When you're one of the largest companies in the world, you have a long way to fall. So when Citigroup announced today that it lost $5.1 billion in the first quarter, what sounds like an epic setback actually came as a cause for relief among many analysts who had expected it might be worse. The bank had to write down over $12 billion because of credit problems set off by the mortgage crisis. Among the casualties are going to be the jobs of about 9,000 bank employees.
But outside the credit world, at some American companies you could not even tell that the United States is supposedly on the brink of, or already in, a recession. Google is maybe the prime example. Its profits made a surprising 30 percent leap in the first quarter. This is an important rebound for the company as its stock market value has dropped 35 percent since December. Google earned $1.31 billion in the first three months of this year, compared with $1 billion a year earlier.