Posts Tagged ‘Standard & Poor’s

19
Jun
10

Stocks end higher for second week

NEWS
Stocks end higher for second week

Saturday, June 19, 2010

U.S. stocks ended the week more than two per cent higher amid optimism over the global economic recovery, but as Wall Street braced for a volatile week with a heavy dose of U.S. economic data.

The blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced 2.3 percent over the week to end Friday at 10,450.64 as traders digested a week of mixed economic data. Some stability in debt-stricken Europe buoyed confidence.

The tech-rich Nasdaq index climbed three per cent to 2,309.80 and the broad-market SP 500 index gained 2.4 percent at 1,117.51.

Trade was notably slower than the roller coaster session of previous weeks, analysts said.

‘Whether the slower action is the result of market participants taking a breather following the volatile activity over the last two months or the beginning of a summer lull remains to be seen,’ said analysts at Briefing.com.

One notable exception was New York-listed shares in British oil giant BP, which were hit hard following the company’s massive oil spill in the gulf and as its credit rating was slashed by top rating agencies.

BP’s shares fell 6.5 percent for the week, after trading close to 52-week lows in the middle of the week.

The focus of next week’s trade is sure to be a meeting of the Federal Reserve’s policy-making body on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Fed board is expected to vote to keep interest rates unchanged at virtually zero per cent as the economy continues to be dogged by unemployment concerns.

While no interest rate changes were expected, ‘the status of the extra measures the Fed has taken to address liquidity and the cost of capital will continue to be monitored,’ analysts at Charles Schwab Co said.

And other data will be scrutinised.

In the coming week, the market will grapple with existing home sales for May that are expected to show a jump as well as new home sales for the same month that many believe would slump.

The government will provide a final revision of the 2010 first quarter gross domestic product (GDP) growth, which is expected to remain unchanged at 3.0 percent.

‘All of those data releases have the potential to move the markets,’ analysts at Briefing.com cautioned clients in a note.

Traders are expected to remain cautious even though stocks climbed nearly all of last week.

The stock market is expected to ‘continue to drift going into second quarter earnings season (July), moving up and down in tandem with the movement of the euro and headline news coming out of Europe and the Gulf of Mexico,’ said Frederic Dickson, chief market strategist with DA Davidson Co.
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07
May
10

Stocks turn negative for 2010

NEWS
Stocks turn negative for 2010

Friday, May 7, 2010

••• U.S. stocks continued to fall in early trading on Friday, with the Dow Jones industrial average and Standard & Poor’s 500 turning negative for the year as traders preferred to stay on the sidelines after Thursday’s unprecedented market plunge.

U.S. stocks saw a 10 percent correction in ten minutes on Thursday, sending investors in great panic. The Dow Jones industrial average experienced its largest-ever point decline in intraday trading, plummeting almost 1,000 points before recovering to close down about 348 points.

Speculation of bad trades emerged in the market as many traders suspected a glitch in the trading of Dow component Procter & Gambles played a role in the heavy selling.

Investors preferred to stay on the sidelines after the unprecedented plunge, even after payrolls data came in better than expected, as uncertainties over European debt problems were still haunting in the market.

According to the Labor Department, non-farm payrolls expanded by 290,000 in April, the most in four years as more confident employers stepped up hiring. The unemployment rate rose from 9.7 percent in March to 9.9 percent, mainly because 805,000 jobseekers resumed their searches for work as the economy showed more signs of recovery.

The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 112.75, or 1.07 percent, to 10,407.57. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 13.14, or 1.16 percent, to 1,115.01 and the Nasdaq was down 36.41, or 1. 57 percent, to 2,283.23.
President Barack Obama says U.S. authorities are probing ‘unusual’ stock market activity which triggered a slump in the value of securities, and will act to protect investors.

Obama diverted from a statement at the White House on Friday on a sharp increase in job creation, saying he wanted to ‘speak to the unusual market activity’ that took place on Wall Street on Thursday.

‘The regulatory authorities are evaluating this closely with a concern for protecting investors and preventing this from happening again and they will make findings of their review public along with recommendations for appropriate action,’ he said.
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06
May
10

Record 998.5 point drop for Dow Jones before recovery

NEWS
Record 998.5 point drop for Dow Jones before recovery

Thursday, May 6, 2010

••• Panic selling swept U.S. markets on Thursday as the Dow Jones plunged a record of almost 1000 points before recouping more than half those losses.

