CNBC said Bove "just became" bullish on banks so now must be the bottom. By Nick Godt, MarketWatch Last update: 11:06 a.m. EDT Oct. 5, 2006 NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- Punk Ziegel analyst Dick Bove on Thursday "strongly urged" buying Citigroup Inc.'s stock, which closed above the $51 level for the first time since April 2004 in the previous session. Shares of Citigroup (C) recently traded at $51.03, unchanged from the previous session's closing level. The stock has been stuck in narrow range over the past two and a half years and hasn't really traded above $51 for a sustainable period of time since February 2001, Bove wrote in a note. He said Wednesday's break-out occurred as broader markets rallied in reaction to a speech by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, the contents of which was taken as a sign that the Fed will cut rates earlier than thought. "If the Fed does cut rates, as now seems very plausible, Citigroup could be the biggest beneficiary of any company in the country in absolute dollar terms," Bove wrote in a note. The bank is liability sensitive and has suffered from margin pressure as rates went up, which would shift to a margin benefit if rates go down, he said. In addition, early rate cuts would boost chances of a soft-landing in the economy, preventing "sizeable loan losses" that would otherwise occur, he added. Overall, the analyst believes that Citigroup has done "an excellent job" at turning the company around, using money to build operations internally, developing a culture of sharing products to increase cross-selling, and investing in technology. "The changes are being implemented in a franchise known world wide by consumers in more countries than any other financial institution," Bove said, adding that these factors are more important than the near-term chart break-out of the stock.