Investment banks Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs Group Inc posted better-than-expected quarterly earnings on Thursday, helped by gains in merger advisory and stock underwriting. The results underscored how businesses viewed as stodgy before the financial crisis are becoming critical drivers of earnings growth for investment banks now. Goldman's fixed-income trading revenue plunged during the first quarter, both for trades it did for customers and investments on its own account. But the bank's investment management and its stock underwriting and merger advisory businesses logged big gains.
By Rodrigo Campos NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks advanced slightly in choppy trading on Thursday after three days of gains, as underwhelming results from tech bellwethers Google and IBM were offset by upbeat quarterly numbers, including those from Morgan Stanley and General Electric. The latest data showed the U.S. economy's health was improving. The combined reported and expected earnings-per-share growth estimate for S&P 500 components rose to 1.7 percent from Wednesday's 0.6 percent, Thomson Reuters data showed, indicating most companies that reported results in the past 24 hours exceeded expectations. The technology sector capped the S&P 500's gain, with Google shares down 3.2 percent at $545.81 and IBM off 3.2 percent at $190.28 after both reported earnings late Wednesday that failed to impress Wall Street.
By Lucia Mutikani WASHINGTON (Reuters) - New claims for jobless benefits hovered near their pre-recession levels last week and manufacturing in the Mid-Atlantic region accelerated in April, suggesting an upswing in economic activity after a brutally cold winter. Coming on the heels of fairly bullish data on retail sales and industrial production, Thursday's reports also hinted job growth may be picking up slightly. "The data add further evidence to the notion that the economy has exerted positive momentum at the start of the second quarter," said Sam Bullard, a senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities in Charlotte, North Carolina. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits ticked up 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 304,000 for the week ended April 12, the Labor Department said, but stayed close to a 6-1/2 year low touched the prior week.
A federal judge on Thursday rejected a bid to compel General Motors Co to tell customers to stop driving millions of cars that have been recalled for defective ignition switches. Attorneys representing Charles and Grace Silvas, the owners of a recalled 2006 Chevrolet Cobalt, had sought an emergency order directing GM to issue "park it now" notices for the 2.6 million vehicles that have been recalled since February over the switches. GM opposed the motion, arguing that the vehicles were safe to drive as long as nothing extra was attached to the key while it was in the ignition. U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos in Corpus Christi, Texas, denied the request in a ruling on Thursday, saying that she would defer to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a federal agency that oversees auto safety.
Former Goldman Sachs Group Inc director Rajat Gupta is expected to begin his two-year prison term on June 17 for insider trading. U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in Manhattan directed Gupta to surrender by 2:00 p.m. EDT on that date to start serving his sentence at an institution chosen by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, according to an order issued on Thursday. Gupta, 65, was convicted in June 2012 on securities fraud and conspiracy charges for having fed tips, from Goldman board meetings in the second half of 2008, to longtime friend Raj Rajaratnam, founder of the Galleon Group hedge fund firm. A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan had no immediate comment.