It was unclear whether the sudden sell-off, the Dow’s biggest ever intra-day drop, was the result of fears over the Greek debt crisis, a mistaken trade or technical error.

The crash began shortly before 2.25 pm EDT, when in a white-knuckle 20 minutes America’s top 30 firms saw their share prices dive 998.5 points, almost nine per cent, wiping out billions in market value.

The drop eclipsed even the crashes seen when markets reopened after September 11, 2001 and in the wake of the Lehman Brothers collapse.

The Dow later recovered, closing nearly four per cent down, but spooked traders were left wondering whether a technical glitch had caused the blue-chip index to erode three months of solid gains.

Rumours swirled that a Citigroup trader had mistakenly sold 16 billion rather than 16 million stocks in Procter and Gamble shares, forcing the Dow down.

Shares in the consumer goods giant lost more than seven U.S. dollars, falling in a similar pattern to the Dow, trading at a low of $55 a share.

‘At this point, we have no evidence that Citi was involved in any erroneous transaction,’ said company spokesman Stephen Cohen.

A spokesperson for the New York Stock Exchange said the cause was still not known.

‘We don’t know, right now we’re looking into it,’ said Christian Braakman, ‘it’s all speculation.’

But after three days in which stocks have suffered triple-digit intra-day losses because of concern about Greece’s debt crisis, it was clear that the sell-off was real for some investors.

At the close, the Dow had recovered to 10,520.32, down 347.80 (3.20 percent), while the Nasdaq was down 82.65 points (3.44 percent) at 2,319.64. The Standard Poors 500 Index was down 37.72 points (3.24 percent) to 1,128.15.

Images of rioting as the Greek parliament passed unpopular austerity measures did little to ease market panic.

The parliament approved billions of euros of spending cuts pledged in exchange for a 110 billion euros ($138.55 billion) E.U.-IMF bailout just one day after three bank workers died in a firebomb attack during a huge protest.

On Thursday, police charged to scatter hundreds of youths at the tail-end of a new protest outside parliament that drew more than 10,000 people.

In Lisbon, European Central Bank chief Jean-Claude Trichet battled to reassure financial markets that Greece’s debt crisis would not end in default, but could not prevent the euro from falling to a 14-month low against the dollar.

Pleas for patience from the White House also had little impact.

The White House said that reforms in Greece were ‘important’ but would take time and that the U.S. Treasury was monitoring the situation.

‘The president has heard regularly from his economic team,’ said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, adding that President Barack Obama’s top economic officials were closely communicating with their European counterparts.
• Source(s): Associated Press
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24
Apr
10

Goldman Sachs e-mails show bank sought to profit from housing downturn

NEWS
Goldman Sachs e-mails show bank sought to profit from housing downturn

Saturday, April 24, 2010

In late 2007 as the mortgage crisis gained momentum and many banks were suffering losses, Goldman Sachs executives traded e-mail messages saying that they would make “some serious money” betting against the housing markets.

The e-mails, released Saturday morning by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, appear to contradict some of Goldman’s previous statements that left the impression that the firm lost money on mortgage-related investments.

In the e-mails, Lloyd C. Blankfein, the bank’s chief executive, acknowledged in November of 2007 that the firm indeed had lost money initially. But it later recovered from those losses by making negative bets, known as short positions, enabling it to profit as housing prices fell and homeowners defaulted on their mortgages. “Of course we didn’t dodge the mortgage mess,” he wrote. “We lost money, then made more than we lost because of shorts.”

In another message, dated July 25, 2007, David A. Viniar, Goldman’s chief financial officer, remarked on figures that showed the company had made a $51 million profit in a single day from bets that the value of mortgage-related securities would drop. “Tells you what might be happening to people who don’t have the big short,” he wrote to Gary D. Cohn, now Goldman’s president.

The messages were released Saturday ahead of a Congressional hearing on Tuesday in which seven current and former Goldman employees, including Mr. Blankfein, are expected to testify. The hearing follows a recent securities fraud complaint that the Securities and Exchange Commission filed against Goldman and one of its employees, Fabrice Tourre, who will also testify on Tuesday.

Actions taken by Wall Street firms during the housing meltdown have become a major factor in the contentious debate over financial reform. The first test of the administration’s overhaul effort will come Monday when the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, is to call a procedural vote to try to stop a Republican filibuster.

