WNYC's Amy Eddings hosts a daily overview of financial news at 4:30 each weekday. This financial wrap delivers highlights of the day's business news delivered by WNYC's reporters with context, clarity and a New York perspective.
Citigroup reports more than $2 billion in profits. With other Wall Street banks reporting earnings this week, what does it say about the U.S. economy?
Countrywide Execs Agree to Settlement
Countrywide Financial co-founder Angelo Mozilo and two other former executives of the defunct mortgage giant have agreed to pay $67.5 million dollars, to avoid going to trial next week for alleged investor fraud and insider trading. A federal judge has accepted a settlement between the three former executives and the Securities and Exchange Commission. As part of the settlement, the defendants neither admitted nor denied liability. Mozilo sold millions of his own shares in Countrywide shortly before the company went belly up at the end of 2007.
Several sour economic reports this morning reminded traders that the economy is still not in full recovery mode. In particular, weekly unemployment claims rose for the first time in three weeks. Markets ended the day flat, the Dow losing just two points to close at 11,095. The Nasdaq and the S&P 500 also closed close to where they began the day.
Investigating Bank Foreclosures
The Attorneys General of New York and New Jersey have joined a coordinated probe in all 50 states of possibly improper foreclosure procedures. New Jersey Attorney General Paula Dow says she's concerned by news that banks knowingly filed falsified documents. "It undermines the entire integrity of the system, by allowing something like this to happen," she said.
Stocks ended the trading day higher, after minutes released from the latest meeting of the Federal Reserve showed the central bank is ready to stimulate the economy. The Dow jumped 11 points, closing at 11,020. The S&P 500 grew by four points, finishing up at 1,170. The Nasdaq added 16 points, ending at 2,418. The Fed's September meeting minutes also show that the central bank is concerned inflation was too low. Fed policy-makers indicated that they wanted to resume their strategy of buying government debt.
Stocks stalled today, just days after the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose above 11,000 for the first time since early May. The Dow was relatively flat, gaining just four points, to close at 11,010. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq also remained flat, with the S&P closing up just a notch at 1,165, and the Nasdaq ending the day at 2,402. Gold rose to $1,354.40 an ounce, rising by $9.10. It's the 15th record-high for gold in a little over a month.
Dow Rises Above 11,000
Stocks rose Friday despite employers cutting 95,000 jobs last month. The unemployment rate was unchanged at 9.6 percent. For traders and investors, today's government report only strengthened the belief that the Federal Reserve will take action to stimulate the economy when it meets in November. The Dow Jones ended the day at 11,006. It's the first time the Dow has crossed that 11,000 mark since May. The S&P 500 rose, to end the day at 1,165. The NASDAQ ended up at 2,402.
Applications for unemployment benefits fell last week for the fourth time in five weeks, a sign that layoffs are declining. The Labor Department says initial claims dropped by 11,000, to a seasonally adjusted 445,000. That's the lowest level since early July.
Wells Fargo Settles Loan Case
Wells Fargo says it will pay $24 million to New Jersey and seven other states, to end investigations into its "pick-a-payment" loans. Those loans allowed borrowers to choose how much they wanted to pay each month. Often, those payments did not even cover the interest due. Attorneys general for the states were concerned that Wells Fargo did not disclose those risks, and may have deceived borrowers.
GOVERNMENT BAILOUT WILL COST LESS THAN EXPECTED
The Treasury Department says the $700 billion financial bailout -- also known as TARP -- will cost taxpayers only $50 billion. The report comes two years and two days after Congress approved the bailout fund that provided billions to hundreds of banks. Critics say that while the program stabilized the financial sector, it did not do enough to prevent foreclosures and keep homeowners in their homes.
Alleging anti-competitive practices, the Justice Department filed suit against the three largest U.S. credit card companies in Brooklyn federal court Monday. At the same time, the Department announced a possible settlement with two of those card companies. That agreement would prohibit Visa and MasterCard from preventing retailers from offering discounts for using certain charge cards. The Justice Department continues to seek a settlement with American Express.
It looks like the Federal Reserve is not done with efforts to get the economy back on track. Speaking in New York today, an influential member of the central bank's policymaking group said more action by the Fed is likely.
Remember AIG? It was once the world's largest insurer, and two years ago this month, at the height of the financial crisis, it got a multi-billion taxpayer bailout to save it from collapse. Today, the company announced a plan to repay taxpayers and bring government ownership to an end. The company's CEO, Robert Benmosche, called the agreement a "pivotal milestone."
Stocks slipped today as protests against austerity measures in Europe brought new worries about the region's financial system. In trading today, the Dow gave up 23 points, closing at 10,835. The Nasdaq and the S&P 500 had modest losses as well. The dollar also fell further against other currencies on anticipation of more action by the Federal Reserve to push U.S. interest rates down.
Another report confirms that the housing market is stuck in the doldrums. Home prices fell slightly in July by 0.1 percent after rising in June, according to the S&P/Case Shiller report. Perhaps more worrisome -- prices fell in more cities surveyed. "In about half of cities, prices are lower than they were a year ago," said Patrick Newport, an economist with IHS Global Insights. "And last month, it was only five, and a couple of months ago it was even smaller than that, so we are seeing weakness in prices." But in New York, there's perhaps another sign that the economy here is doing better than in other parts of the country. Prices actually rose by one percent.
There's trouble in the Eurozone. French leaders clashed with German leaders and the European Central Bank in a conference today, rejecting a proposal that would punish European Union nations with near-automatic sanctions, if they fail to keep their debt and budget deficits within limits.
More mixed news about the nation's economy. First, the U.S. Commerce Department reported that new home sales in August were the second-slowest on record. The annual sales pace last month was just 288,000 homes -- unchanged from July. Economists had forecast sales would increase. The Commerce Department also reported today that U.S. businesses increased purchases of business equipment -- from computers to machinery -- in August. The increase came after sales fell in July.
For months, economists and analysts have been saying unemployment needs to fall and housing sales need to rise before the economy can really rebound. We got news about both of those sectors today -- and, as in previous months, they were less than stellar. That in turn added to the growing worries of investors on Wall Street. The Dow lost 77 points to close at 10, 662. The S&P 500 fell more than 9 points to close at 1,125.
A day after the Federal Reserve announced it was standing by and ready to step in and help the economy if necessary, investors chose to put their money in stable U.S. Treasuries and gold. Stocks fell across the board. The Dow lost 22 points to close at 10,739. The broadest measure of the stock market, the S&P 500, fell just over 5 points to close at 1,134.
The Federal Reserve announced today it will not change interest rates and offered no specific new policies to revive the economy. But that doesn't mean the nation's central bank isn't worried about economic growth. In a statement, the Fed indicated the sluggish economy can keep inflation too low and that in turn could spur it into action.