Morning Money Memo…
"The Morgan Shakedown" is how this morning's Wall Street Journal editorial describes the $13 billion tentative deal between America's biggest bank and the Justice Department. JP Morgan Chase has decided to settle allegations over the poor quality of mortgage-backed securities sold in the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis. The provisional agreement does not include a criminal investigation of the bank's conduct.
Many of the problems were at Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual, firms JP Morgan bought after the government asked it to help out when those companies got into deep financial difficulties. "Five years later the feds are punishing the bank for having done them the favor," complains The Journal.
When the housing bubble burst in 2007, bundles of mortgages sold as securities soured and the investors who bought them lost billions. In the aftermath, public outrage boiled over that no high-level Wall Street executives had been sent to jail. Some lawmakers and other critics demanded that the big bailed-out banks and senior executives be held accountable.
In response, the government in January 2012 set up a task force of federal and state law enforcement officials to pursue wrongdoing with regard to mortgage securities. In the tentative settlement with JP Morgan Chase $9 billion would be paid in fines and penalties and $4 billion will go for relief for struggling homeowners.
Investors this week are turning their attention from Washington dysfunction to bread and butter concerns - the bottom line for businesses. This will be the busiest week of the third quarter profits season with earnings surveys from about 30 percent of the largest 500 companies. Among today's stocks to watch are Netflix and McDonalds. Both will be watched closely when their numbers come out today. Futures are up this morning and the stock market is coming off a second week in a row of strong gains.
Many businesses had a strong third quarter and the outlook for the economy next year is a little bit better, says a new report from business economists. "Sales and profit margins were improving even in spite of some potential headwinds in terms of rising interest rates and oil prices," says Jack Kleinhenz, President of the National Association for Business economics. Wages were flat, job growth was disappointing and the government shutdown had a negative impact. "If the shutdown didn't occur it looks like based on our survey and the outlook by our panelists we were going to be on a nice pace going forward."
One plus for the economy is energy costs. Gas prices continue to fall to around their lowest levels in months in much of the country. Wholesale oil on global markets is down to just under $100 a barrel. The U.S. Energy Department releases its latest report today on pump prices.
It's been a familiar complaint from many U.S. coffee lovers. Now Starbucks is facing official criticism in China for charging too much. Government controlled television (CCTV) says Starbucks charges one-third more for a medium-size latte in Beijing than the same brew costs in Chicago. The director of the Shanghai-based Coffee told CCTV that Starbucks can charge high prices because of the "blind faith" of Chinese customers in Western brands. The company defended its pricing strategy.
Richard Davies Business Correspondent ABC News Radio abcnews.com Twitter: daviesnow