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Payroll-Tax Cut
« on: December 13, 2011, 04:16:37 PM »
Daily Market Commentary for December 13, 2011

House of Representatives is expected to pass a bill that would both extend a payroll-tax cut and fast-track a controversial oil pipeline, per Republican leaders. (read more at Millennium-Traders.Com)

Former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky, facing charges of child sex abuse, waived his right to a preliminary hearing early Tuesday, a surprise to many who expected eight young men to testify against him. "We want the opportunity to present our side," Sandusky told reporters outside the courthouse. Marc Costanzo, a spokesman for the prosecution who said there has been no discussion about a plea deal, told reporters the move is helpful to the victims because it "avoids having to testify a second time."

The Commerce Department reported that American consumers increased their spending at a slower rate during November, gravitating toward cars and home electronics and away from bars, restaurants and grocery store. Sales at U.S. retailers increased a seasonally adjusted 0.2% in November, excluding the volatile automobile sector, sales also rose 0.2%. Consumer spending accounts for nearly 70% of U.S. economic growth and with revisions to prior retail-sales data, shows that consumer spending remains healthy. For October, increase in sales was revised up to 0.6% from 0.5%, while September’s data was revised up to 1.3% from 1.1%. During November, the biggest winners were electronics retailers whose sales jumped 2.1% as consumers snapped up new mobile phones, iPads, electronic-book readers and high-definition televisions. Non-store retail category such as Amazon.com benefited from higher demand for electronics with those sales jumping 1.5%. Car dealers and parts suppliers sales rose 0.5%; spending on home furnishings increased 0.4% and clothing sales climbed 0.5%. Gas, food, drinks, personal care and home-improvement items all showed a reduction in spending, by consumers to the tune of a drop by 0.3%. Overall, retail sales are 6.7% higher compared with 2010 but, have increased at faster pace of 7.4% over past three months.

Seven former executives of Siemens AG American Depositary (NYSE: SI) have been charged by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission over an alleged decade-long bribery scheme to retain a $1 billion Argentine contract. The Department of Justice brought parallel criminal charges as well. The German firm previously paid $1.6 billion to settle bribery charges with the SEC, the DOJ and the Office of the Prosecutor General in Munich.

Labor Department reported that estimated number of job openings fell to 3.27 million during October compared to 3.38 million in September. With the trough at 1.2 million in July 2009, openings were at 4.4 million prior to the last recession. Hires totaled 48.1 million and separations totaled 46.8 million, yielding a net employment gain of 1.3 million, over the 12 months ending in October 2011. This data includes workers who may have been hired and separated more than once during the year.

A watchdog for the nation's top housing regulator responded to lawmakers questions that they concurred with the agency's assertion that it needed more funds for examinations. "We've noticed that as a result of the shortages there has not been targeted examinations of real estate owned property until very recently, there hasn't been examinations of critical business lines such as multi-family mortgages and there has been insufficient examinations of federal home loan banks," said Federal Housing Finance Agency Inspector-General Steve Linick. "Clearly if they don't have capacity to examine critical programs at Fannie and Freddie there is a risk of loss to taxpayers. We've looked at staffing in examination capacity and we concur that agency needs more examiners."

The Federal Reserve decided to keep interest rates unchanged after the FOMC meeting, while flagging concerns with global growth for the first time. Additionally, the Fed made no alterations to its policy of selling short-term holdings and reinvesting them into longer-term securities and reiterated its pledge to keep rates at low levels through the middle of 2013. On the third anniversary of targeting the Fed funds rate at a level between 0% and 0.25%, the Fed said the "economy has been expanding moderately, notwithstanding some apparent slowing in global growth." The Fed made no mention of altering its communication strategy, which has been a hot topic of recent speeches by central bank officials. In its statement the Fed said that the economy “has been expanding moderately,” despite slowing in global growth. The Fed noted that the unemployment rate remained elevated, it was 8.6% according to the Labor Department, despite some improvement in labor market conditions. While consumer spending was advancing, businesses appeared to be pulling back, the statement said. There was one dissent to the Fed policy decision. Charles Evans, the president of the Chicago Fed, dissented in favor of more easing. The minutes of the Fed’s last two meetings have included lengthy discussions of communication issues. Some Fed officials want to provide clearer guidance on the mid-2013 promise and to tie low short-term rates to economic conditions. Fed officials are also pondering whether to adopt an explicit inflation target. The Fed has purchased $2.3 trillion of bonds trying to push down long-term interest rates. In September, the Fed announced an Operation-Twist plan to buy longer-term securities and sell $400 billion of short-term debt to lengthen the average maturity of securities on its balance sheet.

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