of arrivals and departures can help with social distancing, experts say.