Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Europe, Ratings Agencies In Focus as Markets Zig-Zag

Editor's Note: Our regrets and apologies to readers for missing our regularly-scheduled post after the close on Monday. There were negotiations from which we could not extricate ourselves in a timely manner.

Stocks took a dive on Monday, but rebounded sharply on Turnaround Tuesday, raising the indices nicely, but not back to levels seen before Monday's decline.

In the news on Monday was Europe (remember them?), once again rearing its ugly, socialist head over stories emanating from Spain over alleged corruption in the government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy (no, really?), which the Spanish PM has denied. While there's little doubt that corruption exists in all levels of government worldwide, especially at the sovereign or federal level, proving such becomes a task not for the feint of heart, as there are vested interests which will defend their salaries, positions and perks like maddened pit bulls.

Italy was also in the news Monday, as fraud and conspiracy charges are being levied against the world's oldest bank, Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena, and are slowly but surely finding their way to the top of government, eventually to land in the lap of Prime Minister Mario Monti.

National elections are slated for February 24-25, with former Premier Silvio Berlusconi, 76, gaining on front-runner Pier Luigi Bersani. Unemployment and rampant waves of criminality are among major issues in Italy.

On the US home front, the Justice Department finally found some level of damming evidence over which to bring charges against Standard & Poor's. The rating agency is alleged with fraud over their ratings of sub-prime loans in the 2004-06 period, helping bring about the 2008-09 market crash and financial panic. The government is seeking $5 billion in damages.

While the DoJ has reportedly combed through two million pages of emails and internal documents, the real reason for the agency to now bring charges is that - after four months of negotiations with the firm - it wants and needs the money that fines will bring to the federal coffers. Besides that, statues of limitations on fraud are expiring quickly, prompting action. It's a shame this is happening so late in the game and also that the banks which originated and packaged the faulty loans aren't being prosecuted as well.

There was a rush of earnings news, mostly positive, though YUM Brands (YUM) was hard hit on Tuesday even though the company beat on both the top and bottom lines. At the heart of the company's issues is KFC, and tainted chicken sold though their Chinese outlets. The government is continuing its probe of the company which guided forward flat earnings due to the issues arising from the problematic cluckers. KFC is highly profitable in China. More than 40% of YUM's profits come from China.

Dow 13,979.30, +99.22(0.71%)
NASDAQ 3,171.58, +40.41(1.29%)
S&P 500 1,511.29, +15.58(1.04%)
NYSE Composite 8,920.13, +67.31(0.76%)
NASDAQ Volume 2,150,602,500
NYSE Volume 3,859,714,750
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 4674-1828
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 386-22
WTI crude oil: 96.64, +0.47
Gold: 1,673.50, -2.90
Silver: 31.88, +0.159

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