Billions more wiped off Citigroup shares

  • Market jumps on hopes of new treasury secretary
  • Boost fails to help US banking giant

Wall Street ended a volatile week with renewed confidence last night, after reports that Barack Obama has chosen Timothy Geithner, the head of the New York Federal Reserve, as his treasury secretary.

As speculation mounted over Geithner’s nomination, shares rebounded. The Dow Jones industrial average recorded a 494-point gain on the day as stocks surged by 6.5% to close above the psychologically important 8,000 level at 8046.42. It was still 5% down for the week, however, as worries persist about the global economic slowdown.

Geithner, 47, has always been a favourite to take the top job and his appointment is expected to be announced by the Obama camp in the next 24 hours.

Banking stocks still suffered, though, despite the market’s abrupt recovery.

Citigroup, once the world’s biggest banking group, saw another $5bn (£3.35bn)wiped off its value after an emergency board meeting failed to come up with any initiative to stem the unprecedented flight of investors. Shares fell to $3 after the bank’s chief executive, Vikram Pandit, ruled out selling its retail stockbroking arm, Smith Barney, in an attempt to stop the rout.

Shares in Citigroup have lost more than half their value this week since Pandit announced plans on Monday to sack 52,000 workers. Measures by the bank and its biggest investors to reverse the share price decline, from a level of $54 two years ago, have all failed.

However, a Citigroup source within Pandit’s inner circle, defended the bank last night, saying the sinking share price “has nothing to do with our viability”. The source added that it was of no consequence if the price fell to zero.
(Obviously an expert!…)

“This is all about market perception,” she said, claiming that the market was wrong. “We are the same as everybody else. Our stock price is declining but so is everybody else’s.”
(…and a great observer too!)

Read moreBillions more wiped off Citigroup shares

Wall Street Journal: New credit hurdle looms for banks

U.S. and European banks, already burdened by losses and concerns about their financial health, face a new challenge: paying off hundreds of billions of dollars of debt coming due.

At issue are so-called floating-rate notes – securities used heavily by banks in 2006 to borrow money. A big chunk of those notes, which typically mature in two years, will come due over the next year or so, at a time when banks are struggling to raise fresh funds. That’s forcing banks to sell assets, compete heavily for deposits and issue expensive new debt.

The crunch will begin next month, when some $95 billion in floating-rate notes mature. J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. analyst Alex Roever estimates that financial institutions will have to pay off at least $787 billion in floating-rate notes and other medium-term obligations before the end of 2009. That’s about 43 percent more than they had to redeem in the previous 16 months.

The problem highlights how the pain of the credit crunch, now entering its second year, won’t end soon for banks or the broader economy. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said on Tuesday that its list of “problem” banks at risk of failure had grown to 117 at the end of June, up from 90 at the end of March. FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair said her agency might have to borrow money from the Treasury Department to see it through an expected wave of bank failures. She said the borrowing could be needed to handle short-term cash-flow pressure brought on by reimbursements to depositors after bank failures.

Read moreWall Street Journal: New credit hurdle looms for banks