Morgan Stanley 's fourth-quarter profit rose 46% from a year ago, capping off the bank's best year on record. The firm's profit of $2.2 billion, or $1.30 a share, on $10.9 billion in revenue, topped expectations of analysts polled by FactSet, who had forecast earnings of $1.02 a share on $9.71 billion of revenue. For the full year, revenue and profit both ticked up 3%. Morgan Stanley is the last of the big U.S. banks to report earnings for the fourth quarter, navigating a stretch that included a Federal Reserve interest-rate cut and fierce global tensions. Giants JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc. sailed through, while Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co. both took big legal charges that dragged down profits. Morgan Stanley's return on equity, a measure of profitability, was 11.3% for the quarter, versus a range of 8.7% to 15% at peers. Chief Executive James Gorman, now in his 10th year, has taken Morgan Stanley from a chronic earnings-day wild-card to a steadier performer. A no-nonsense Aussie - he pledged $1 million last week to aid in wildfire relief there - he has pivoted the firm away from trading and toward wealth management, a steadier business that now accounts for nearly half of its revenue.
By Ipek Ozkardeskaya