Goldman Sachs Group reported first-quarter earnings that beat analysts' estimates as the firm posted a bigger increase in revenue from trading debt, commodities and currencies than its rivals and the highest merger-advisory revenue since the financial crisis.

Net income rose 40% to $2.84 billion, or $5.94 a share, from $2.03 billion, or $4.02, a year earlier, the New York company said Thursday. That beat the $4.26 average estimate of 26 analysts in a Bloomberg survey.

Chief Executive Lloyd C. Blankfein, 60, has preached patience as he stuck with fixed-income trading businesses while many rivals cut back. His firm's 10% increase in bond-trading revenue surpassed the 5% jump at JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America 7% drop.

"Trading's been a better story this first quarter than it has been in some time," Devin Ryan, an analyst at JMP Group Inc., said before the results were announced. "The bar is still pretty low, but people are looking for that inflection point."

JPMorgan Chase said Tuesday that profit climbed 12%, beating analysts' estimates, as first-quarter revenue from trading stocks and bonds increased for the first time since 2010. Bank of America Wednesday reported fixed-income revenue that fell amid declines in credit and mortgage trading.

Goldman Sachs rose 1.7% to $201.10 in New York trading Wednesday. The stock has climbed 3.8 % this year.

The firm has sought to entice investors through buybacks and dividends. It said last month it will increase its quarterly dividend to 65 cents and bought back $11.6 billion of stock the past two years.

Goldman Sachs may be limited in its capital return in the next few quarters, after it had to resubmit its plan to win Federal Reserve approval in the annual stress test last month. The firm got closest among the top six U.S. banks to breaching regulatory thresholds in the first phase of the test, surpassing the 8% minimum for total risk-based capital by 0.1 percentage point.

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