Citigroup's reported return on common equity was 6.5% during the second quarter, matching the company's first-quarter performance, but declining from 7.7% a year earlier. Hagerman said that "our projected ROTCE through '14 continues to lag peers ([excluding <b>Bank of America </b> <span class=" TICKERFLAT">(<a href="/quote/BAC.html">BAC</a><a class=" arrow" href="/quote/BAC.html"><span class=" tickerChange" id="story_BAC"></span></a>)</span>]) - again challenging the potential for multiple expansion in the new regulatory environment, particularly given the sheer size of C's balance sheet, particularly the potential volatility surrounding the company's market-sensitive revenues."
A continuing theme for Citigroup -- and for most large banks as the industry continues to recover from the credit crisis -- is the release of loan loss reserves. The company's second-quarter earnings were boosted by a $984 million reduction in loan loss reserves, which was half the size of the release a year earlier.
"While there has been a growing sense of optimism surrounding the potential accelerating reserve release from Holdings and improved margins, our sensitivity analysis suggests any near-term reserve release would likely fall short of expectations," Hagerman said, adding that "in 2Q12, the rate of credit quality improvement in [the company's local consumer lending segment] continued to moderate as redefault rates on previously modified mortgages continued to trend higher, asset sales moderated, and the rate of improvement in total delinquencies slowed."
Hagerman said "we are tempering our expectations for Citigroup's total reserve release over the coming quarters to approximately $700-800mm/quarter through 2H13 (from $1.0B/quarter) reflecting a more conservative approach in reserve methodology amid persistent global economic weakness and expectations for some additional loan growth--particularly in large corporate."
Moving back to the seemingly eternal headline risk for large banks and the current "Wall Street as enemy" theme of many politicians during election season, Hagerman said "at the end of the day, policy change in Washington is the game changer for these stocks as opposed to the seemingly unstoppable printing press."
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Written by Philip van Doorn in Jupiter, Fla.