NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Investors can't go wrong taking a chance on Citigroup (C) - Get Report

The third-largest bank in U.S. by total assets, Citi will report second-quarter earnings Thursday before the opening bell. Shares are up over 16% for the past 52 weeks and the bulk of the bank's legal and regulatory issues are now in the review mirror.

Better still, despite low interest rates that have pressured banking revenue and profits, analysts are upbeat about what the New York-based bank will reveal Thursday. The average analyst earnings estimate for Citigroup's second quarter is $1.35 a share. For the year, that estimate is $5.47. At around $56, shares are up 3.5% for the year to date. 

These earnings estimates suggest Citigroup's business improvements -- including divesting its low-performing Japanese credit-card businesses and its Nicaraguan operation -- are having a positive effect on the bank's profits. With Citigroup no longer burdened with its OneMain Financial business, which it sold to Springleaf Holdings (LEAF) - Get Report, the remaining parts of Citigroup appear more focused and easier for shareholders to understand.

So, investors have plenty of reasons to expect better performance in the quarters and years ahead, starting with Thursday's second-quarter results.

For the quarter June, the $1.35 average EPS estimate compares with 3 cents a share in the year-ago quarter, the surge comnig from legal settlements Citigroup was forced to pay last year (one-time charges), which ate into a huge chunk of its profits.

Fourth-quarter revenue is projected to be $19.14 billion, translating to year-over-year decline of 1.2% thanks to those continuing low interest rates, which affected the bank's ability to make money on loans and banking fees. But with industry experts predicting the Federal Reserve will raise rates soon, that should change. So now's the time to buy.

Not only does the stock still has a consensus buy rating, but the average analyst 12-month price target of $63.50 suggests 14% gains from current levels of around $55. Citigroup passed its Federal Reserve capital stress test, so there is now less risk and tons of value.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no shares in any of the stocks mentioned.