Citigroup'ssubprime mortgage business is not suffering the way some rivals' businesses have suffered, and "actually looks pretty good," according to Steven Freiberg, chief executive of the largest U.S. bank's North American consumer operations.
Speaking Wednesday at a Lehman Brothers financial services conference, Freiberg said the U.S. consumer has been "more resilient" than many expected.
He said, though, that the degree to which delinquencies on various types of loans evolve into actual losses, particularly on what he said were $1.5 trillion of mortgages whose rates will reset in the next 15 months, remains to be seen.
"What you really want to see is, are people buying and are they paying," Freiberg said. "Where you think there would be a fire -- in our subprime portfolio -- it actually looks pretty good." He added, however: "We're not going to basically avoid the systemic trend."
Subprime lenders make loans to people with weak credit. Many have struggled in 2007 as defaults rose and investors stopped buying many of their loans.