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Morgan Stanley profit rises as legal costs fall

[LONDON] Morgan Stanley's quarterly earnings rose as the bank's legal costs fell sharply, outweighing a big drop in revenue from its division that trades bonds, currencies and commodities.

Choppy markets caused by factors ranging from plunging oil prices to political upheaval in Greece, sent investors scurrying last month, slashing the trading revenue of US banks including Morgan Stanley arch rival Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

Morgan Stanley said on Tuesday that its revenue from trading fixed-income securities, currencies and commodities (FICC) fell 81 per cent to US$133 million, excluding accounting adjustments.

Revenue from the bank's increasingly important wealth management business rose 2.4 per cent to US$3.80 billion as equity markets boomed.

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Overall, earnings attributable to common shareholders rose to US$920 million, or 47 cents per share, in the fourth quarter from US$36 million, or 2 cents per share, a year earlier.

Legal expenses fell to US$284 million from US$1.4 billion.