Shares of Citicorp have soared in the past four weeks, gaining 12% -- about four times the gain of the average bank.
The pace-setting trend continued on Tuesday with the New York bank ahead 87.5 cents to $37.875 in late afternoon trading to yet another 52-week high. The stock has appreciated a whopping 70% so far this year. The American Banker index is up 2.6% in the past month and 12% in 1993.
Wall Street analysts are at some loss to explain the latest surge in value for Citicorp.
"I wish there was something very scientific to point to," said Frank R. DeSantis Jr. of Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette Securities Corp., who has recommended the stock for two years.
"I've been surprised," said George M. Salem of Prudential Securities, who has a neutral rating but likes Citicorp's improving fundamentals. "Others, like Chase Manhattan, have also done well, but a mystique still surrounds Citicorp.
"It's almost like the bank is being welcomed back to respectability" by the stock market, said Mr. Salem.
Mr. DeSantis said Citicorp's franchise has taken on more luster because capital and credit quality issues have faded at the same time that global economic prospects appear strongest in Asia and Latin America, where the bank is well positioned.
Mr. Salem said he felt the big late-summer drop in interest rates was a primary factor in Citicorp's strong stock performance, even though the decline was concentrated in longer-term rates that have less impact on bank earnings.
"The traditional feeling has been that falling rates help money-center banks the most," the analyst said. "And when portfolio manager go looking for a money-center they usually think of Citicorp first."
Mr. DeSantis thinks the stock's recent streak of new highs could be slowed after third-quarter earnings are announced.
"It may be a case of buy on rumor, sell on news," he said.
Mr. DeSantis anticipates Citicorp will earn 80 cents a share in the third quarter, $3.15 a share this year, and $4.50 next year. Others on Wall Street, including Mr. Salem, generally are expecting 75 cents a share for the third quarter. Mr. Salem anticipates $2.60 this year and $4 next year.
But Mr. DeSantis "still thinks this stock will get to $50" by yearend 1994.