Citigroup reported mixed quarterly results as market volatility hurt revenue but earnings benefited from better-than-expected expense declines and loan losses.
The third-largest U.S. bank said Monday that fourth-quarter revenue fell to $17.1 billion from $17.5 billion in the year-ago period, reflecting in part a 21% drop in fixed-income revenue amid year-end volatility in the financial markets.
“A volatile fourth quarter impacted some of our market sensitive businesses,” CEO Michael Corbat said in a news release.
Excluding a one-time tax related gain, quarterly profit rose to $4.2 billion, or $1.61 a share, from $3.7 billion, or $1.28 a share, a year earlier.
Analysts had expected Citigroup to earn $1.55 per share on revenue of $17.6 bilion. Citigroup’s allowance for loan losses was 1.81% of total loans, compared to 1.86% a year earlier.
The bank’s shares rose 4% to $58.93 in trading Monday as investors focused on the earnings beat and guidance for revenue from lending to increase by $2 billion this year.
CFO John Gerspach cited growing revenue from its consumer banking business, noting in an earnings call that “Unemployment is at virtually all-time lows, wages are moving forward, consumer confidence remains high.”
For the fourth quarter, North America consumer banking revenue increased 1% to $5.3 billion as higher revenues in retail services more than offset lower revenues in retail banking.
The revenue shortfall meant Citigroup’s operating efficiency for 2018 improved only 86 basis points to 57.4%, missing its 100 basis point target.
“Banks with big trading businesses benefit when markets move, because it prompts customers to buy and sell securities,” Reuters noted. “But sudden bursts of volatility can be damaging, leading customers to avoid trading and also hurting banks’ ability to hedge their own market exposures.”
Yield spreads, or the additional premium investors demand for holding corporate bonds over safer U.S. Treasury securities, also widened significantly in the fourth quarter as investors globally fled risky investments.
For much of the quarter, corporate and investor clients “remained on the sidelines, waiting for some clearer market conditions,” Gerspach said.