NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Citigroup ( C) led financial shares higher Monday after reporting strong-than-expected earnings. Citigroup's stock was up 3.29% to $4.08, though still well off the 52-week high of $5.07 they hit on April 15.

Citigroup earned seven cents a share, beating the five cent average estimate of 10 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Among Citigroup's strongest-performing businesses was regional consumer banking, which brought in revenues of $8.16 billion, its best performance since at least 2008. The business has shown consistent growth all year, with revenues of $24.2 billion through the first nine months of 2010 compared to $18.7 billion during the same period in 2009.

Citigroup's securities and banking business, however, has shown almost exactly the opposite performance of regional consumer banking. That business, which consists of investment banking-oriented businesses such as M&A advisory work and equity and debt underwriting, has seen revenues of $19.6 billion through the first nine months of this year, compared to $23.8 billion in the first nine months of 2009.

Despite the mixed results, the markets appeared to regard the numbers as positive, not only for Citigroup, but for financial stocks in general. That may in part be because big bank stocks took a beating at the end of last week on fears sloppiness in their mortgage servicing businesses would leave them exposed to losses.

Whatever the reason, the big bank stocks were all higher, with Wells Fargo ( WFC) being the biggest beneficiary, suggesting perhaps that Citigroup's regional consumer banking strength was a good sign for the most heavily consumer-oriented of the four-largest U.S. banks. Shares of Wells Fargo were up 2.37% to $24.14. JPMorgan Chase ( JPM) shares were up $1.84% to $37.84 and Bank of America's ( BAC) stock rose just 0.46% to $12.04.

Financial shares in general were stronger Monday, with the Financial Select Sector SPDR Trust ( XLF), a widely-followed financial sector exchange traded fund, rising 1.19% to $14.52.

One stock that had been stronger last week while the big banks were weaker was distressed monocline bond insurer Ambac Financial ( ABK), so it was perhaps appropriate that Ambac shares fell 2.86% to $1.02 Monday morning while the big banks rose. However MBIA ( MBI), which has a business similar to Ambac's but is perceived to have a stronger balance sheet, was up again Monday, rising 2.17% to $12.74. MBIA shares briefly hit $13.05 Monday morning, their highest price since Sept. 29 2008.

-- Written by Dan Freed in New York.
Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors, reporters and analysts from holding positions in any individual stocks.

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