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We just got a sign that business is bouncing back on Wall Street

Julia La Roche
·Correspondent
Wall Street is rebounding. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

We just got a big hint about how Wall Street banks may be doing in the second quarter.

After the market closed on Wednesday, Leucadia National (LUK), the holding company that’s often referred to as a “Baby Berkshire Hathaway”, reported its financial results for the first quarter ended March 31.

What’s particularly notable is Leucadia is also the parent company of investment bank Jefferies, its largest holding.

Jefferies reports its financial results separately from Leucadia. What’s more is Jefferies is considered a bellwether for other Wall Street banks. That’s because Jefferies reports on a slightly different fiscal quarter that’s a month before the other banks.

In the Leucadia release, CEO Richard Handler intimated that Jefferies performance “improved significantly” and they expect to have a “solid” second quarter, which ends May 31.

“Leucadia's first quarter 2016 results were impacted by the volatile and turbulent period in the capital markets, which primarily impacted Jefferies and our other market sensitive businesses.  However, benefiting from improved market conditions, the range of changes we implemented  last  year  and  in  the  first  quarter,  as  well  as  the  continuing  hard  work  of  our  entire  team,  Jefferies' performance in March and April has improved significantly.  Although we have one month to go, we expect solid results for Jefferies' second fiscal quarter,” Handler’s statement said.

"Humbled"

Like its peers, Jefferies had a tough first quarter, with markets in a free-fall in January through mid-February. For its quarter ended February 29, Jefferies reported a $245.8 million loss and a $53.2 million reduction to the fair value of its FXCM investment, reducing the bank’s cumulative gains from its FXCM investment to $438 million.

Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley all experienced similar drops in business.

But in late February through March there was a sharp bounce and markets turned positive in 2016.

Handler has a reputation for being a straightforward communicator. In Jefferies first quarter earnings release, he said that they were “humbled” and “will strive to deliver the better results that our shareholders deserve and Jefferies is more than capable of achieving.”

His comments Wednesday evening could be interpreted as good news for the rest of the banks. If you look at Jefferies' main businesses, what he’s saying could imply is that the capital markets are open in equities, they’re starting to open in leveraged finance, and fixed income, which has been the most challenging part, has stabilized.

So directionally, this could be an important clue for the rest of the Street.

That said, Jefferies still has the month of May to go to finish its second quarter. The other banks still have May and June, so everything is subject to change.

Shares of Leucadia were last up 2.6% at around $16.64.

--
Julia La Roche is a finance reporter at Yahoo Finance.

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