Friday, June 13, 2008

DOW Surges on good news!

Thursday's retail sales reports came in twice as high as expected, while jobless claims rose significantly more than expected.

Meanwhile, today's inflation data came in mixed: May's officially reported (manipulated) Consumer Price Index rose a larger-than-forecast 0.6 percent, driven by everyday essentials like gas and food -- the biggest increase in six months. However, the (severely skewed) "Core CPI", which excludes energy and food prices, came in as expected, with a mere 0.2% rise in May.

Additionally, today's Consumer Sentiment figures, impacted by rising unemployment concerns and record gas prices, fell hard -- to the lowest registered since 1980 (Note: that would be a 28 year low for my math challenged readers).

All this great news, provided a boost to the DOW and it regained ~ 220 points over the course of the last two days. (sarcasm for those who don't know me)

Here's an interesting report from Yahoo finance, Market Update:

Stocks spiked in the final minutes of Friday’s session, ending the session with a 1.5% gain. The day’s optimistic tone was established early on as oil prices stepped lower and core economic data met economists’ expectations. The session’s advance helped position stocks to finish the week just below the unchanged mark. (My Comment: I wonder who was doing all the last minute buying? Hmm...)

With that behind us, lets take a gander at other rosy economic reports of the day:

Foreclosures Rise 48% in May as Repossessions Double

June 13 (Bloomberg) -- Banks repossessed twice as many homes in May and foreclosure filings rose 48 percent from a year ago as falling house prices trapped borrowers in mortgages they couldn't afford, RealtyTrac Inc. said in a report today.

The percentage of total outstanding U.S. homes in some stage of foreclosure in the first quarter was 2.47, the Washington-based Mortgage Bankers Association reported. The average over the last 30 years has been 0.98 percent, the industry group said.

Lenders took possession of 73,794 houses in May, more than doubling the 28,548 REOs in May 2007, RealtyTrac said.

``Right now, lenders are afraid to lend and buyers are afraid they'll be under water in a year, so unless something dramatic happens we're going to continue to see the trend go in the wrong direction,'' said Rick Sharga, RealtyTrac's vice president of marketing.

Corn surges to record highs

NEW YORK - Corn prices surged to a new record this week, dashing meat producers' hopes for lower animal feed costs.

Corn jumped to a record of $7.30 a bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade Friday after hitting new record prices for six days in a row.

The surge in price was mainly due to wet weather in the Midwest, which has drowned crops. Investors and analysts are now fearing supply of the grain could be in jeopardy since much of the crop has already been damaged.

US Airways to slash 1,700 jobs, cut more capacity

US Airways Group Inc said it will reduce its work force by 1,700, or about 5 percent, and will cut more capacity than planned and introduce new fees as the airline industry battles record fuel prices and a weakening economy.

Downgrade Flattens Fifth Third Bancorp

Fifth Third Bancorp's dividend may be doomed, according to one analyst who foresees a halved dividend and capital infusion plan in the regional bank's future.

On Friday, BMO Capital Markets Analyst Peter Winter downgraded Fifth Third Bancorp to market perform from outperform on expectations that net charge-offs will be much higher than anticipated. "Housing conditions and the overall economy have gotten much worse since March 31," Winters said.

Ford to Have More `Targeted' Buyouts at U.S. Plants

June 13 (Bloomberg) -- Ford Motor Co. will conduct additional ``targeted'' buyouts at some U.S. plants as the world's third-largest automaker shrinks its workforce to match dwindling sales.

The plan for more early departures underscores the pressure on Ford after losses of $15.3 billion over the past two years. Even with 38,000 U.S. production workers taking buyouts since 2006, the automaker may have too many plants and employees amid a 12-year decline in U.S. market share.

Chrysler raises prices 2 percent on 2008 inventory

Chrysler LLC is raising prices by an average 2 percent on most of its remaining 2008 vehicles in response to rising costs of steel and other raw materials.

The increase will take effect on vehicles shipped to dealers starting Monday, and won't affect vehicles already in dealers' inventories.

Chrysler's sales were down 25 percent in May, a month in which the whole market dropped 11 percent when compared with May of last year. Through the first five months of the year, Chrysler's sales were off 19 percent, with huge drops in larger vehicles that make up most of its lineup.

Moody's may cut Lehman's 'A1' rating on ouster of CFO

Moody's Investors Service on Friday placed Lehman Brothers Holdings A1 rating on review for a possible downgrade. The move follows Lehman's announcement that Chief Financial Officer Erin Callan is leaving. The ratings agency noted that although the purpose of the management change appears to be an effort to assure accountability for its losses and to strengthen risk and financial controls, the decision may, in fact, further erode investor confidence.

Lehman Employees Lost $10 Billion as Shares Declined

June 13 (Bloomberg) -- Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.'s employees lost at least $10 billion as shares of the fourth- largest U.S. securities firm plummeted 74 percent from the high last year.

Office Max shares fall on index change

NEW YORK (AP) -- Shares of office-supply retailer OfficeMax Inc. hit a 52-week low on Friday, after Standard & Poor's said it would replace it on the S&P 500, effective at the close of trading

Bad economy means less access to college

Federal panel says economic downturn means fewer loans for some college students

The struggling economy is likely to make it tougher for college students to obtain and pay for loans this fall, members of a federal education panel said Friday.

The panelists, hosted by the U.S. Department of Education's Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance, said students face higher interest rates on loans issued by private entities like banks or may not qualify for loans at all as lenders tighten their requirements in light of the sub-prime mortgage crisis and other economic factors.


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