Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Financial Headlines 5/4/2010

  • The Dow is down 147 in early morning trading on - you're never going to believe this but - "European debt fears" AGAIN. I mean, how many more times are we going to do the Greece-is-imploding/Europe-is-bailing it out dance, before everyone wakes up and realizes that we're all overextended and need to restructure? Apparently, many.
  • At least people are buying cars again. Car sales were up 20% in April year-over-year, which is good if you forget about the fact that sales hit multi-decade lows in April of last year. April's annualized sales pace was about 11.21 million vehicles, slower than the rate of 11.78 million in March, supporting the theory that we're experiencing a nice bounce but nowhere near the 16 million pace of the bubble years.
  • The Lehman bankruptcy estate started presenting evidence last week in an attempt to prove that Barclays gouged its eyes out after the investment bank's bankruptcy filing. The evidence? $11 billion or so that Barclays made immediately after it cherry picked some assets. The estate plans to go after other banks - you've heard of a few of them - that it claims picked its carcass clean in the confusion following Lehman's implosion.
  • Lending standards remained tight and even got tighter at US banks, but you already knew that. I mean how many ways can your bank say "No. No. I said No! Go away!" before you get the message. A few categories showed improvement, industrial and commercial loans for large businesses, but otherwise, hope you're doing fine living off your unemployment check.
  • Curiously, one of the only stocks showing green today on my screens is BP. Apparently, if you cause a major environmental disaster that will cost billions to clean up, it's no biggie. It just means your stock is now viewed as "defensive." According to the FT, the US is raising pressure on BP over spill costs. Apparently, after the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill, landmark legislation was passed to ensure that these types of oil spills are paid for by the "responsible" party. Included in the legislation, however, was a $75 million liability cap, because that was apparently the best that the jokers in office at the time could do to pass something. But fear not, our savvy lawmakers are just now getting around to trying to raise that cap to $10 billion, which will likely get whittled down to $100 million by the time the oil lobby has done its work.

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