(Financial Winners & Losers item updated for closing stock prices.)
NEW YORK (
shares paced the gains in the financial sector Wednesday during a buoyant trading session for U.S. equities in general.
Shares of Citigroup, which has reportedly grown closer to selling a big hedge fund business, finished trading at $3.45, up 11 cents, or 3%.
Nearly all financial stocks ended in the green Wednesday, following the broader market higher. Despite weaker-than-expected new-home-sales data, investors appeared to gather confidence after scanning transcripts of
Chairman Ben Bernanke's
latest Congressional testimony
, and saw that, sure enough, the central bank meant to keep interest rates at the good old near-zero status quo.
As debate about potential banking regulation overtakes Washington and Wall Street -- regulation that would strive to divide, as banking laws once did, depositary institutions from securities-trading businesses --
Citigroup is apparently close to striking a deal to sell its fund-of-hedge funds
, which has about $4 billion in assets. The buyer, according to a report in
The Wall Street Journal
Wednesday, is SkyBridge Capital, an alternative-asset-management firm.
, meanwhile, used the occasion of its 10-K filing with the
Securities and Exchange Commission
to criticize new financial-sector regulations of all stripes, from the new credit-card policies to stricter derivatives oversight to the so-called "Volker Rule."
The megabank warned that the new credit-card rules would likely lead to its plastic business posting a first-quarter loss of $1 billion. Still, JPMorgan said in the filing that second-quarter credit-card losses would be "somewhat less" than $1 billion, a projection that might be better than earlier forecasts,
All eyes now turn to Thursday's annual
. A slew of executives, including top man Jamie Dimon, are on tap for speeches -- and probably a lot of PowerPoint, not to mention further critique of all those new financial-system regs.
JPMorgan shares closed Wednesday's regular session at $40.85, up 97 cents, or 2.4%.
Bank of America
shares gained 2.5% to $16.33, while
added 1.4% to close at $27.66.
shares moved sharply higher Wednesday on heavier-than-average volume, bouncing back from a
. There was little in the way of direct, substantive news regarding the insurer, which is scheduled to report fourth-quarter results on Friday.
Shares of American International Group rose 4.6% Wednesday to $27.99.
Elsewhere in financial-collapse-fallout news,
reported fourth-quarter results that
, but one that paled in comparison to the $24 billion in red ink it spilled a year ago, with the financial system in tatters.
The mortgage-finance company -- which along with its sibling
securitizes home loans and, as such, became one of the goats of the subprime collapse -- said it lost $7.8 billion, or $2.39 a share, in the fourth quarter. In the third period, Freddie lost $5.4 billion.
Also Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said the federal government's plan to reform Fannie and Freddie has essentially been
. Testifying before the House Budget Committee, Geithner said no detailed reform strategy would be released this year, indicating just how thorny the institutions' problems remain, both politically and financially.
Freddie Mac shares closed the session with a 2-cent gain to $1.22. Fannie Mae's downtrodden issues, meanwhile, finished Wednesday at $1.02.
-- Written by Scott Eden in New York
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