Morgan Stanley $757m in the black after months of losses

Wall Street resurgence behind recovery but property dealings struggle
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The Independent Online

The financial services group Morgan Stanley gave evidence of a return to health of America's banking industry yesterday as it returned to the black with a net third-quarter profit of $757m (£455m).

The announcement brought to an end a nine-month losing streak by the former Wall Street titan, which was once seen as a genuine rival to Goldman Sachs but has found life harder going as a result of the credit crunch. The company managed to lose a total of $13.1bn during the previous three quarters of 2009. Morgan Stanley's return to profitability will add to the growing consensus that America's banks have turned a corner. However, it will inevitably focus attention on those whom Morgan Stanley sees as having delivered those profits, and will therefore be rewarded with bumper bonuses as a result.

The bank's institutional securities division, which includes investment banking, made a net profit of $857m. Overall, investment banking revenue was up 11 per cent at $1bn. But revenue from the bank's trading with its own money plunged 77 per cent to $2.9bn, despite an increase in the amount of risk it felt able to take during Q3.

Sales and trading revenue fell by 74 per cent year-on-year to $3.8bn. However, that was more than twice the second-quarter revenue, when the bank faced criticism for a perceived failure to take advantage of the market recovery. It was the rebound on Wall Street that helped it return to profit.

John Mack, the chief executive, said: "Morgan Stanley continued to build momentum across our business this quarter as we made important progress in executing key strategic initiatives. Our investment banking business delivered particularly strong results."

Commercial real-estate losses remain a black mark against the bank's performance and stand as a reminder that the broader US economy is still struggling even as financial companies profit from investment banking and trading. The value of commercial real estate has tumbled in many parts of America with small companies closing because of the recession and leaving a growing amount of offices and retail outlets empty. Rents have also been tumbling, cutting into the income landlords earn from properties.

However, the resurgence of trade on Wall Street has cushioned the blow and revenues from companies' share issues more than doubled in the third quarter to $457m, while revenues from underwriting debt offers jumped by 25 per cent.

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