Steep Drop in Citigroup Trading Illustrates Revival Obstacles

A sharp drop in bond trading revenue forced Citigroup Inc. to move their fourth-quarter profit far below their expected figures. This placed doubts over the claim of Chief Executive Vikram Pandit that the bank had turned the corner.

The bank’s first full-year profit since 2007 showed poor fixed income results that left Pandit and other top executives faced with numerous questions about what had probably gone wrong at the bank.

The results showed 4 cents a share or 50 percent less than the amount expected by analysts. This stirred worries that the bank has yet to resolve the operational weaknesses that have plagued it for several years.

The fixed-income revenue of the bank fell 58 percent from the third quarter as compared to a 7.9 percent decrease at major rival JPMorgan Chase & Co. The banks’ contradicting trading results made several investors unsure of what to expect while other financial firms report their profits this week.

Trading is an unstable area throughout the banking industry, said Lee Kyriacou, a former banker and a partner at the consulting firm Novantas.

Trading revenues were hit in some parts by an adjustment in accounting rooting from a market perception that Citi debt was less risky. However, the results stressed fundamental weaknesses as well.

According to Chief Financial Officer John Gerspach in a report during a conference call, this was one of the weaker quarters for trading. He acknowledged Citi’s investment back has also experienced difficulty in other areas and that it fell to eighth place from fourth in Thomson Reuter’s rankings.

Citigroup reported a net profit of $1.3 billion or 4 cents per share for the fourth quarter. The EPS was 50 percent below the expectations of  analysts, Thomson Reuters said.

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