( Updated with stock price moves, Bove note on Morgan Stanley.) NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Citigroup ( C) was among the winners of the financial sector Thursday as the bank's CEO testified before a Congressional Oversight Panel on government bailout funds. Citigroup's stock gained ground as CEO Vikram Pandit appeared on Capitol Hill to thank the U.S. government and taxpayers for providing $45 billion of bailout money that stabilized the bank during the financial crisis.
"For Citi, as for many other institutions, this investment built a bridge over the crisis to a sound footing on the other side, and it came from the American people," Pandit said. "Citi owes a large debt of gratitude to American taxpayers." Citigroup shares were lately up 6 cents, or 1.7%, to $3.46. Elsewhere, Bank of America ( BAC) tacked on 0.2% to $16.40 after the Treasury Department said Thursday it recorded $1.54 billion from the sale of 272.17 million warrants it received from the bank as part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program. The warrants were sold after the Treasury and Bank of America could not agree on a price. Among other U.S. bank stocks, Goldman Sachs ( GS) rallied 3.4% to $163.09, Wells Fargo ( WFC) gained 0.6% to $28.37, and JPMorgan Chase ( JPM) rose 0.9% to $41.91. Morgan Stanley ( MS) advanced 2.2% to $28.95 after Rochdale Securities analyst Dick Bove, who cut earnings estimates on Goldman Sachs earlier this week, said Morgan's first-quarter results are cloudy, but the longer term outlook is quite positive. Bove says that while Morgan Stanley's trading activities weakened recently like its counterparts, the company may be gaining market share and "it may not have suffered to the extent of the market." "What is most exciting about this company is its new strategy," Bove wrote in a research note Thursday. "Morgan is withdrawing capital, assets, and people from all of these proprietary activities. It is focusing the full effort of the firm on delivering a total company experience to its customers. It is fighting hard for market share. It is likely to be very successful and this is a very cheap stock." Shares of BB&T ( BBT) also traded higher after Bernstein analysts upgraded the stock to outperform from market perform, citing a "steadier" share count now that it has repaid TARP bailout funds. BB&T was lately up 1.5% to $27.78.
Meanwhile, Bernstein analysts cut ratings on both Fifth Third Bancorp ( FITB) and M&T Bank ( MTB) to market perform from outperform. Fifth Third shares were down 1.8% to $12.32 and M&T fell 0.7% to $76.08. Bernstein analysts also cut price targets for a handful of other bank stocks, including Marshall & Ilsley ( MI), Zions Bancorp ( ZION), Comerica ( CMA) and SunTrust Banks ( STI). Ambac Financial ( ABK) shares were flat after the insurer's main subsidiary Ambac Assurance posted a $311.6 million fourth-quarter loss as premium income fell and underwriting reverted to a loss. Ambac Financial will earnings March 16. -- Written by Robert Holmes in Boston. Follow Robert Holmes on Twitter and become a fan of TheStreet.com on Facebook.