Wall Street bonuses may top last year as profits soar

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Despite the weak U.S. economy, this year could be the second most profitable for New York City’s securities industry, and the average bonus may top last year’s because so many bankers and brokers have been laid off, the state comptroller said in a report on Wednesday.

“Wall Street earned $21.4 billion during the first three quarters of 2010,” Comptroller Tom DiNapoli said. “While much less than last year’s record of $61.4 billion, which was fueled by federal assistance, the securities industry is on track in 2010 for the second-highest level of profitability on record,” he said.

Last year Wall Street paid out $20.3 billion in bonuses, Di Napoli said, but 2,700 securities and commodities employees got pink slips from September 2009 through last September, according to employment data. The high-paying industry only employed 160,200 people in September, down from a peak of 200,300 in December 2000.

Wall Street’s surprisingly swift recovery -- which is a boon for the city’s finances because of increased tax collections -- was also highlighted in a report by City Comptroller John Liu issued on Wednesday.

“The astounding recovery of financial firm profitability in 2009 has been followed by a mixed year in 2010, yet total compensation in the industry is expected to be up modestly once year-end bonuses are paid,” Liu said.

Reporting by Joan Gralla; Editing by Kenneth Barry