Sunday, February 1, 2009

Citigroup: Ward of the State

I've heard many times a recommendation to "buy what the government is supporting." But I suggest investors take an alternate but similar approach. In the bond market, buy what the government is supporting to maintain liquidity, not what the government is supporting to avoid insolvency. There is now, or may be in the near future, strong government support of several bond sectors that would be money good anyway, but are trading cheap because of poor liquidity. Student Loan-backed bonds, municipal bonds, GSE-backed mortgages, etc. Why are people buying Citigroup bonds at around 6% yield with so much uncertainty surrounding it?

Citigroup is clearly a declining situation. It may well be that with government support, Citi survives and eventually becomes a thriving company again. But its also distinctly possible that in a break-up, bond holders are left with something less than full government support. Buyer beware.

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