Wall Street's most important business is bouncing back

The crash of fixed income, currencies and commodities trading has been Wall Street’s never-ending story.

Over the last few years, revenues have plunged, traders have been fired, and business lines have been shuttered.

But for a (possibly brief) moment, it seems that pressure has abated.

On Friday, JPMorgan and Citigroup both reported a knockout quarter in the business in the third quarter.

For its fixed income unit, JPMorgan reported revenues of $4.33 billion for the quarter — up 45% from the same quarter a year ago. That’s the unit’s best performance in more than three years.

Daniel Pinto, CEO of JPMorgan’s corporate and investment bank, said in a memo to staff that macro (rates and FX) and spread products (credit) both had their best third quarter in five years.

Over at Citigroup, fixed income markets revenues came in at $3.5 billion, up 35% from the same quarter a year ago and on a par with the second quarter, which is traditionally a busier time of year than summer. The bank said that there was strength in rates, currencies and spread products, making the rebound broad based.

That performance helped the bank beat analyst expectations.

JPMorgan and Citigroup finished the first six months as the top two banks in fixed income, currencies and commodities revenues, according to Coalition, and the good news for Wall Street more broadly is that the comeback has no single driver. Rates, currencies and spread product revenues all rebounded.

It is also the first time in a while where both macro products, like rates and currencies, and spread products, like corporate bonds and securitized products, have been strong at the same time. Rates was a terrible business for several years, but has bounced back recently, with credit becoming the horror-show.

But JPMorgan CFO Marianne Lake said that credit was “a comeback story” following a challenging period there.

Whether the performance is sustainable is another question. There were a number of key factors that helped drive strong trading in the third quarter, including the aftermath of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, and wild swings in sterling, big currency moves in various emerging markets, a surge in debt issuance, and plenty of central bank news.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley report next week. We’ll soon find out whether the rest of Wall Street has benefitted from the same rebound in it’s most important business.

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