Citi surges on strong quarter

July 15, 2011, 4:19 PM UTC

Citigroup posted a stronger-than-expected second quarter, sending its shares higher in early trading even as it warned the economic outlook remains “uneven.”

The New York-based bank made$3.3 billion, or $1.09 a share, up from the year-ago $2.7 billion, or 90 cents a share. Revenue fell 7% from a year ago to $20.6 billion. Analysts were looking for a profit of 97 cents a share on revenue of $20 billion.

Not winning converts

Citi (C) cited a 12% revenue gain in its international consumer banking business, offset by an 8% drop in its trading unit and a 9% decline in North American banking, where results were hit by new credit card fee limts. The bank said credit trends continue to improve, enabling it to drop $2 billion worth of previously booked loan losses into the second quarter’s bottom line.

“We produced growth in both loans and deposits in Citicorp, reduced assets in Citi Holdings, continued to invest in our core businesses, and improved our financial strength,” CEO Vikram Pandit said in a Friday morning press release. “Although the near-term macroeconomic outlook is uneven, Citi is consistently profitable and we remain focused on producing responsible growth by serving our clients.”

The report follows Thursday’s strong earnings report from rival JPMorganChase (JPM), which easily beat Wall Street estimates even as CEO Jamie Dimon said mortgage-related costs would continue to weigh on results in coming quarters.

The mortgage mess has been a bit less of a headache lately for Citi than for JPMorgan and Bank of America (BAC), both of which have bigger mortgage servicing businesses. But thanks to its near implosion in the credit crisis of 2008, Citi continues to be dogged by other questions about its risk management, such as its potential exposure to the weaker European economies known collectively as the PIIGS for Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain.

Accordingly, analysts have been lobbying the bank for more information on that and on how much capital the bank believes it will have to raise in coming years as new safety rules come into effect. The hope is that by spelling out its positions and clarifying expectations, Citi can draw some more interest from investors who have remained wary of the stock. 

Citi shares have dropped almost 20% this year, amid questions about where the big banks will make up revenue lost since the 2009 trading frenzy ended and new rules put an end to some of the most egregious and profitable fees.

“Details on its Greece/peripheral exposure and Basel III expectations would be particularly helpful, as greater clarity in these areas could improve its valuation,” Barclays analysts wrote in a note to clients this month.

If there is to be any update on Greece it will have to come on the bank’s conference call, scheduled for 11 a.m. Eastern time. Citi shares rose 4% in premarket trading to $40.77.