James Gorman, the new chief executive of Morgan Stanley, appears to be delivering on his pledge to revive the investment bank's trading unit, which was crippled during the financial crisis.

Morgan Stanley's first-quarter earnings were driven by a big jump in fixed-income trading that helped to boost its overall results above Wall Street's projections.

Sales and trading revenue was $4.1 billion in the quarter, up sharply from $1.4 billion a year earlier.

The success of the trading operation, which nearly put Morgan Stanley out of business in the depth of the financial crisis, was linked to a hiring spree last year, under then-CEO John Mack, that was undertaken to help the firm regain lost market share. Gorman, who succeeded Mack in January, declared that "the build-out of our sales and trading business is beginning to pay off."

Morgan Stanley reported a profit of $1.85 billion, or 99 cents a share, for the first three months of the year. It had reported a loss of $17 million, or 57 cents a share, a year earlier. Revenue more than tripled, to $9.08 billion, due to the Morgan Stanley Smith Barney joint venture. Analysts contacted by Thomson Reuters had most recently averaged an earnings forecast of 57 cents a share on $7.94 billion in revenue.

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