They say "familiarity breeds contempt." Well, if that's true, then I can only guess that Citigroup (NYSE:C) is the exception that proves the rule. The Wall Street icon, which reports its Q1 2007 earnings news just the other side of this weekend, enjoys widespread approval on Wall Street, where two out of three analysts surveyed call it a "buy." It's out here in the heartland of small investors that Citigroup gets no respect. Will Monday's news change that?

Depending on the specifics of the Q1 report, it very well might. But before we're tempted with distraction by the anomalies of a single quarter's performance, let's take a moment to review what investors think about Citigroup as a long-term investment. Our tool in this endeavor: Motley Fool CAPS, where we poll more than 26,000 investors for their views on well over 4,000 companies, Citigroup among them. Here's what Fools have to say about the bank.

Up or down?
More than 1,300 investors have submitted ratings on the company. The verdict: Decidedly mixed.

Overall, 89% of CAPS investors think the company will outperform the market. What's more, when we poll the very best investors -- those designated as All-Stars on CAPS by virtue of their outperforming 80% of their peers -- the sentiment holds firm, as 86% give Citigroup the thumbs-up. Both those numbers are good -- but neither one is sufficient to win Citigroup more than a mediocre two out of five possible stars under the CAPS rating system.

In comparison to its peer group on CAPS, Citigroup sits pretty low in the eyes of ordinary investors:

Financial Services Providers

CAPS Rating

TD Ameritrade (NASDAQ:AMTD)


Bank of America (NYSE:BAC)


Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS)




Charles Schwab (NASDAQ:SCHW)




Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS)


Wall Street vs. Main Street
As already mentioned, when you ask the investors who supposedly know the most about investing -- Wall Street analysts -- these Ursae Majors favor Citigroup more than we mere ursae minors. Throw out the seven noncommittal "hold" ratings, and of the 15 analysts voicing an opinion worth having, the verdict is a unanimous, near-primal roar: "Buy!"

To which their clients, who've watched Citigroup underperform the S&P 500 by a good five percentage points over the last year, probably respond: "Yeah? Why?"

Brass tacks
Fair question. What is it, exactly, that makes investors such fools (or Fools?) for the Citigroup?

Bull pitch
The top-rated pitch on CAPS makes a strong case in favor of the bank, arguing that it generates "tremendous profits and pay[s] out substantial amounts to shareholders. Their dividend is payout close to 50%, and as their income rises, so does the dividend." And speaking of income, this investor muses that "almost every dollar that trades hands at some point crosses Citigroup's path, and they're not going to let it get by without taking a cut."

Bear pitch
To which the bears respond: "Then for shame!" While admitting Citigroup's merits, the top bear pitch on CAPS chastises the firm for frittering away its advantages, arguing the bank has been "humiliated and paid penalties in every major continent, misused the capital, lost the leadership position in the card business and finally failed to created shareholder value."

Who said that?
To learn the identities of the wise Fools who penned these words, and explore the plethora of additional financial data we've put together on the company, just click here.

Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase are Income Investor recommendations. Charles Schwab is a Stock Advisor selection.

Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company named above. You can find him on CAPS, publicly pontificating under the handle TMFDitty, where he's currently ranked 228th out of well over 26,000 raters. The Fool has a disclosure policy.