The Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association released its compilation of Wall Street’s second-quarter results today. It found that for the quarter, which ended in June, US-based broker-dealers eked out a pre-tax profit of $4.8 billion, after three quarters’ worth of losses totalling $35.8 billion. The figure was down 44 percent from the last quarterly profit, in the second quarter of 2007.
Net revenues, a key indicator of future bonuses, were $55.5 billion, down 11.1 percent from the same quarter in 2007. Wall Street firms generally devote half of their net revenues to bonuses. Indeed, spending on compensation was down just 6.8 percent from the same quarter in ’07.
Does that mean that bonuses won’t be as bad as we think this winter? While any good news, even possibly illusory good news, is welcome at this point, we shouldn’t all go to Per Se yet. A drilling through data provided in another recent Sifma report shows that the second quarter was likely the lull in the middle of a storm. Quarter by quarter, total underwriting revenues from US-originated deals during the second quarter were down 47 percent. That sounds bad, but in the first quarter, they were down by 63 percent, and in the third quarter, by 71 percent, meaning that the second was the best of the three.
It’s easy to interpert these figures as evidence that in the second quarter, firms managed to get a few deals out before the capital markets froze up again in the third, even more thickly than before. Areas like income from commissions and fees from client trading and asset management, too, held up better than underwriting.
What about employment? Sifma’s new report notes that through August, New York State had lost 2.4 percent, or 5,300 of its securities-industry jobs from the industry’s credit-bubble peak, reached in July 2007. New York City has lost 5.2 percent, or 10,000 jobs, since it’s own bubble-employment peak, reached in August 2007. Nationally, though, securities employment has kept growing, albeit slowly, at a 1.3 percent annual growth rate in August, down from 3.7 percent the previous year.