Citigroup stocks take dramatic fall

Citigroup sign

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: There are rumblings out there that Washington's going to need to do something more to save the economy. Yeah, the word bailout factors in more here today and here's why -- a billion shares of Citigroup changed hands today, and not on the upside either. Shares in one of this country's biggest banks touched $3 today. That's crazy low because nobody's really sure Citi's going to make it. From New York, Ashley Milne-Tyte tells us how things at Citigroup got so bad so fast, and how they might get worse for the rest of us.


Ashley Milne-Tyte: Many were surprised when Secretary Paulson announced last week that the original idea for the Troubled Asset Relief Program would be abandoned. Venture capitalist Peter Cohan says Citigroup investors were particularly disappointed because they know the bank holds many suspect loans.

Peter Cohan: I think that that was one of the things that was keeping Citigroup's stock up, was the idea that the government was eventually going to step in and buy a bunch of the toxic waste off of the books of banks like Citigroup, and that would help Citigroup a lot.

He says when the market realized that wasn't going to happen, it kicked off the decline in Citi's stock. As for what could happen if Citigroup can't resolve its woes, Richard Marston of the Wharton School of Business says just think back a couple of months to the week that Lehman Brothers failed.

Richard Marston: There were so many tentacles of Lehman Brothers across the world; we found later that week there was a run on money market funds. Why? Because one of the money market funds had a lot of Lehman commercial paper and decided they couldn't pay out their money.

Next thing we knew the commercial paper market had dried up and companies were finding it hard to borrow. Jamie Peters is an equity analyst at Morningstar. She says if Citigroup went under it would cause havoc at other financial institutions -- and in the economy in general.

Jamie Peters: Citigroup is a very large bank it helps do correspondent lending with other banks, it's, it's in every single aspect of financial services pretty much. And it has also got such a global outreach.

It has liabilities in many countries. Peters says there will be pressure on the government -- not just in the U.S. but in the rest of the world -- not to let Citigroup fail.

In New York I'm Ashley Milne-Tyte for Marketplace.

About the author

Ashley Milne-Tyte is the host of a podcast about women in the workplace called The Broad Experience.

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