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I wish I could say that Citigroup (NYSE: C ) was going pink for charity, but that's simply not the case.
Last night, following the market close, Citigroup joined a long line of financial firms in announcing layoffs, which are scheduled to begin taking place over the next few quarters. Getting pink slips will be 4,500 Citigroup employees, with Citi expected to take a severance charge in the upcoming quarter of $400 million. Also of note, Citi expects an additional $500 million hit to revenue based on a charge it must take regarding its high levels of debt.
As macroeconomic Foolish magnate Morgan Housel noted yesterday, around 500,000 financial jobs have been lost since 2006 and this is a trend that appears likely to continue. Earlier this year, Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) announced a sweeping reform that would include laying off 30,000 workers. Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS ) had previously announced it would lay off 1,000 workers from its investment banking division, but that figure is looking like a lowball estimate at present. Others that have announced recent layoffs include JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM ) , Credit Suisse (NYSE: CS ) , UBS (NYSE: UBS ) , and the Royal Bank of Scotland (NYSE: RBS ) .
With new laws restricting the amount of its own capital a bank can invest (as long as they follow protocol... ahem, MF Global...), banks are being forced to turn to new revenue-generating streams and job cuts in order to lower expenses and provide alternate routes of growth. Some have proved fruitless, as with Bank of America's now-failed $5-per-month debit card usage fee. Others, like layoffs, while unpleasant for the workers, do provide the banks with a moderate preservation of capital beyond a one-time severance charge.
I highly doubt this will be the last round of layoffs we witness given the daily drama in Europe, the rapidly deteriorating growth in China, and the continued problems with high unemployment and sagging home prices in the United States.
Yet I also feel that the fear built into banking stocks is getting to be as overblown as it was during the credit crisis in 2008. With many trading at just a fraction of book value and tier 1 capital ratios that are significantly higher than they were prior to the recession, I think it's safe to say that banks are much healthier and better able to survive economic fluctuations than they were back then. I continue to remain bullish on the sector as a whole at these levels, but I also know there's no overnight cure to the issues currently on tap.
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