Wall Street's big banks are shying away from risk

Goldman Sachs' filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission today showed that its average daily value at risk is down 24 per cent on the previous year at $86m. Average daily value at risk is the estimate of what a bank could lose on an average day, with 95 percent confidence. This is the bank's lowest level since 2005 (when it averaged $70m).

Wall Street's other big four banks (Morgan Stanley, the trading businesses of JPMorgan, Bank of America and Citigroup) have reported a similar decline, of 21 per cent.

For Goldman, less risk-taking also meant fewer days with big losses or gains.

Goldman lost money on 16 trading days in 2012, compared with 54 days in 2011. It did not lose more than $75 million (50 million pounds) on a single day, whereas the previous year it lost at least $100 million (66 million pounds) on four days. Likewise, the bank earned at least $100 million (66 million pounds) on 41 days in 2012, compared with 54 days in 2011.

(Reuters)