Goldman Sachs earnings surge amid pandemic upheaval

The Goldman Sachs Manhattan headquarters stands in Manhattan. AFP/Spencer Platt

NEW YORK - Goldman Sachs reported another blowout quarter to conclude a highly profitable 2020 despite the coronavirus pandemic, which provided lucrative opportunities to the investment bank while battering much of the US economy.

Goldman's profits soared to $4.4-billion in the final quarter of the year, more than double the earnings from the same period a year ago, as it scored higher revenues in all four operating divisions and easily topped analyst estimates.

The just-ended quarter showed a continuation of the heady trends from Goldman's third-quarter: more strength in equity and fixed-income trading amid financial markets volatility and huge growth in financial advising revenues as corporate clients pursued mergers or raised equity against a fast-changing macroeconomic backdrop.

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And amid coronavirus-induced restrictions on movement, the financial giant saw lower travel and entertainment costs.

Chief Executive David Solomon praised the company's performance, but cautioned that the outlook for the global economy remains dependent on getting COVID-19 under control with a successful vaccination campaign.

"I urge political leaders at all levels and across all jurisdictions to do everything possible to implement a coordinated and comprehensive distribution plan," Solomon said during an earnings conference call. 

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"In its absence, economic recovery will be unnecessarily delayed."

Several key economic sectors remain in deep trouble due to the prolonged downturn, including energy, airlines, hospitality and commercial real estate.

Goldman enjoyed especially strong growth in fourth-quarter revenues in investment banking, up 27 percent, and global markets, up 23 percent.

Overall revenues rose 18 percent from the year-ago period to $11.7-billion.

For all of 2020, Goldman Sachs reported profits of $8.9-billion, up 13 percent, on a revenue increase of 22 percent to $44.6-billion.


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