Monday, January 7, 2013

Markets slide lower going into earnings season

Dow fell 50, decliners head of advancers 4-3 & NAZ pulled back 2.  The Financial Index slipped 1 to the 229s.  The MLP index jumped another 2½ to the 407s & the REIT index was up a fraction to 273.  Junk bond funds were mixed & Treasuries clawed higher after recent selling.  Oil was about even & gold declined for the 3rd straight session on signs that the Federal Reserve may end monthly purchases of US debt this year.

AMJ (Alerian MLP Index tracking fund)

stock chart

CLG13.NYM...Crude Oil Feb 13....93.18 ...Up 0.09 (0.1%)

Live 24 hours gold chart [Kitco Inc.]

U.S. Banks to Pay $8.5 Billion to Settle Foreclosure Missteps

Photo:   Bloomberg

10 of the  biggest banks agreed to pay $8.5B to settle federal complaints that they wrongfully foreclosed on homeowners who should have been allowed to stay in their homes.  The banks will pay the money to homeowners to end a review process of foreclosure files that was required under a 2011 enforcement action.  The review was ordered because banks mishandled people's paperwork & skipped required steps in the foreclosure process.  The settlement was announced jointly by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency & the Federal Reserve.  But consumer advocates say the foreclosure deal allows banks to escape responsibility for damages that might have cost them much more & regulators are settling at too low a price & possibly at the expense of the consumer, they say.  Under the settlement, people who were wrongfully foreclosed on could receive from $1K to $125K.  Failing to offer someone a loan modification would be considered a lighter offense; unfairly seizing & selling a person's home would entitle that person to the biggest payment, according to guidelines released last summer by the OCC.  The agreement covers up to 3.8M who were in foreclosure in 2009 & 2010.  All will receive some amount of compensation.  About $3.3B would be direct payments to borrowers & another $5.2B would pay for other assistance including loan modifications.

U.S. Banks to Pay $8.5 Billion to Settle Foreclosure Flaws

Cheaper TVs on Horizon as Chinese Muscle Into U.S. Market

Photo:   Bloomberg

Chinese television makers are accelerating their push into the US, marketing cut-rate sets & advanced technology as they try to grab share from Japanese & Korean competitors.  The companies are looking to make a splash at the biggest US electronics trade show (CES) this week in Las Vegas as they try to raise their visibility with consumers & distributors.  The push will raise pressure on stalwarts like Sony (SNE) & Sharp that are struggling to turn a profit.  It will also offer potential benefits for consumers looking for less expensive sets, even with advanced features like Web connections & apps.  China’s market leaders offer products that sell for 30% less than leading brands.  Hisense (from China) said it plans to double US sales to $600M this year from 2012.  Great news for consumers.

Cheaper TVs on Horizon as China Pushes Into $200 Billion U.S. Market: Tech

US retailers boosted holiday hiring to the highest level in 6 years despite worries about the economy, Superstorm Sandy & the presidential election, according to an analysis of gov job data by an outplacement consultancy.  In Q4. 31 retailers added 728K jobs, 10.3% more than the same 3 month period in 2011, when merchants added 660K extra workers, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas.  The retail jobs added for the holiday 2012 season marks the strongest year-end hiring surge since 2006, when employment in the retail sector increased by 747K.  John A. Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas said that holiday hiring in the retail industry was "remarkable" for a several reasons.  "More people are working, but many are still under-employed, and as a result, wages have remained stubbornly low," he said.  "So spending power this year was not necessarily greater than a year ago. Additionally, more people are shopping online, where increased holiday demand is more easily met without adding a lot of seasonal workers. Yet, despite these factors, brick-and-mortar retailers moved forward with increased hiring."  Much of the holiday hiring occurred in Oct & Nov when retailers added 150K jobs & 490K workers, respectively.  But merchants hired 88K workers in Dec, down from 147K in Dec 2011.  Challenger noted that the move by stores to officially usher in the holiday season earlier on Thanksgiving Day, instead of Black Friday, added to the early hiring surge.  According to the International Council of Shopping Centers tally of 20 retailers, stores open at least a year saw revenue for the combined months of Nov & Dec rise 3.1%, roughly on par with the 3% rise predicted.

Stores' holiday hiring was highest in 6 years AP

This was another quiet day in the markets.  Last week's rally was just too much & stocks were subject to profit taking, although MLPs are still on fire.  That index is up almost 30 in 5 sessions.  There is nothing dramatic going on today as traders await earnings to begin with Aloca (AA), a Dow stock, tomorrow followed by the big banks.  In DC, this was another day with nothing accomplished on the $1T annual debt mess.  Without breaking news tomorrow, markets will probably do little as they wait for AA to report after the close.

Dow Jones Industrials

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