Investment bank Morgan Stanley is pictured in New York City
Morgan Stanley office in New York. REUTERS

(REUTERS) -- Morgan Stanley (MS.N) lost money in the fourth quarter due to a special charge, but performed better than analysts had expected, sending its shares higher in premarket trading.

The Wall Street bank lost $275 million, or 15 cents per share, compared with earnings of $600 million, or 41 cents per share, a year earlier.

The latest results included a loss of $1.7 billion, or 59 cents per share, related to a settlement with MBIA Inc (MBI.N), announced previously.

The bank lost 14 cents per share from continuing operations; on that basis, the average Wall Street forecast was a loss of 57 cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Morgan Stanley shares were up 4.6 percent in premarket trading.

Like its Wall Street rivals, Morgan Stanley's top-line performance showed the impact of the European sovereign debt crisis. Overall revenue dropped 26 percent, to $5.7 billion, the weakest figure since the second quarter of 2009.

Morgan Stanley did less to tame expenses than other banks, with compensation costs down just 6 percent for the quarter and non-compensation expenses down 7 percent.

For the full year, Morgan Stanley's $16.4 billion in compensation represented 51 percent of net revenue. That compares with a 42 percent compensation-to-revenue ratio for rival Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N) and a 34 percent ratio for JPMorgan Chase & Co's (JPM.N) investment bank.