NEW YORK -- Wall Street got some good news from Citigroup, and responded with a huge rally. Led by financial stocks, the market made its first big move upward in weeks Tuesday after Citigroup Inc. said it had operated at a profit during the first two months of the year. All the major indexes soared more than 4.5 percent, and the Dow Jones industrials shot up more than 300 points.
Still, while word of Citi's performance at least temporarily broke a months-long torrent of bad news from the banking industry, analysts weren't ready to say the stock market was at a turning point and about to barrel higher.
"To have a sustained rally, we have to have a shift in sentiment," said Kurt Karl, chief U.S. economist at Swiss Re. "One day isn't going to make a trend.
But the Citigroup news offered investors some hope that the first quarter will show some signs of improvement.
In a letter sent to employees Monday, Citi Chief Executive Vikram Pandit said the first-quarter performance so far has been the bank's best since the third quarter of 2007 - the last time it recorded net income for a full period. Based on historical revenue and expense rates, Citi's projected earnings before taxes and one-time charges would be about $8.3 billion for the full quarter.
Pandit declined to say how large credit losses and other one-time items have been that would at least partially offset profit.
Citi shares jumped nearly 40 percent while Bank of America Corp. was up more than 26 percent; both are Dow components and helped propel the average higher. Other banking stocks also rose sharply.
Financial stocks have been a primary driver in a market collapse that has left the major indexes at their lowest point in more than a decade. Every report of loan losses and asset writedowns have sent banking stocks to incredible lows - Citi fell below $1 a share last week. And fears that hundreds of billions of dollars in government bailouts wouldn't be enough to save the big banks exacerbated the fears on the Street.