Morgan Stanley profit sinks 30% under coronavirus pressure

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Morgan Stanley’s profit fell 30% in the first quarter, the last big U.S. bank to lurch through a period of stress wrought by the coronavirus.

The Wall Street firm reported a quarterly profit of $1.7 billion, or $1.01 a share, on revenue of $9.49 billion. Both figures were down from a year ago.

The results fell just shy of projections by stock analysts, who had revised their estimates downward as the coronavirus pummeled the markets and the U.S. economy. Analysts polled by FactSet expected $1.16 a share, or $1.89 billion, of profit on $9.85 billion of revenue.

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Morgan Stanley is the smallest of the six major U.S. banks with few true peers in the bunch, which has left some investors unsure how it will fare in a coronavirus downturn.

Its Wall Street businesses are roughly the same size as Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s, but its giant wealth-management arm tracks more closely with Bank of America Corp.’s Merrill Lynch unit.

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It doesn’t have a credit-card arm, where JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc. are steeling for a wave of defaults, and is largely sitting out the government’s small-business emergency lending program.

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Morgan Stanley’s 61-year-old chief executive, James Gorman, spent more than a week in March sickened with the coronavirus, showing the disease’s fever and chills though none of its deadly respiratory symptoms.

The quarter challenged U.S. megabanks in ways unseen since the financial crisis of 2008. They contended with falling interest rates and wildly swinging asset prices, sorted through unprecedented government intervention in the financial markets, and steeled themselves for a lengthy recession.

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