Republicans have contended that the renewed focus on Goldman stems from Democrats’ desire to use anger at Wall Street to push through a financial reform bill.

Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan and head of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, said that the e-mail messages contrast with Goldman’s public statements about its trading results. “The 2009 Goldman Sachs annual report stated that the firm ‘did not generate enormous net revenues by betting against residential related products,’?” Mr. Levin said in a statement Saturday when his office released the documents. “These e-mails show that, in fact, Goldman made a lot of money by betting against the mortgage market.”

A Goldman spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Goldman messages connect some of the dots at a crucial moment of Goldman history. They show that in 2007, as most other banks hemorrhaged losses from plummeting mortgage holdings, Goldman prospered.

At first, Goldman openly discussed its prescience in calling the housing downfall. In the third quarter of 2007, the investment bank reported publicly that it had made big profits on its negative bet on mortgages.

But by the end of that year, the firm curtailed disclosures about its mortgage trading results. Its chief financial officer told analysts at the end of 2007 that they should not expect Goldman to reveal whether it was long or short on the housing market. By late 2008, Goldman was emphasizing its losses, rather than its profits, pointing regularly to write-downs of $1.7 billion on mortgage assets and leaving out the amount it made on its negative bets.

Goldman and other firms often take positions on both sides of an investment. Some are long, which are bets that the investment will do well, and some are shorts, which are bets the investment will do poorly. If an investor’s positions are balanced – or hedged, in industry parlance – then the combination of the longs and shorts comes out to zero.

Goldman has said that it added shorts to balance its mortgage book, not to make a directional bet that the market would collapse. But the messages released Saturday appear to show that in 2007, at least, Goldman’s short bets were eclipsing the losses on its long positions. In May 2007, for instance, Goldman workers e-mailed one another about losses on a bundle of mortgages issued by Long Beach Mortgage Securities. Though the firm lost money on those, a worker wrote, there was “good news”: “we own 10 mm in protection.” That meant Goldman had enough of a bet against the bond that, over all, it profited by $5 million.

Documents released by the Senate committee appear to indicate that in July 2007, Goldman’s daily accounting showed losses of $322 million on positive mortgage positions, but its negative bet – what Mr. Viniar called “the big short” – came in $51 million higher.

As recently as a week ago, a Goldman spokesman emphasized that the firm had tried only to hedge its mortgage holdings in 2007 and said the firm had not been net short in that market.

The firm said in its annual report this month that it did not know back then where housing was headed, a sentiment expressed by Mr. Blankfein the last time he appeared before.

“We did not know at any minute what would happen next, even though there was a lot of writing,” he told the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission in January.

It is not known how much money in total Goldman made on its negative housing bets. Only a handful of e-mail messages were released Saturday, and they do not reflect the complete record.

The Senate subcommittee began its investigation in November 2008, but its work attracted little attention until a series of hearings in the last month. The first focused on lending practices at Washington Mutual, which collapsed in 2008, the largest bank failure in American history; another scrutinized deficiencies at several regulatory agencies, including the Office of Thrift Supervision and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

A third hearing, on Friday, centered on the role that the credit rating agencies – Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch – played in the financial crisis. At the end of the hearing, Mr. Levin offered a preview of the Goldman hearing scheduled for Tuesday.

“Our investigation has found that investment banks such as Goldman Sachs were not market makers helping clients,” Mr. Levin said, referring to testimony given by Mr. Blankfein in January. “They were self-interested promoters of risky and complicated financial schemes that were a major part of the 2008 crisis. They bundled toxic and dubious mortgages into complex financial instruments, got the credit-rating agencies to label them as AAA safe securities, sold them to investors, magnifying and spreading risk throughout the financial system, and all too often betting against the financial instruments that they sold, and profiting at the expense of their clients.”

The transaction at the center of the S.E.C.’s case against Goldman also came up at the hearings on Friday, when Mr. Levin discussed it with Eric Kolchinsky, a former managing director at Moody’s. The mortgage-related security was known as Abacus 2007-AC1, and while it was created by Goldman, the S.E.C. contends that the firm misled investors by not disclosing that it had allowed a hedge fund manager, John A. Paulson, to select mortgage bonds for the portfolio that would be most likely to fail. That charge is at the core of the civil suit it filed against Goldman.

