Shares of major banks stumbled Tuesday on a variety of concerns raised by second-quarter earnings announcements.

Citicorp dropped $1.25 to $40.75, Chase Manhattan Corp. plunged $2.625 to $36.125, and Signet Banking Corp. skidded $4.50 to $36.375.

All three banks were among the most-active issues on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume topped three million shares traded for Chase Manhattan and two million each for Citicorp and Signet.

Banking stocks across the board were caught in the downdraft. In late trading only a half dozen of the top 50 bank issues could boast gains on the day.

'Market Perversity' Seen

"There isn't any single reason that can be cited," said analyst Lawrence W. Cohn of PaineWebbet Group, New York. "It's probaljly best ascribed to general market perversity."

Citicorp shareholders apparently were spooked by revelations that the good second-quarter results were inflated by gains on Brazil bonds linked to that country's foreign debt.

The bonds, which represent interest due on the South American nation's nonperforming loans, cost its bank creditors nothing but carry a market value.

The Securities and Exchange Commission, in a ruling requested by Citicorp and First Chicago Corp., is letting banks treat the difference between the bonds' zero cost and their market value as nonrecurring interest income.

Revenue Anxiety at Chase

Chase Manhattan shares weakened on anxieties about revenue prospects after the bank's top management mentioned competitive pressures and the likelihood of higher expenses at a meeting for analysts.

The sell-off reflected disappointment by analysts. "Chase is down because margins are down and going to stay down and people are somewhat unhappy with the mix of business at the bank," said Mr. Cohn.

In reaction, Analyst David Berry of Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc. cut his 1994 earnings for Chase by 15 cents to $5.85 per share.

Signet Estimates Lower

Signet, whose credit card operations are highly regarded on Wall Street, plunged after second-quarter earnings came in below analysts' estimates spoiling a long streak of consecutive quarterly-profit increases.

"They are getting less bang for the buck," said Livia Asher, of Merrill Lynch & Co., noting that Signet's marketing expenses were up while growth of credit card receivables slowed.

Although delinquencies remain extremely low in Signet's big credit card portfolio, Ms. Asher said profits were under pressure because of the company's reliance on a low-rate strategy to attract new customers.

Another concern is the possibility that accounts will flee next year when the bank begins to reprice its big credit card portfolio next year she said.

Other Issuers Down

Although Signet is unique in many ways, Ms. Asher said, other credit card issuers seemed to suffer in sympathy in Tuesday's market. MBNA Corp. slumped $1.375 to $24.25 and First USA Inc. declined $1.25 to $36.375. Advanta Corp.'s class A shares fell $1.375 to $33.25 while its class B stock dropped 75 cents to $31.25.

Major California banks got tripped as well. BankAmerica Corp. fell $1.625 to $47.375, First Interstate Bancorp. $1 to $77.875, and Wells Fargo & Co. $1.25 to $157.50.

Wells' price erosion was partly in reaction to the impending retirement of the company's chairman and chief executive ofricer, Carl E. Reichardt, which was announced Tuesday. Mr. Reichardt is much admired on Wall Street.

Superregionals elsewhere fared little better. Bane One Corp. dropped $1 to $33.125, Barnett Banks 75 cents to $44.50, and Bank of Boston Corp. 87.5 cents to $25.75.

"This is one of those periods we go through where people have held the stocks, made a little bit of money and just sell on the news," Mr. Cohn said. "I really can't otherwise account for the weakness across the group."

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