It's worth noting here, though, that while these numbers seem uninspiring, not much was expected in terms of performance. If you recall, when Citigroup reported on its fourth quarter, management had essentially thrown everything out, including the kitchen sink. In fact, during the fourth-quarter announcement, Corbat uttered the following words: "Our bottom line earnings reflect an environment that remains challenging with businesses working through issues like spread compression and regulatory changes as well as the costs of putting legacy issues behind us." These words, specifically, "putting legacy issues behind us," were a reminder to investors that although growth is still a priority, Corbat's focus was also on fixing Citigroup's nagging fundamental issues, which includes stabilizing U.S. banking, while shoring up the global brand. There are also pressing concerns such as poor loan growth, a market in which Citigroup has been losing share to the likes of Wells Fargo ( WFC). Then again, Citigroup actually beat estimates on its pre-provision net revenue (PPNR), while Wells Fargo missed. Along similar lines, when compared with JPMorgan's net interest margin (NIM), which declined almost a quarter-point year over year, Citi's NIM performance, which declined just 4 basis points year over year and by 1 basis point sequentially, looked retty solid. Relative to expectations, the first-quarter report was actually pretty good.
Similarly, management has to figure out ways to get consumer lending growing again as loans for the quarter were flat year over year and down 1% sequentially. Here, too, it seems that both Wells Fargo and JPMorgan are stealing market share. Despite Citi's strong showing in commercial lending, the bank is still being hurt on the consumer side. While there continues to be plenty of optimism with Citi's recovery strategy, there are also plenty of risks that are not of the "quick fix" variety. That said, this recent earnings report suggests that a turnaround is underway. Given management's efforts to better control costs and Citi's improving performance, these shares don't appear too demanding today. Sustained growth, both in domestic and global operations, along with the housing recovery, could push the stock to $55 per share by the end of the year. At the time of publication, the author held no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Follow @rsaintvilus This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.