Moody’s was hired by Goldman to rate the Abacus security. Mr. Levin asked Mr. Kolchinsky, who for most of 2007 oversaw the ratings of collateralized debt obligations backed by subprime mortgages, if he had known of Mr. Paulson’s involvement in the Abacus deal.

“I did not know, and I suspect – I’m fairly sure that my staff did not know either,” Mr. Kolchinsky said.

Mr. Levin asked whether details of Mr. Paulson’s involvement were “facts that you or your staff would have wanted to know before rating Abacus.” Mr. Kolchinsky replied: “Yes, that’s something that I would have personally wanted to know.”

Mr. Kolchinsky added: “It just changes the whole dynamic of the structure, where the person who’s putting it together, choosing it, wants it to blow up.”

The Senate announced that it would convene a hearing on Goldman Sachs within a week of the S.E.C.’s fraud suit. Some members of Congress questioned whether the two investigations had been coordinated or linked.

Mr. Levin’s staff said there was no connection between the two investigations. They pointed out that the subcommittee requested the appearance of the Goldman executives and employees well before the S.E.C. filed its case.

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24
Apr
10

Apple Market Cap Bigger Than Microsoft? Not Quite Yet, It Isn’t

NEWS
Apple Market Cap Bigger Than Microsoft? Not Quite Yet, It Isn’t

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Boosted by upbeat investor reaction to its strong earnings report this week, Apple on yesterday became the second largest company on the S&P 500 Index in terms of market capitalization, surpassing software giant Microsoft.
Revenge, they say, is a dish that is best served cold. And if this is true, then Apple must be pleased as punch to see itself in the second spot in the S&P 500, second only to Exxon Mobil.

While coming second is in itself notable – with the notable exception of coming first – what must be especially pleasing to Apple is the company it has replaced – Microsoft.

To understand this, you must travel back in time to 1988. In that year, Apple filed a case against Microsoft, claiming that the Windows graphical user interface (GUI) infringed upon the Mac’s “look and feel.” Of course, since Apple had itself borrowed the Mac’s look and feel by looking at products from Xerox and feeling that the GUI is a good thing, the judges of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that Apple cannot get patent-like protection for the idea of a GUI.

What is more humiliating than being beaten by an opponent? Running back to the same opponent for help when you are down. And Apple was forced to do this in 1997, when Steve Jobs announced that Apple would join Microsoft to release new versions of Microsoft Office for the Macintosh, and that Microsoft made a $150 million investment in non-voting Apple stock. The money made a huge difference to Apple because in 1997 Apple was in deep trouble and was facing a huge finance crunch.

Enough history. Cut to the here and now. Apple is on top and has ousted Microsoft to become the No 2 company on the S&P index. It would be wrong to say that its iPod, iPhone and iPads are selling like hot cakes – it would perhaps be better to say that hot cakes are selling like iPads.

Purists may argue that the S&P 500 represents merely float-adjusted market cap. In fact, as Marco Tabini posted on macworld.com, “Microsoft’s full market cap still outstrips Apple’s by $275 billion to $241 billion.”

True, Microsoft’s market cap is still higher, but Apple has one psychological advantage that was once enjoyed by Microsoft in the PC era – the ability to drive the direction of the market. Now, Apple decides what happens.

Want proof? The iPad now accounts for 26 per cent of all of the mobile traffic on wired.com. The site is so impressed that they are making their Flash-heavy pages iPad compatible. “We are aware of the irony that the majority of wired.com’s videos, which use an Adobe Flash-based player, don’t play on the iPad. We’re working on that, starting with our homepage,” wrote Dylan F. Tweney in an article that appeared on the site.

Many many moons ago, when Steve Jobs hired John Sculley from Pepsi, he is reputed to have asked him, “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?” Scully didn’t change the world. In fact, during his regime, Microsoft threatened to discontinue Office for the Mac if Apple did not licence parts of the Mac GUI for use with Windows. And those days, Microsoft got what it wanted. But it looks like iPad has just turned the tables.

• What is S&P 500?
The S&P 500 is a free-float capitalization-weighted index published since 1957 of the prices of 500 large-cap common stocks actively traded in the United States. After the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500 is the most widely followed index of large-cap American stocks. It is considered a bellwether for the American economy.

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