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Goldman profit up 5%; focus still on costs

Goldman Sachs reported what seemed like a good first quarter Tuesday. But analysts were more concerned about the bank's future than the past three months.

They peppered the chief financial officer with questions about impending regulations, and investors sent Goldman's stock down even as other banks rose.

By the numbers, it was a decent quarter. Profit rose 5 percent, and revenue was up 1 percent. Both beat analysts' expectations. Bond underwriting soared 69 percent as issuers rushed to take advantage of low interest rates and a hearty appetite for corporate debt among investors.

Chief executive Lloyd Blankfein described the results as "generally solid."

Goldman's leaders sounded a cautious tone on a conference call with analysts, however. They said investors were still nervous about the economy and that the bank would continue to focus on controlling costs.

The results were another reminder that the U.S. banking industry has settled into a steady rhythm of slow growth and cost-cutting -- a far cry from the turbocharged era of kingdom-building before the financial crisis of 2008. It's an especially sharp change for Goldman, long considered the king of Wall Street.

"We are very close still to the epicenter of the crisis," chief financial officer Harvey Schwartz said on a call with analysts, describing clients' uncertainty over the economy.

Goldman's expenses fell 1 percent. The bank cut about 400 jobs, or 1 percent of its workforce. Analysts noted that a key measure of compensation -- what the bank sets aside for compensation versus total revenue -- was down to 43 percent from 44 percent a year ago.

Goldman earned $2.2 billion in the first quarter, up from $2.1 billion a year ago. That worked out to $4.29 per share, beating the $3.90 predicted by analysts polled by FactSet.

Revenue was $10.1 billion, up from $9.9 billion. That also beat analysts' forecast of $9.7 billion.

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