Page last updated at 21:48 GMT, Thursday, 15 October 2009 22:48 UK

US banks' profits beat forecasts

Graph of banks profits and losses

Two major Wall Street banks have reported better-than-expected profits between July and September.

Goldman Sachs' profits for the period were $3.19bn (£1.96bn), a four-fold increase from the same period in 2008.

It has set aside $5.35bn to cover pay and bonuses for the quarter, an average payout of $172,581 per worker.

Citigroup's profits also grew, but the much lower figure of $101m reflected the impact of the recession on its High Street banking operation.

By Michelle Fleury, BBC business reporter, New York

Goldman Sachs is the firm everyone loves to hate. There is a lot of anger towards the firm that took government money during the financial crisis and is now making so much cash.

Capturing the mood, a Rolling Stone magazine article published in June described Goldman as a "great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity".

The news that the bank has more set aside for pay and bonuses in nine months than in the whole of last year will only fuel that anger. The compensation pot is on track to hit $23bn.

With bonuses overshadowing performance, the challenge for Goldman is fixing its image.

It is highly exposed to consumer loans and has more bad debts than Goldman, which concentrates more on investment banking; trading and helping companies to merge with each other.

In the same period a year earlier, Citigroup had made a loss of $2.82bn. But its latest profit figure was significantly lower than the previous quarter, when it made $4.82bn.

Citigroup is currently 34%-owned by the US government and has written off more than $100bn of assets since the start of the credit crisis.

Shares in both banks fell because while the results were better than had been expected, they were still not as impressive as JP Morgan Chase the day before, which had sent the Dow Jones above the 10,000 mark.

'Complex business'

Goldman Sachs said that there were signs of "improving conditions and evidence of stabilisation" in the world economy.

The United States economy is about to pose an interesting political problem
Mark Mardell
BBC North America editor

The $5.35bn it set aside to cover pay and bonuses during the quarter brings the total for the first nine months of this year to $16.7bn.

"Goldman has always been the biggest bonus payer simply because its people make more money per person than anyone else," Ralph Silva from Tower Group told BBC News.

"The problem here is fundamental, it is a very complex business. There are very few people in the world who have the ability to do this job so the reason they get paid so much is there is just not enough of them."

Trading boost

"Although the world continues to face serious economic challenges, we are seeing improving conditions and evidence of stabilisation, even growth, across a number of sectors," said chairman and chief executive Lloyd C Blankfein.

A Citibank branch - part of Citigroup
Citigroup reported another $8bn in credit losses

The bank paid back the emergency loan it had received from the government in July this year.

It has come through the financial crisis relatively well, having been less exposed to the mortgage-related debt that crippled many of its peers.

Its currency, commodity and bond trading fared particularly well in the third quarter.

But revenue from its mergers and acquisitions operations fell sharply from the previous quarter, reflecting the continuing lack of activity.

The was reflected in Goldman's overall profit figure, which at $3.19bn, was lower than the $3.44bn that Goldman made in the previous three months.

'Challenging' environment

The two sets of results followed figures from JP Morgan Chase on Wednesday, which were dramatically better than had been expected.

The second-biggest US bank made a net income of $3.6bn, compared with $527m in the same period of 2008.

Bank of America is due to report its results on Friday while Morgan Stanley results will be out on Wednesday 21 October.

Citigroup reported another $8bn in credit losses for the three-month period and the bank's boss warned conditions would remain difficult.

"While consumer credit trends are improving in international markets, the US consumer credit environment remains challenging," said chief executive Vikram Pandit.

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