Why Citigroup Inc. (C) is the Big-Bank Winner Today as Bank of America Corp (BAC) Loses Out: Morgan Stanley (MS)

Buoyed by positive employment data for the month of February released this morning, stocks opened significantly higher this morning, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average 2 Minute(Dow Jones Indices: .DJI) looked poised to set yet another nominal closing high. However, the S&P 500 (S&P Indices: .INX) and the narrower, price-weighted Dow have since fallen back to just above breakeven, up 0.1% and 0.15%, respectively, as of 10:05 a.m. EST.Banks are OK
The results of the Fed’s third annual round of bank stress tests are in and — drum roll — banks passed! (All but Ally Financial, that is.) Were you expecting anything different? Here’s how the stress test works: The Fed comes up with a hellfire (“severely adverse”) scenario for the economy, and financial markets and banks tot up their expected losses and their capital position under that scenario. The object is to verify whether bank balance sheets can withstand a brutal macroeconomic shock, which, in this case, included: A peak unemployment rate of 12.1% — roughly 50% higher than it is today and 1.4 percentage points higher than the highest rate achieved since 1948. A greater-than-50% decline in stock prices. A 20% decline in housing prices.

Citigroup Inc (NYSE:C)Note that the two remaining pure-play investment banks, Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) and Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. (NYSE:GS) , came in with the lowest stress-scenario capital ratios, barely above the aggregate Tier 1 common equity ratio of 5.6% for the 18 firms at the end of 2008 — just prior to the first round of stress tests in early 2009, which prompted massive raises. The minimum required ratio is 5%. Goldman’s forecast losses under the stress test scenario are $20 billion, above analyst expectations. These results are putting pressure on investment bank shares.

Meanwhile, with respective stress-scenario Tier 1 common equity ratios of 6.8% and 8.3%, Bank of America Corp (NYSE:BAC) and Citigroup Inc. (NYSE: C) look in a more comfortable position. For shareholders, that means the prospect of return of capital via dividend increases or share repurchases. Indeed, Citigroup Inc. (NYSE:C) announced a $1.2 billion buyback over the next 12 months — its biggest return of capital since 2006 — giving the shares a healthy boost this morning. Investors are cheering the news, boosting Citigroup Inc. (NYSE:C) shares by 1.2%. No word from B of A, whose shares, down 1.6%, are paying the price for this silence.

The article Why Citi is the Big-Bank Winner Today as Bank of America Loses Out originally appeared on Fool.com and is written by Alex Dumortier, CFA.

Fool contributor Alex Dumortier, CFA has no position in any stocks mentioned; you can follow him on LinkedIn. The Motley Fool recommends Goldman Sachs. The Motley Fool owns shares of Bank of America and Citigroup Inc (NYSE:C).

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