NEW YORK Citigroup's 9,000 job cuts and $14 billion in write-downs suggest that even if the worst of the credit market volatility is over, the industry is now in a conservative, cost-cutting mode.
With banks expecting more loans to go sour, people can expect tight lending standards for many months perhaps years to come.
"Underwriting standards have to be high. That's the way to dampen potential losses you might face," said chief financial officer Gary Crittenden. He said that historically, deterioration in consumer credit has taken eight to 10 quarters, or at least two years, for rates of delinquency and default to recover.
Citigroup Inc. is struggling with not only a troubling lending environment in the United States, but also a dented portfolio of investments. The bank's write-downs, plus more than $3 billion in costs related to consumers' credit problems, led it to report a first-quarter loss Friday of $5.1 billion, or $1.02 a share.
The most recent quarterly shortfall at the nation's biggest bank by assets was not as massive as the nearly $10 billion loss it suffered in the fourth quarter of last year. Since many investors had been bracing for even more dismal results, Citigroup shares jumped $1.08, or 4.5 percent, to close at $25.11 Friday.
But it is hardly smooth sailing for the bank from this point on. Citigroup essentially lost in the first three months of the year what it earned in the same period in 2007 $5 billion, or $1.01 per share.
Because Citigroup has lost so much money, it has announced 13,200 job cuts. The bank announced 4,200 cuts in January, about 9,000 on last week, and suggested more work-force reductions are likely.