Why Oppenheimer Sees 30% Upside in Citigroup

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Citigroup, Inc. (NYSE: C) just received one of its most bullish analyst calls that is currently available. The money center bank has come back as a dividend payer, and Oppenheimer has raised its target to $95 from $92 while reiterating its current Outperform rating.

Most analyst calls from Wall Street with Buy and Outperform ratings are projecting 8% to 10% on Dow and S&P 500 types of stocks at the current stage of the bull market, but this call from Oppenheimer is projecting a total return of more than 30% when you include the Citi dividend yield of 2.5% in the outlook.

First and foremost, analyst Chris Kotowski is seeing the banking industry as having the best earnings fundamentals in the last 30 years. Another factor is that Kotowski sees a consensus where the perception of banks’ earnings power being fragile is actually wrong.

According to the report, capital levels are high, delinquencies are low, and the banks are on better planes than they have ever been on. All this is while many analysts are calling for slow loan growth, but Kotowski thinks that is actually what you want to see.

Loan growth is still above the nominal GDP growth in the country, and Kotowski sees the loan base being well balanced in all segments. One issue that would worry Oppenheimer’s upside is if loan growth were to heat up into the double-digits for a period of time, which was referred to as a “precursor to asset quality regrets.”

Oppenheimer’s call came ahead of almost another 200-point rally in the Dow, and Citi’s shares were last seen trading up 3.7% at $74.02. It has a 52-week range of $64.38 to $80.70 and a Thomson Reuters consensus analyst target price of about $83.50.

One additional driver for the bank stocks, in general, is that Treasury yields have also crept higher this week — the 10 year Treasury now yields 3.08% and the 30 year Treasury yield is now up at 3.23%. Maybe that 3% ceiling is starting to crack.

Citi’s target of $95 in Oppenheimer’s call is short of the $101 street-high analyst price target. That said, this call is also above the more recent price targets which have been noted by analysts in recent weeks.

Kotowski also has favorable views on Bank of America and Goldman Sachs, and even on CIT Group.

As a reminder, single analyst calls often look far stronger than that of their peers. That’s why looking at consensus estimates can be a better barometer than any of the outlier analyst calls over time. It is also important to keep in mind that the current bull market is now closer to being 10 years old than it is closer to 9 years old.

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