World and Nation

Goldman stock falls on worries over sustainable returns

Goldman Sachs on Thursday reported strong third-quarter results, but investors and analysts expressed concerns that the performance might not be sustainable over time.

Despite announcing profits that were up nearly 50 percent from those in the period a year earlier, the firm’s stock closed down more than 2.5 percent on Thursday.

After digesting the apparently positive numbers, some analysts and investors worried that a significant portion of the profits came from moves that are not likely to be replicated.

Goldman, for instance, sharply cut the amount of money it put aside to pay employees, leaving more room for profits.

And some of the biggest profits came from an investing division that is expected to deliver uneven results and shrink because of new regulations.

“It’s about visibility and sustainability of returns,” said Steven Chubak, a bank analyst at Nomura Securities.

Goldman’s earnings rose to $2.24 billion, or $4.57 a share, compared with $1.52 billion, or $2.88 a share, in the period a year earlier.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had expected the bank to earn $3.21 a share.

The bank’s total net revenue rose 25 percent, to $8.39 billion, far outpacing the $7.8 billion anticipated by analysts.

“With respect to the longer-term outlook and our sense of positioning in the marketplace, we couldn’t be more pleased,” the firm’s chief financial officer, Harvey M. Schwartz, said on a conference call with analysts.

The most impressive results came from the bank’s so-called fixed-income trading desks, where bonds and derivatives are bought and sold.

Revenue also rose 74 percent from a sluggish quarter a year earlier.

But Goldman’s results in the most recent quarter looked particularly good because they were being compared with the period a year earlier, which was one of the bank’s worst quarters in recent years.

Goldman’s performance relative to the second quarter of this year was less impressive, particularly when compared with that of its big competitors.

Revenue from fixed-income trading dropped from the second quarter, which is traditionally a stronger part of the year for Wall Street.

More important, the decline in Goldman’s fixed-income trading revenue from the second quarter was sharper than the drop at any of the other big banks that have reported results so far.

“I didn’t feel like their results were stellar relative to peers when using a market-share lens,” Chubak said.

The results still had many bright spots. Profit increased at every key division compared with the recorded results in the period a year earlier.