Goldman cautious as earnings inch higher

Goldman Sachs on Tuesday reported slightly higher first-quarter earnings on increased investment banking activities but became the latest banking giant to give a cautious appraisal of the global economy.

Goldman posted net income of $2.2 billion on $10.1 billion in revenues, up from the prior-year level of $2.1 billion in profits on $9.9 billion in revenues.

Goldman reported 35 percent higher revenues in investment banking compared with last year; this category included large increases in equity and debt underwriting. These gains helped offset a modest decline in advisory services on mergers and acquisitions.

The firm's investment management division also posted revenue gains. Goldman's equity securities revenues rose 24 percent compared with the year-ago level, helping to offset a three percent decline in debt securities and loans.

But the banking giant said revenues in fixed income, currency and commodities client execution -- the company's trading division -- were seven percent below the year-ago levels. Goldman also said net revenues in equities were 15 percent below the year-ago levels.

Operating expenses were essentially unchanged compared with a year ago. The company trimmed total staff one percent compared with the end of 2012, Goldman said.

Goldman chief executive Lloyd Blankfein lauded the "generally solid results," but included a cautious note in his appraisal. Executives from JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup have offered similarly tentative outlooks in recent days.

"The potential for macro-economic instability was felt in the quarter and constrained overall corporate and investor activity," Blankfein said. "We continue to be very focused on controlling our costs and efficiently managing our capital."

Goldman shares were up 1.0 percent in pre-market trading.