Citicorp gained ground in a falling stock market Monday after First Boston Corp. put its shares on the firm's investment focus list.
The New York money-center bank was up 25 cents to $39.25, but it remains 10% below its Jan. 31 peak of $43.75. Trading volume of three million shares, some of which was dividend related, put it among the most active issues on the New York Stock Exchange.
Citicorp is the only bank in First Boston's model portfolio, which is put together by market strategist Jeffrey M. Applegate.
The bank joined the list as part of Mr. Applegate's decision to shift the financial sector of his portfolio to "market-weight" status from the prior "underweight" rating.
In his publication Investment Strategy Weekly, he said a major reason for doing this was to position the portfolio "for the next leg of this bull cycle, when relatiVe earnings performance should be important."
The strategist cited First Boston bank analyst Thomas H. Hanley's belief that earnings growth rates for banks should compare well with growth rates for other companies into 1995.
"This should lead to a shrinkage in the multiple discount to the market in a low-inflation, modest-growth environment," he said. For Citicorp, that means its stock price could be revatued up to 60% of the Standard & Poor's 500 stock index from its current, depressed 50% level.
"If we start to see the economy slowing to 2.5% growth [in gross domestic product] next year" the earnings momentum is going to be with the banks again vis-a-vis corporate profits," Mr. Hanley said Monday.
The analyst - who rates Citicorp as his top pick among money-center banks - said Monday that he has a one-year price target of $50 for the stock and a two-year price target of $60 per share.
Citicorp has also gotten favorable notices from other analysts lately.
Diane B. Glossman of Salomort Brothers Inc., who also has a "buy" rating on the stock, said she believes the bank now has "renewed marketing energy" and is beginning "to claw back previously lost market share in credit cards."
Last year, Citicorp's credit card revenues in this country fell 4%, prompting concern among analysts that a big part of its earnings base was eroding under pressure from competitors like Bank of New York Co. and Signet Banking Corp.
But profit gains in cards for Citicorp this year "likely will exceed our conservative expectations," Ms. Glossman said in a report last week, "because of lower attrition, higher new accounts and improvements in credit costs, fraud costs, cost of funds, and the back office."
Citicorp remains the leading bank card issuer, with about 20 million cards outstanding. Its cards last year yielded $5.3 billion in worldwide revenues.