Three months after predicting Goldman Sachs Group Inc. would put the tumultuous end of 2015 behind it and stabilize profits, analysts are reversing course and cutting projections. Again.
Twenty-two analysts have lopped 94 cents off the average estimate for Goldman Sachs’s adjusted earnings per share over the past four weeks -- the fourth straight quarter they’ve cut figures in the final days, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. This time, the 11th-hour reduction is among the largest for the firm since the financial crisis, with analysts now predicting its per-share profit will tumble 45 percent from a year earlier to $3.31 -- the steepest decline among major U.S. banks.
The sentiment shows a growing realization that Wall Street’s trading and investment-banking machine is sputtering amid broader global uncertainty that marred the start of the year. While firms have said markets improved in March, it wasn’t enough to make up for January and February, when price swings curbed stock and debt sales and curtailed client trades. Big U.S. banks start reporting earnings next week.
“People were holding out hope that March would get better and partially save the quarter,” Glenn Schorr, an analyst at Evercore ISI, said in an interview. “That didn’t happen. There’s no saving this quarter.”
Goldman Sachs, and to a lesser extent Morgan Stanley, is more exposed to the whims of the market than peers. What was once Wall Street’s most profitable securities firm generated two-thirds of its net revenue from trading and investment banking last year, and an additional 16 percent from investing and lending.
Estimates for banks less reliant on those businesses -- JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp. and Wells Fargo & Co. -- haven’t changed more than 3 cents in the past four weeks, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Citigroup Inc. and Morgan Stanley had adjustments more akin to Goldman’s, with analysts cutting the average estimate by 15 cents and 14 cents, respectively.
Investment banking is off to its worst start in a decade, Goldman Sachs’s own research analysts wrote in a March 30 report that discussed the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of the three-month period. Some senior executives at the New York-based bank are anticipating a drop of about 25 percent in revenue from that business, people with knowledge of the matter said in mid-March.
If the earnings land where analysts expect, it would be the bank’s worst first quarter since 2008, when profit amounted to $3.23 per share. That wouldn’t be the lowest over that time: The company reported a loss in the third quarter of 2011.
Michael DuVally, a spokesman for Goldman Sachs, declined to comment.