NEW YORK ( TheStreet)-- Citigroup (C - Get Report) is generally viewed as having the least exposure to troubled home loan among the largest four U.S. banks, but a pair of recent analyst reports argue the bank may still be an effective way to bet on a U.S. housing rebound.
Both Deutsche Bank analyst Matt O'Connor and Oppenheimer & Co. analyst Chris Kotowski note in recent reports that they have received lots of questions from investors about how to invest in a U.S. housing rebound, and both see good reasons to look at Citigroup in this context.
Both analysts point out that stocks tied to housing have already had a strong run. In a note published Monday, Kotowski observes the 29% rise in home builder ETF XHB (XHB) over the past three months, as well as a 32% rise in lumber company Weyerhauser (WY).
Bank of America (BAC - Get Report) is usually viewed as the best way to play a housing rebound, which is a big reason its shares are up 67% year to date.O'Connor estimates buying back problem mortgages will eventually cost Bank of America $32.19 billion, compared to $6.75 billion for JPMorgan Chase (JPM - Get Report), $6.55 billion for Wells Fargo (WFC - Get Report). Contrasted with those numbers, O'Connor $3.49 billion cost estimate for Citigroup's mortgage clean up looks relatively modest. However, the analyst notes these expenses are just one of four factors to be considered when determining whether a bank will benefit from a housing recovery. Citigroup would benefit in other ways, for example through its capital markets business. "If housing improves meaningfully, capital markets will likely be better than expected given the general boost to sentiment (and we would argue a likely pick-up in volumes and asset levels)," O'Connor writes, adding that Citi, Bank of America, JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs (GS)and Morgan Stanley (MS) are "most leveraged" to a capital markets recovery, while adding "of these,