Shares in Macquarie Group have lost close to four per cent despite the investment bank forecasting its first rise in profit in three years.

The global financial company said market conditions and activity had improved during the final three months of calendar 2012, and therefore expects at least a 10 per cent profit rise in the 12 months to March 30.

But analysts had expected stronger growth for Macquarie in its fiscal 2013 year, and chief executive Nicholas Moore was still cautious about the outlook for financial markets.

"Things are better but they are still subdued," he told an investor briefing.

"We're up strongly on the prior period and the prior corresponding period, but the important point to note of course was those prior periods were weak."

Macquarie's latest forecast implies a full year profit of just over $800 million, based on the previous year's $730 million result.

Most analysts had been expecting a profit of $840 million in fiscal 2013, and profits remain well below the $1.05 billion Macquarie made in its fiscal 2010 year.

The company's shares lost $1.46, or 3.8 per cent, to be at $37.27 at 1513 AEDT.

"The difference in profit forecasts is the strength and timing of recovery in capital markets, a higher tax rate ... and the impact of a number of one-off positive fiscal year 2012 items in corporate not repeating in fiscal year 2013," Morningstar analyst David Ellis said.

An improved performance from Macquarie's north American operations, where tax rates are higher than in Asia, is expected to lead to Macquarie paying a tax rate above 30 per cent in the year to March, up from 28 per cent in the previous year.

The company expects better conditions to lift profits in most of its businesses, but that will not prevent its brokerage firm Macquarie Securities from posting another full year loss, Mr Moore said.

"If you look at it from a stockbroking viewpoint for example, commission rates are up but they are still substantially below where they were in recent history," he said.

Credit Suisse analysts were more upbeat in their assessment of Macquarie's trading update, saying there were "more positives than negatives".

"A balanced overall statement by Macquarie still gives scope for fiscal year 2013 guidance to be upgraded or exceeded," they wrote in a note to clients.


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