The major Wall Street firms saw their capital markets revenues rise overall in the third quarter, thanks primarily to a boost in debt underwriting activity, says Fitch Ratings.
In a new report, the rating agency said that the big U.S. banks — Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs Group and Citigroup, Inc. — generated double-digit growth in debt underwriting in the third quarter, boosting overall capital markets revenues by 6%.
“Capital markets results were mixed from bank to bank. While many reported better than expected debt underwriting, [fixed income currencies and commodities (FICC)], [mergers and acquisitions (M&A)] and [initial public offering (IPO)] revenues varied,” said Julie Solar, senior director at Fitch Ratings.
JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley and BofA all reported improved capital markets results, Citi was flat and Goldman Sachs declined, Fitch noted.
“The market environment was mixed during the quarter, presenting both opportunities and headwinds,” Fitch said in its report. “Periods of volatility suppressed equity underwriting and some trading activity at most firms. Conversely, financing markets have been attractive to issuers, giving way to robust debt underwriting conditions.”
Specifically, a pair of rate cuts by the U.S. Fed during the quarter pushed companies to issue debt amid the lower rates, Fitch said.
“The majority of banks reported double-digit growth in debt underwriting, with [Morgan Stanley] booking a record quarter in this category and boosting its market share to 16%,” Fitch noted.
Overall, M&A activity declined by 1% compared to last year, with banks reporting a range of results, from double-digit gains to declines.
Total trading revenues grew by 6% year over year, Fitch noted, adding that “results were uneven among equities and FICC trading businesses.”
“For example, FICC trading grew 10% in the quarter as many banks cited strong activity in credit markets amid the shifting rate environment. Equity trading businesses were relatively subdued with a 1% growth rate, challenged by lower client activity at most firms as well as unfavourable market conditions that adversely affected equity derivatives,” Fitch said.
Equity underwriting was also variable in the third quarter.
“Banks report healthy IPO backlogs, but conversion from pipeline to realization remains highly reliant on market conditions,” Solar said.
Overall, Fitch reported that capital markets revenues as a percentage of total revenue were stable in the third quarter at 36%.