Why Citigroup Inc. (C) Is The Leading Bank Laggard This Morning

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Mr. Market did not appreciate Ben Bernanke’s announcement yesterday on the plans for easing the current stimulus policy. And with big banks viewed as some of the biggest beneficiaries to the “easy money,” it’s no surprise the Big Four are all trading lower this morning. But Citigroup Inc. (NYSE:C) has taken a much bigger hit than the other three, falling almost 2.3% just an hour into trading. For investors, this might be worrisome, but a simple explanation may calm some of your fears.

Fed first

Citigroup Inc (NYSE:C)

So yesterday’s announcement from the Federal Open Markets Committee and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke really shouldn’t have been such a surprise for investors. Stating a similar objective as he had in his previous announcements, Bernanke said that tapering would be initiated once certain improvements were seen in the economy. But what he did add this time as an end point — next year would see the end of bond purchases. More importantly for banks, he noted that the fed funds rate would be kept near zero.

Of course there was a backlash yesterday after the announcement, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which includes both Bank of America Corp (NYSE:BAC) and JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM), fell 200 points. And so far this morning things aren’t going much better.

News of the Fed’s plans spread across the globe, driving some losses in the Japanese markets, which have had their own issues with the effectiveness of monetary policy as of late, and the Nikkei fell 1.7% today. The combination of the US market’s reaction to Bernanke and the Asian market’s reaction is a double whammy for Citigroup Inc. (NYSE:C). We’ve already seen how investors don’t like weakness in Asian markets for the internationally driven bank, so it’s no surprise that Citigroup Inc. (NYSE:C) is leading the bank laggards this morning.

With both Bank of America Corp (NYSE:BAC) and JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM) also invested in the Asian markets, though to a lesser extent, they are also feeling the secondary backlash this morning, down 1.2% and 1.6% respectively as of 10:30am EDT. Wells Fargo & Co (NYSE:WFC) with its more conventional banking operations is only down 1.08%.

Putting it in perspective

Since the latest bull market has really banked on the continuation of the current Fed policy, it makes sense that the reaction we’ve seen in the last 18 hours has been negative. But for long-term investors, the Fed has laid out a plan that hinges on the continued improvement of the economy — something that everyone should want to see. And even though JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon himself noted that the transition period would be “scary,” he also said that we should all be welcoming the change.

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