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Trader Voices Growing: Break Up Citi

Traders like to remind me that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. So it is that plans by Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal to raise his investment in Citigroup are being greeted with open skepticism on the Street.

"He's just averaging down," one trader said to me. This is what we have come to: open derision. The prince says he is raising his stake back to the original level of 5 percent (his holdings are currently less than 4 percent). One percent of the current share price is about $350 million.

Citi's shares have lost one-third of their value this week. It now has a market cap of $35 billion, this after the government put $25 billion into it and after raising an additional $50 billion in private capital, mostly from sovereign wealth funds.

What does all this mean? It means that the Street believes that all the capital that has been raised will not be sufficient to cover the additional losses that are coming.

It's likely Mr. Pandit, the CEO, very much regrets his Town Hall meeting Monday morning. Aside from laying off 50,000 employees, traders immediately focused on comments indicating that Citi's reported consumer credit losses in the first half of '09 could be substantially higher than expected. That, and the realization that they will need to take additional write-downs, has caused the stock to go into a free fall. Traders are arguing that Citi should be broken up. This is still a minority position, but the voices are getting louder.

Elsewhere:

1) Futures dropped as jobless claims leaped up to 542,000, the highest since 1992.

2) Solar producer Suntech Power down 20 percent pre-open as they warned fourth quarter earnings would be well below expectations due to slumping demand. Rival LDK also down 10 percent. This is one of the unfortunate side effects of the dramatic drop in oil.

3) The IPO on the NASDAQ did finally come off, though at a reduced price. Grand Canyon Education (LOPE), the first IPO in 3 months, begins trading today. They priced 10.5 million shares at $12 (cut from $18-$20), but at least the deal got done.

4) weaker guidance from Men's Wearhouse and Barnes & Noble .

    • Jobless Claims Hit 16-Year High, Above Forecast

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  • A CNBC reporter since 1990, Bob Pisani covers Wall Street from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

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