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It's been a great year for the face of Wall Street,
Goldman Sachs(GS - Get Report). The $68 billion investment bank has rallied more than 33% in the last 12 months, climbing higher as the whole financial sector enjoyed stellar relative strength. That performance has been buoyed by strong fundamentals for the firm, as revenue and profits grew considerably from 2011.
Goldman has a history of delivering substantial shareholder yield, so even though its dividend only stands at 1.38%, the firm is deploying much more cash to boost investor value. The appearance of a smaller dividend payout could spur a hike in the next quarter.
Goldman's reputation as a well-connected legacy investment bank precedes it. That reputation alone holds a lot of cachet with many clients, particularly in the investment management side of the business, where wealthy retail clients want the Goldman Sachs name on their statements. But ultimately the institutional and investment banking sides of GS' business make up a much more significant piece of the revenue pie - and there, the firm's decision to become a bank holding company is likely to continue to constrain the level of risk that the firm is able to take on.
The increased scrutiny isn't necessarily a bad thing -- it helps to prevent Goldman from conspicuously over-leveraging itself in chase of returns. Yes, that does mean that Goldman's profit potential is reduced, but the bigger market share and more lucrative businesses that the firm has been enjoying post-recession should easily offset that. Goldman's balance sheet looks more like a big bank than anything else. That said, cash flows should easily fuel a dividend hike in 2013, especially if an equity rally helps to boost all of the firm's businesses this year.