Morgan Stanley profit slumps 30% as deals stall, recession risks rise

·3 min read

By Niket Nishant and Saeed Azhar

(Reuters) -Morgan Stanley's second-quarter profit slumped 30%, it reported on Thursday, falling short of analysts' estimates for the first time in nine quarters, as its investment banking business suffered from a slump in global dealmaking.

The banking sector is reeling from Russia's invasion of Ukraine, a surge in the price of oil above $100 a barrel and Federal Reserve rate hikes, triggering fears of a recession.

Still, Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman told analysts that the current environment is not as bad as the 2008 financial crisis, and stressed his bank was in good shape.

"I think it's important to say, though, it is not 2008 ... This is a different type of financial stress in the system, and frankly the banking sector is much stronger," he said.

While he warned that the United States might head into some form of recession, it is unlikely to be "deep and dramatic."

Morgan Stanley's investment banking revenue plunged 55% in the second quarter, mirroring a similar drop at its larger Wall Street rival JPMorgan Chase & Co and eclipsing an 8% rise in trading revenue.

Morgan Stanley shares were down 1.1% in afternoon trade, having fallen by almost a quarter year-to-date.

The U.S. Federal Reserve's aggressive actions to contain runaway inflation has rattled global financial markets, curbing companies' appetite for deals, while also slowing their efforts to raise cash through stock and debt offerings.

The turmoil has upended a lucrative revenue stream for investment banks, whose results are also facing tough comparisons with the second quarter of last year when accommodative monetary policies led to record levels of deals.

"It’s no surprise advisory and equity underwriting hit the pause button in front of recession fears," said Chris O'Keefe, lead Portfolio Manager at Logan Capital Management.

"Clients are heeding the old adage, 'don’t fight the Fed.'"

Banks could see further pain down the road, as the latest report from Wednesday showed inflation had accelerated again in June, likely adding more pressure on the Fed to raise rates.

"Larger transactional M&A will really be dependent on just price discovery and how markets open up over the course of the next six months," Morgan Stanley Chief Financial Officer Sharon Yeshaya said in an interview.

The bank's wealth management business, which is seen as a durable source of revenue, did little in the quarter to offset the slump in dealmaking. Revenue from the business dipped 6% and contributed to a 11% slide in Morgan Stanley's net revenue.

Morgan Stanley's equity and fixed income underwriting revenue also plunged 86% and 49%, respectively.

Overall, the bank reported a profit of $2.4 billion, or $1.39 per share, for the quarter ended June 30, compared with $3.4 billion, or $1.85 per share, a year earlier.

Analysts, on average, had expected a profit of $1.53 per share, according to data from Refinitiv, although they were sanguine about the result which came during a tough environment.

The bank also said it had recorded a $200 million expense related to a regulatory matter tied to the use of unapproved personal devices and record-keeping requirements.

Provision for credit losses this quarter is $101 million from $73 million a year ago.

(Reporting by Niket Nishant in Bengaluru and Saeed Azhar in New York; Editing by Anil D'Silva and Nick Zieminski)

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