World markets buoyed by Citigroup report

LONDON – World stock markets were mostly higher Monday on reports that the Obama administration was not planning to nationalize one or more of the big U.S. banks and was instead looking at ways to raise its stake in Citigroup Inc.

By (AP)

Published: Mon 23 Feb 2009, 6:41 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 3:56 AM

The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was up 10.81 points, or 0.3 percent, at 3,899.87, while Germany’s DAX rose 42.68 points, or 1.1 percent, to 4,057.34. The CAC-40 in France was up 34.07 points, or 1.2 percent, at 2,784.62.

In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 stock average recouped some of its losses to end down just 40.22 points, 0.5 percent, at 7,376.16, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng closed up 475.93 points, or 3.8 percent, at 13,175.10,

“Investors managed to pick up some of the pieces of Friday’s brief risk surge as talk of another major government move to stabilize the U.S. banking sector brought hopes of more stability into the global financial system,” said Geoffrey Yu, an analyst at UBS.

Worries that major Western banks like Citigroup and Bank of America Corp might have to be nationalized because of mounting bad debts sent global markets sharply lower last week.

But investors seemed relieved by a Wall Street Journal report that Citigroup is negotiating with authorities to increase the U.S. government’s stake in the teetering lender to as much as 40 percent.

Executives would prefer to keep the government’s stake closer to 25 percent, according to the Journal, which cited people familiar with the situation. The talks arose after Citigroup made the proposal to regulators.

The Obama administration has not indicated whether it would back the plan, the Journal said. Just last week, Obama officials voiced support for keeping the banking system private as widespread talk about nationalization led investors to unload shares in Citigroup and Bank of America.

U.S. futures were higher on the Citigroup report, suggesting Wall Street would recover at the open. Dow futures rose 78 points, or 1.1 percent, to 7,430 and the Standard & Poor’s 500 index futures were up 8.9 points, or 1.2 percent, at 778.40.

Investors in Britain also breathed a sigh of relief on reports that Royal Bank of Scotland PLC, which is already majority owned by the British government, was planning a major restructuring that would see 20,000 jobs cut.

News reports over the weekend said the bank was planning to isolate its bad assets so that the market can establish a value for its viable operations. The reports suggested that up to 20,000 employees, or about 10 percent of the work force, could be shed in the process.

The Sunday Telegraph said the restructuring would see RBS pull out of about half of the 60 countries in which it currently operates, including parts of eastern Europe, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Shares in RBS were up 21 percent on the London Stock Exchange.

Citigroup and other banking heavyweights in the U.S., Britain and other countries have already received hundreds of billions of dollars in government aid in hopes of saving the financial system from collapse. While providing a short-term of jolt of optimism, the measures have failed to put to rest fears that more institutions could follow in the footsteps of Lehman Brothers, which declared bankruptcy in September, without governments assuming full or partial ownership.

Despite the modest bounceback Monday, most investors know that the economic newsflow around the world will continue to make for grim reading over the coming weeks and months.

“General consensus seems to be one of pessimism and the distressed state of the global economy doesn’t seem as if it’s about to change quickly,” said Matt Buckland, a dealer at CMC Markets.

Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea’s Kospi was up 33.60, or 3.2 percent, at 1099.55 while the Shanghai benchmark added almost 2 percent amid expectations of further government measures to help the real estate sector. Markets in Taiwan, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines also edged higher.

Oil prices were higher, with light, sweet crude for April delivery up 22 cents at $40.25 a barrel. The contract edged down 15 cents to settle at $40.03 Friday.

In currencies, the dollar rose 1.2 percent to 94.44 yen, while the euro was steady at $1.2829.

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