European stock markets rallied Monday on hopes that the worst may be over for Citigroup Inc. after a leaked memo from the company's chief executive Vikram Pandit indicated that the troubled U.S. banking giant enjoyed its best financial performance in over a year during the first two months of 2009.
Most Asian stocks rose, though Japan's Nikkei closed at a new 26-year low, while U.S. stock futures pointed up.
In a letter sent to employees Monday, Pandit said Citi had an operating profit of $8.3 billion before taxes and special items through February. He says that is the bank's best performance since the third quarter of 2007.
Even though Pandit did not say how large the special items, such as credit losses and writedowns, are, the memo was enough to spark a modest amount of buying. The letter was written to reassure employees as the New York-based bank's stock has taken a beating in recent weeks as the government is increasing its stake in the bank.
"It's certainly an element of good news in all the gloom.....unusually," said Neil Mackinnon, chief economist at ECU Group.
The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was up 55.75 points, or 1.6 percent, at 3,598.15, while Germany's DAX rose 66.72 points, or 1.8 percent, at 2,758.75. France's CAC-40 was 31.77 points, or 1.3 percent, higher at 2,551.06.
Financial stocks were up across the continent, with Deutsche Bank AG more than 6 percent higher and Barclays PLC up over 5 percent despite ongoing concerns about its capital position, as it negotiates the terms of an insurance deal for risky assets on its balance sheet with the British government.
That optimism appeared set to carry through into the U.S. session later despite Monday's late sell-off. Dow futures were up 115 points, or 1.8 percent, at 6,643 and the broader Standard & Poor's 500 futures 13.8, or 2 percent, higher at 689.70.
Despite Tuesday's slight optimism, investors remain watchful about developments in the world's banks, which have seen their balance sheets ravaged by the financial crisis and the deepening global economic downturn.
Attention later will focus on U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, when he speaks before the Council of Foreign Relations on overhauling the U.S. bank regulatory system. Meanwhile, White House budget director Peter Orszag will testify before the Senate Banking Committee and the Senate Budget Committee on President Obama's budget proposal.
Earlier most Asian stock markets climbed, but Japanese shares sank to a new 26-year closing low amid ongoing worries about the economic crisis. Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average fell 31.05 points, or 0.4 percent, to 7,054.98 _ the lowest closing level since Oct. 6, 1982 when the index finished at 6,974.35
Meanwhile, Hong Kong stocks led the region's advance as reeling banking giant HSBC rebounded after the government said it was probing a massive drop in the company's shares the day before. The Hang Seng added 349.47, or 3.1 percent, to 11,694.05, lifted by a 13.9 percent recovery in HSBC after its 24 percent tumble on Monday.
South Korea's Kospi added 1.9 percent to 1,092.20, while Shanghai's benchmark advanced 1.9 percent. Australian and Singapore benchmarks also rose. Markets in Malaysia and the Philippines also were lower.
Meanwhile, oil prices edged higher, with benchmark crude for April delivery up 43 cents at $47.501. On Monday, the contract rose $1.55 to settle at $47.07 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange as investors anticipated another OPEC production cut.
In currencies, the dollar fell 0.4 percent 98.39 yen while the euro was 0.6 percent higher at $1.2681.
AP Business Writer Jeremiah Marquez in Hong Kong contributed to this report.