- BoA bites back against Cuomo. Bank of America (BAC) said it’s ‘surprised and disappointed’ by accusations that’s it’s hiding behind attorney-client privilege, and called New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s allegations ‘spurious’ and ‘simply wrong.’ Meanwhile, Bank of America and the SEC are making their third attempt to convince Judge Jed Rakoff to approve a $33M settlement over disclosures of Merrill Lynch bonuses. The SEC called the settlement ‘fair’ and ‘reasonable,’ and Bank of America said it’s prepared to litigate if the settlement isn’t approved.
- Phasing out debt guarantees. The FDIC is considering a six-month, emergency-only extension to its debt guarantee program and is seeking public comment on the proposal, with FDIC’s Sheila Bair noting “it has been a successful program but we would like to end it.” The guarantee program had around $320B in outstanding debt guaranteed as of the end of July, and whether it expires Oct. 31 as planned or is extended by six months, the phase-out should provide an early indicator for how banks fare once emergency government support measures have been removed.
- U.S. levies duties on Chinese steel. In the largest countervailing duty case to date against Chinese-made products, the U.S. Commerce Department decided to impose preliminary duties of up to 31% on Chinese steel pipe because of unfair subsidies, bringing average duties on the $2.8B of annual imports to 21.3%. China ‘strongly opposes’ the ruling, which is only the latest in a series of events contributing to escalating trade tensions.
- Beige Book: Signs of slow improvement. In the Federal Reserve’s latest Beige Book, most districts reported the economy was firming up overall and stability increasing, though many sectors still show weaknesses. In particular, despite some improvements in residential real estate, commercial real estate remains weak and non-residential construction activity is down. Credit remains tight, loan demand is down and retail sales are soft. (Read the Beige Book summary)
- OPEC holds steady. As expected, OPEC agreed to keep its oil production quotas unchanged, betting a recovery in the global economy will help keep prices near the current $72/barrel. The decision comes even as the Energy Information Administration’s latest forecast calls for weaker oil demand and higher supply, which is projected to result in a daily world surplus of 70,000 barrels.
- Beijing Automotive steers for Saab. After a failed bid for Opel, Beijing Automotive is joining Koenigsegg Group’s offer to buy General Motors’ Saab. Beijing Automotive will become a minority shareholder in the bidding team, with the hope that a successful bid will allow it to spur model development and sales growth. (Read the memorandum of understanding)
- Apple’s iPod refresh fails to dazzle. Investors were generally unimpressed at Apple’s (AAPL) “Let’s Rock” event yesterday, where Apple introduced a new version of iTunes, updated iPhone software and an iPod Nano with video camera and FM radio. Many had been hoping to see a camera on the iPod Touch and there was no sign of a much-talked-about tablet device. With no major product surprises, much of the attention was focused on CEO Steve Jobs, who made his first public appearance since returning from medical leave.
- Foreclosures remain elevated. U.S. foreclosure filings topped 300,000 for the sixth month in a row, coming in at 358,471 in August, according to RealtyTrac Inc. The number is just 0.5% below July’s record all-time high, and is up 18% from August 2008. Nevada had the highest foreclosure rate, followed by Florida and California. With unemployment hovering at 9.7%, RealtyTrac expects foreclosures to rise for another year.
- Google preps for micropayments. Google (GOOG) plans to introduce a micropayments platform within the next year to help newspapers charge for their content. The move would create a direct competitor for Journalism Online, a site launched by media executives that aims to provide one-stop subscriptions for newspapers and magazines that want to charge for online content. (Read Google’s micropayments plan (.pdf))
- Retail sales inch up. Chain store sales rose 0.2% in the first week of September, Redbook reported, better than the -0.3% expected. According to ICSC, weekly sales rose 0.6% from the previous week but dipped 0.1% vs. the previous year. Sales for September are expected to be down 2% vs. the previous year.
Asia locked in some gains but European markets and U.S. futures are trading down.
- In Asia, Nikkei +1.95% to 10,514. Hang Seng +1.05% to 21,070. Shanghai -0.7% to 2,925. BSE +0.2% to 16,217.
- In Europe at midday, London -0.6%. Paris -0.5%. Frankfurt -0.1%.
- Futures: Dow -0.2%. S&P -0.3%. Nasdaq -0.2%. Crude +0.7% to $71.80. Gold -0.95% to $987.60.
Thursday’s Economic Calendar
- 7:00 BoE Announcement
8:30 International Trade
8:30 Jobless Claims
9:00 RBC CASH Index
9:00 Bank of Canada Announcement
10:30 EIA Natural Gas Inventory
11:00 EIA Petroleum Status
12:30 PM Fed’s Lockhart speaks on the global economy
1:00 PM Geithner testifies on TARP
4:15 PM Fed’s Kohn speaks on unconventional monetary policy
4:30 PM Fed Balance Sheet
4:30 PM Money Supply