London - Goldman, the fifth-largest US bank by assets, reported earnings of $2.8bn, or $5.60 per share, up from $978m, or $1.84 per share, in the same period a year ago.
Analysts mostly had been forecasting much lower figures. Following its early morning report on Wednesday, Goldman shares were up 1.8% at $138 in premarket trading.
A significant part of Goldman's earnings boom came from improvements in market values in the stock and bond markets, as well as increased activity.
The New York-based investment bank said it took in "significantly higher" revenues from credit products and mortgages in its bond-trading business. Its investing and lending division, which mostly earns money from higher values on Goldman's own stock and bond investments, reported nearly $2bn worth of revenue.
But gains were broad, with revenue up across each of Goldman's business lines, from investment banking to investment management. Overall, its revenue rose 53% to $9.2bn from $6bn in the fourth quarter of 2011.
Goldman's earnings were also helped by a sharp decline in compensation expenses, typically the biggest cost for Wall Street firms.
The bank said compensation fell 11% in the fourth quarter compared with a year ago. The expense was just 21% of net revenue, roughly half of what the firm usually pays out to employees.
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