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Goldman CFO: Commodities trading biz on track for worst performance since IPO

Goldman Sachs Group Inc.'s commodities trading business is on track to see its worst full-year performance since the company went public in 1999, CFO R. Martin Chavez said.

The company's fixed-income, currency and commodities client execution business has struggled for several quarters now, and the slide continued into the third quarter. The segment's revenues were up slightly from the second quarter, which the company said was its worst quarterly performance ever for the business. But revenues from the business were still down 26% from the third quarter of 2016 at $1.45 billion.

"Our [fixed-income, currency and commodities] business improved, and that's obviously something that's good to see," Chavez said during the company's third-quarter earnings call with investors Oct. 17. "But it is, by no means, aspirational. We know we can do better. We know we need to do better."

Goldman Sachs pinned the segment's ongoing slide on the market's continued lack of volatility and low client activity, along with lower net revenues in commodities, interest rate products and credit products. Rate changes in the third quarter proved to be the "main driver" for the segment's sequential gain, Chavez said.

While revenues from the business continue to falter, Chavez said commodities inventory has proven to be a persistently negative factor for the business. In July, Bloomberg News reported that Goldman was undertaking an informal review of the business as it struggles to turn around results.

The company saw total net revenues for the third quarter jump to $8.33 billion from $8.17 billion in the year-prior period. Chavez said the commodities trading business' depressed results were offset by the company's investment banking and investment management divisions. For the third quarter, investment banking revenues were up to $1.80 billion from $1.54 billion a year earlier, while revenues in investment management jumped to $1.53 billion from $1.49 billion in the year-prior period.

Looking ahead, Chavez said macroeconomic changes like rising inflation, new central bank policies or regulatory changes could prove to be a catalyst for the business.