Jefferies just put the hype about a Wall Street rebound into perspective with only 4 words

Rich HandlerGetty Images/ Rob KimRich Handler, Jefferies CEO

“Merely stable versus robust.”

That was how Jefferies described trading conditions in the three months ended May 31.

The Wall Street investment bank on Tuesday announced an uptick in revenues for its fiscal second quarter, after a torrid start to the year.

“We are pleased to report quarterly results at a more normal level, reflecting better equity and fixed income secondary trading conditions, although new issue capital markets activity remained somewhat muted,” Jefferies executives said in a statement.

Revenues came in at $719.4 million, up from $299 million the previous quarter, but down from the same period of last year. Here are the key takeaways by business:

  • Equities revenues of $223.5 million, up from just $1.7 million in the first quarter, but down slightly from the same period a year earlier.
  • Fixed income revenues of $238.5 million, up sharply from both the first quarter and the same period last year.
  • There was one trading day with a loss, excluding the impact of KCG (a market maker Jefferies has a stake in), versus 12 the previous quarter, and five in the second quarter of 2015.
  • Total investment banking revenues of $253 million, up from the first quarter, but down heavily from $404.3 million in the second quarter of 2015.
  • Net earnings of $54 million, versus a $166.8 million loss in the first quarter, and a $59.8 million in the same period in 2015.

Jefferies tends to be something of a bellwether for Wall Street, and market watchers look for a read across from the firm’s results to the big banks that report a month later.

In its first quarter results, for example, it hinted at improved trading conditions through March. Many of the bulge bracket investment banks later confirmed the same trend: a pick-up in trading starting March.

That pick up has continued through April, May and June for Jefferies. Several banks have said they expect to report solid second quarter trading revenues.

But as Jefferies points out in its statement, the improvement isn’t that dramatic. Total revenues were still down year-on-year. Trading conditions aren’t great; they’re just not awful.

Here’s the excerpt (emphasis ours):

“We are particularly pleased with these results as the trading environment was merely stable versus robust, and our performance shows the continued opportunity and potential of our business after a significant bottoms up rightsizing and strengthening, and an overall reduction in risk.”

The bank has been making changes. Business Insider reported in May that it had hired five bankers from Credit Suisse, for example. The Jefferies statement said:

“We believe our industry is experiencing yet another fundamental and strategic inflection point. We expect this will lead to further consolidation of market share and we are all working hard to ensure that Jefferies is a major beneficiary. To this end, we are particularly focused on continuing to expand our investment banking footprint in the US and Europe, and are meeting and hiring talented individuals who we believe will enhance our ability to serve our clients.”

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