Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Obama Speaks, JP Morgan Pops, Stops, Feds Love Banks

Sometimes you just have to sit back and take it all in, which is precisely what marketeers did today after JP Morgan put out a bogus earnings report prior to the open, and President Obama put down a line in the sand for Republicans over upcoming budgets.

Market futures pointed higher prior to the open after JP Morgan Chase (JPM) announced 1st quarter results, saying they beat wall Street expectations of $1.15 per share with a resounding $1.28 in the quarter. This sent the major indices off to the races at the open, but as soon as discoveries were made that Morgan's earnings figure was boosted by a 0.29 per share reduction in credit loan loss reserves, things began to turn ugly, and in a hurry.

After opening up 62 points to the good, the Dow Jones Industrials were seeing red by noon. Likewise, JP Morgan's 62 cent gain turned into a 76 cent loss (45.88) at the low of the day, just after 2:00 pm EDT. By the close, Morgan and the Dow had regained some ground, though JPM still finished down 39 cents and was quoted lower in the after-hours.

Around 2:00 pm, President Obama offered a retort to Republican Paul Ryan's proposed 2012 budget plan in a speech at George Washington University. The President outlined plans for cuts in defense spending and saving in Medicare and reiterated his 2008 campaign pledge to scale back the Bush tax cuts, saying he went along with Republican plans to extend them last year only so he could save middle class taxes from rising.

Obama's plan, in simple terms plans to cut the budget deficit by $4 trillion over the next 12 years, keeping intact the two largest entitlement programs, Medicare and Social Security, which was not mentioned for any revisions.

While the president was speaking, markets gyrated in both directions, finally heading into the positive, though only slightly, by the close. At the very least, the president did a good job of setting the parameters for a budget fight that figures to be a battle royale on Capitol Hill through the summer and into the fall.

Even though the markets broke a four-day losing streak, gains were minimal, the up early, lower later signature of trading was straight out of the bear market playbook.

Dow 12,270.99, +7.41 (0.06%)
NASDAQ 2,761.52, +16.73 (0.61%)
S&P 500 1,314.41, +0.25 (0.02%)
NYSE Composite 8,367.31, +6.85 (0.08%)

Advancers took back the edge over decliners, 3493-2976, but new highs and new lows were split, with a 46-46 tie on the NASDAQ and new highs bettering new lows, 50-15 on the NYSE. Volume was, as usual, uninspired.

NASDAQ Volume 1,766,435,000
NYSE Volume 4,275,430,000

Commodities snapped back to life with WTI crude futures gaining 86 cents, up to $107.11 on the NYMEX, snapping two-days of delightful declines. Gold picked up a gain of $2.00, to $1,455.60, while silver added 17 cents to $40.24.

The budget deal worked out last Friday now appears to be ready to pass both houses without much dissent, though some members of both parties have signaled that they would vote against the measure due to ideological values. A vote is scheduled for the House on Thursday.

In other news affecting JP Morgan and its cohorts (the 14 largest US banks), federal regulators slapped the collective wrists of the banks, but imposed no sanctions, fines or plausible remedies to foreclosure and mortgage servicing problems which surfaced last fall during the "robo-signing" scandal.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Office of Thrift Supervision, the Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. issued the settlement after markets had closed.

"The review uncovered unsafe and unsound practices, violations of law and foreclosure processes geared toward speed and quantity, instead of quality and accuracy," the OTS said in a statement.
That qualifies as the understatement of the decade. Not a single banker or functionary has been indicted, nor have any of the banks in question been subject to any serious scrutiny over their abuses that likely deprived many homeowners of due process.

This "agreement" leaves conditions almost as they were, with the banks still holding all the cards and homeowners getting no relief. It is expected that foreclosures will proceed through the courts as they have, with judges scrutinizing individual cases for flawed paperwork and other transgressions routine to the practice of the banking cartel.

Without a workable framework, the process will likely bog down the real estate market for the next five to ten years, as title defects, lost notes, fraudulent assignments and other illegal practices are given a green light by the nation's regulators. Obviously, some things in Washington remain just the same, as regulators look the other way when it comes to their favorites sons and campaign contributors.

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