Updated from Thursday, March 5
Citigroup (C) shares finally broke the buck on Thursday, but the fallen giant's rollercoaster ride toward penny stock-dom may have more to do with a popular trade for hedge funds than the company's fundamentals.
Citi and the Treasury Department last month revamped a federal bailout plan, in which the bank would exchange common shares for trust and preferred securities held by both the government and private investors.
The complicated deal drastically changed the ownership structure of the firm, and offered Uncle Sam a 36% stake in Citi. Although most of the news was widely anticipated, Citi shares plunged over 40% in trading that day, and closed down 96 cents at $1.50.A big portion of the movement is coming not from a drastic change in the market's thesis on Citigroup -- there's little doubt the firm may not have survived without government aid -- but from hedge funds and institutional investors taking long positions in preferred shares or senior debt, while shorting common equity to capture massive differentials in pricing. "It's a high-risk trade, but when Citi converts those preferred [shares], people will have to unwind a massive short position in Citi common," says one hedge fund manager, who is playing the other side of the bet -- going long Citi in the hope that short covering will drive the stock's price up. Citi shares faced record volatility last month, according to Bloomberg data. But to the average investor, some of the dips and peaks made little sense.
Select the service that is right for you!COMPARE ALL SERVICES
Jim Cramer and Stephanie Link actively manage a real portfolio and reveal their money management tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.
- $2.5+ million portfolio
- Large-cap and dividend focus
- Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
- Weekly roundups
Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.
- Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
- Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
- A custom stock screener
- Upgrade/downgrade alerts
Jim Cramer's protege, David Peltier, identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream.
- Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
- Alerts when market news affect the portfolio
- Bi-weekly updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
All of Real Money, plus 15 more of Wall Street's sharpest minds delivering actionable trading ideas, a comprehensive look at the market, and fundamental and technical analysis.
- Real Money + Doug Kass + 15 more Wall Street Pros
- Intraday commentary & news
- Ultra-actionable trading ideas
Our options trading pros provide daily market commentary and over 100 monthly option trading ideas and strategies to help you become a well-seasoned trader.
- 100+ monthly options trading ideas
- Actionable options commentary & news
- Real-time trading community
- Options TV