Barclays' Earnings: Jolly Good

While American investors paid homage to their presidents on Monday, British investors rallied behind Barclays (NYSE: BCS  ) for an 8% gain. The boost was in part a reaction to the British government's decision to nationalize troubled mortgage lender Northern Rock. But Barclays itself didn't disappoint with its year-end numbers, and in response, the bank's U.S. shares closed up nearly 10% yesterday, prompting at least a few investors to consider enjoying an extra biscuit with their tea.

Barclays reported earnings in-line with analyst expectations, with a net gain for the year of $8.7 billion, or just 3% below 2006 results. At just $3.2 billion for the year, mortgage-related losses were much milder for Barclays than for global competitors such as Citigroup (NYSE: C  ) and Merrill Lynch (NYSE: MER  ) .

In what was perhaps an expression of that famous British grit, the remainder of Barclays' statements painted a truly rosy picture going forward. Offering guidance that targets 5%-10% annual growth for Barclays through 2011, the bank's president is calling for a "shorter and shallower" slowdown in the U.S. economy than many are fearing. Barclays also decided to put its money where its mouth is and further tempted investors with about a 10% bump in its already substantial dividend yield.

On the strategic front, Barclays appears intent on restoring the empire. Yesterday, the bank announced its intention to pursue growth in the U.S. market while its would-be competitors are struggling. Just last week, Barclays was reportedly in talks to acquire a controlling stake in Russia's Expobank.

To date, Barclays has done an impressive job of minimizing its losses from the U.S. mortgage crisis, through a combination of hedge positions, injections of foreign capital, and continued growth in retail banking and credit card operations. Whether investors reap further rewards will depend on the accuracy of Barclays' outlook for the U.S. economy, the long-term stabilization of the global credit markets, and the resilience of Barclays' remaining portfolio of $19 billion in collateralized debt obligations and subprime mortgage debt. But only time will tell.

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