The major indexes retreated in light trading ahead of the upcoming earnings reporting season. The Dow lost 50 points, the Nasdaq fell by 2, and the S&P 500 declined by 4. Seventeen of the Dow’s 30 components lost ground, led by Disney (DIS), which declined by 2%. Volume was light, and declining issues edged out advancers by about four to three. The prices of Treasuries strengthened, while the price of gold futures lost 0.1% to $1,646.30 an ounce. The price of crude oil on the New York Mercantile Exchange gained 0.1% to $93.19 a barrel.
In Other Business News:
- Ten major banks announced a deal with bank regulators to pay $8.5 billion to settle charges that the banks mishandled mortgage foreclosures in the wake of the housing collapse in 2007. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve opened an investigation in 2011 into the practices of the banks, and the current agreement will settle all charges related to the investigation. The banks that signed the agreement include Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan and Wells Fargo. A spokesman for Bank of America said the deal "expands the number of borrowers who will receive payment, speeds the delivery of those payments, and will provide support for homeowners still struggling to make payments."
- In a separate agreement, Bank of America announced it has reached agreement to settle disputes with Fannie Mae over mortgages the bank sold to the mortgage giant. Under the terms of the deal, Bank of America will pay Fannie Mae $3.5 billion and repurchase $6.5 billion of failed or failing mortgages. The price of Bank of America shares (BAC) slipped lower by 0.17% in today’s session.
- The outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas announced that hiring for the 2012 holiday season increased by 10% over hiring at the same time in 2011 and thus reached the highest level since 2006—that is, since before the recent recession began.
What does 2013 hold in store for us aside from ever more bone-crunching political battles over raising the debt ceiling, cutting government spending, and yada yada yada? I predict there will be a few bright notes. Consider the following.
- The scuttlebutt is that bankrupt Hostess Brands is currently soliciting bids for some of its most dearly beloved products and among the bidders are such giants as Wal-Mart, Kroger, and a Mexican bakery giant called Grupo Bimbo. This raises the possibility that by Easter we might all go down to the store and purchase “Bimbo Twinkies,” “Bimbo Ho Hos,” and “Bimbo Ding Dongs.”
- A baby-naming website called BellyBallot predicts that parents of babies born in 2013 will increasingly turn to technology terms like “Kindle” when naming their children. Really, little Kindle? I can do better than that: “Boss, I’d like you to meet my son, Dropbox, and my daughter, Google.”
- Speaking of names, Infiniti recently announced it would henceforth give all its car models names beginning with the letter “Q.” Uh oh: “Step into our showroom Mr. and Mrs. Jones. What would you be interested in? We have the Quaint, the Quirky, and the Quixotic.”
- Business Insider recently reported that Urban Outfitters, a clothing retailer to young urbanites, sometimes buys worn clothing at yard sales and resells it to customers with the disclaimer: “This unique found item was hand selected for you from a yard sale or flea market. Any tears, holes, paint stains, or other ‘defects’ we consider a virtue and not a flaw. Wear it well.” (Why bother? It’s already well worn.) Ahem, if the truth fairy from Hades would just “WAKE UP,” we might find an alternate label written this way: “This lovely rag was hand plucked from a pile of discards at a flea market. Any tears, holes, paint stains, or cooties we consider virtues. Not the fleas, however. Wear it at your own risk.” (Talk about duds!)