Goldman Earnings Top Estimates; Raises Dividend

Goldman Sachs reported higher-than-expected quarterly earnings thanks to aggressive cost-cutting and strong investment banking and trading revenues, and the Wall Street bank raised its dividend.

The Goldman Sachs booth on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange

earned $2.1 billion, or $3.92 per share. In the year-ago period, which was generally stronger for investment banks’ trading and banking activity, it earned $4.38 per share, excluding a one-time cost for buying back preferred stock.

Analysts had expected $3.55 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Goldman said it would raise its quarterly dividend to 46 cents per share from 35 cents.

Revenue was down across most of Goldman’s businesses except for financial advisory and equities client execution.

But bond-market businesses were a bright spot compared to the 2011 fourth quarter, when markets were still reeling from the European debt crisis.

Revenue more than doubled in debt underwriting and fixed-income, currency and commodities trading.

“Because client activity remains relatively low in certain areas, especially in parts of Investment Banking, we believe that our mix of businesses gives the firm significant room for revenue growth as economic and market conditions continue to improve,” Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein said in a statement.

Goldman also made further cuts to staffing and expenses in what is expected to be the final stretch of an aggressive cost-cutting program that began during the second half of 2011.

The bank set aside $4.4 billion for compensation and benefits during the first quarter, down 16 percent from a year earlier. It also reduced its workforce by 900 employees, or 3 percent.

“I like the dividend increase. I would expect to see that at some point we’ll see significant announcements about share repurchases. I like what I see and sense about cost containment at Goldman. The two reasons we own Goldman are a culture of cost containment and just the fact that they have a heritage of successful best-on-the-street intellectual capital,” Steve Shafer, CIO of Covenant Global Investors told Reuters.

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