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Citigroup: Stress Test Winner

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Citigroup (C - Get Report) was the winner among the largest U.S. banks on Friday, with shares rising 4% to close at $46.68.

The broad indexes all ended with solid gains, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI) continued to push into record territory, after unexpectedly strong employment numbers were reported.

The Department of Labor Statistics said that total nonfarm employment increased by 236,000 during February, and that the U.S. unemployment rate declined to 7.7% from 7.9% the previous month. Economists polled by Thomson Reuters had expected the U.S economy to add 180,000 jobs during February.

Employment growth in housing-related sectors significantly outpaced overall growth, further supporting the significance of the recovery in U.S. home prices.

Following the announcement by the Federal Reserve late Thursday that 17 of 18 large bank holding companies passed the 2013 stress tests, the KBW Bank Index (I:BKX) rose 1% to close at 56.58.

The Fed's tests gauged the banks' ability remain well capitalized, with Tier 1 common equity ratios through the end of 2013, under a "severely adverse scenario." The harsh scenario included a severe recession beginning this year, with the unemployment rate rising by 4%, along with 5% negative GDP growth, a 50% decline in equity prices and a 20% decline in real estate prices.

The stress test process is different this year from previous years, in that the Fed will make a separate announcement on Thursday, March 14, of which banks' 2013 capital plans have been approved. Most of the large banks are expected to announce dividend increases and/or share buybacks after the market close on that day.

Citigroup fared quite well in the stress tests, with the Fed saying the bank would lose $28.6 billion through the end of 2014 under the severely adverse scenario, with a minimum Tier 1 common equity ratio of 8.3%. The tests showed Citi to have plenty of excess regulatory capital. Citi's minimum stressed capital ratio according to the Federal Reserve would be the highest among the "big four" U.S. Banks, which also include JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Bank of America (BAC - Get Report) and Wells Fargo (WFC).

But investors will have to wait until at least 2014 to see a dividend increase. The company jumped the gun by announcing late on Thursday that its 2013 capital plan submitted to the Federal Reserve included $1.2 billion in share buybacks. Citi's quarterly dividend will remain at a nominal $0.01 a share.
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