Wall St bankers, publicly modest, eye fancy toys

Wed Dec 29, 2010 6:44pm EST
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By Phil Wahba

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wall Street executives may face smaller bonuses and a public that still eyes them with suspicion, but that isn't stopping them from rediscovering their love of luxury cars, oceanfront homes and private jets.

A soaring stock market, a surge in merger deals and an uptick in hiring on Wall Street are allowing bankers to gradually return to the lavish lifestyles they enjoyed until the 2008 financial crisis came crashing down on their party.

Despite talk of bonus cuts, many businesses that cater to bankers' whims, such as the luxury car dealerships on Manhattan's Park Avenue, are teeming with Wall Street suits.

"Even if they are worried about bonuses, their egos are involved here," said one dealership manager, who said requests have been filing in for $225,000 crimson red Ferraris and $170,000 Audi R8 convertibles.

Wall Street paid out $20.3 billion in bonuses for 2009, and the numbers for 2010 are expected to be up modestly, according to various estimates, including one from New York's comptroller.

Hedge fund managers and investment bankers who advise on mergers should see some of the biggest increases, while bond traders can expect cuts of as much as 30 percent.

Financial industry employees will find out in January how big a bonus they'll get, and those who aren't sure if they'll get much seem to be waiting before they spend lavishly.

Nonetheless, there are enough Wall Street tycoons expecting big paydays to feed luxury spending.   Continued...

<p>Bob Mack looks at a Maserati while browsing at Foreign Cars Italia, a Ferrari, Aston Martin and Maserati dealer in Charlotte, North Carolina, December 29, 2010. REUTERS/Chris Keane</p>