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March 22, 2019

Citigroup reports mixed Q4 profits, sees no shutdown hit so far

Citigroup reports mixed Q4 profits, sees no shutdown hit so far
'Citigroup reported higher profits, although revenues fell due to a drop in Treasury bond trading activity' - By: AFP/File Timothy A. CLARY

Citigroup reported better-than-expected profits on Monday despite lower revenues and said the US government shutdown had yet to dent the real economy.

Citigroup, the first US banking giant to report results, said fourth-quarter net income was $4.3 billion, compared to a loss of $18.9 billion a year ago, when results were affected by a one-time accounting loss from US tax reform.

Revenues dropped 2.1 percent to $17.1 billion.

Lower expenses helped boost Citigroup's earnings but heavy volatility dented revenues in bond trading, the bank reported Monday.

The bank notched a three percent increase in total loans compared with the year-ago level.

Chief Financial Officer John Gerspach said there had been no drag thus far from a government shutdown that has stretched into a fourth week amid a budget fight between President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats.

But he said a very long shutdown could affect the bank's business if the Securities and Exchange Commission cannot approve new deals or if federal workers significantly curtail consumer spending.

"It's a little too early to talk about what could happen if this shutdown continues," Gerspach said in a briefing with reporters.

Gerspach characterized overall US economic conditions as "robust" and said worries about tightening monetary policy and trade wars had raised concerns in financial markets but had yet to significantly impact the real economy.

But he said these two issues -- monetary tightening and trade wars -- could have more of an impact later in 2019.

"It's less likely that the financial economy or trade has a real impact on the real economy in 2019 but that is something that I think you need to watch certainly towards the end of 2019 and into 2020," Gerspach said.

Earnings translated into $1.61, six cents above analyst expectations. Revenues lagged analyst expectations for $17.6 billion

Citigroup shares jumped 2.5 percent to $58.08 in morning trading.

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