Investment News Briefs

With our investment news briefs, Money Morning provides investors with a quick overview of the most important investing news stories from all around the world.

Consumer Prices Increase Less Than Expected; Ten Banks Repay TARP Debt; Bankrupt Eddie Bauer Attempts Sale; Berkshire Hathaway Options Begin Trading; FedEx Losses Mount; Saab Cuts Debt; Gas Prices Keep Going, Going, Up; Boeing Gets First Air Show Order; China Will Invest Sovereign Wealth in Hedge Funds; Analyst: S&P 500 Will Hit New Highs By 2012; Bond Yields Drop; Mortgage Apps Plunge

  • Inflation fears were quelled at least temporarily as U.S. consumer prices were raised only slightly last month, and actually experienced their biggest drop in almost 60 years. Higher gas prices contributed to the 0.1% increase in the Labor Department's Consumer Price Index (CPI) versus the April's CPI, which was flat. Financial markets had expected a 0.3% increase. The CPI fell 1.3% versus the same period last year, the largest drop since April 1950. "There is no sign that there has been widespread inflation because of the Fed's quantitative easing regime. In fact, long-term inflation expectations haven't budged and the Fed is still ahead of curve on inflation," economic and investment strategist John Canally of LPL Financial told Reuters. 
  • Four of the nation's largest banks repaid $54.7 billion to the U.S. Treasury's Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), freeing themselves of government restrictions on lending and pay. JPMorgan & Chase Co. (NYSE: JPM) repaid $25 billion, and Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS) and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (NYSE: GS) repaid $10 billion each, Bloomberg News reported. As Money Morning's Martin Hutchinson reported yesterday (Wednesday), the other two banks, U.S. Bancorp (NYSE: USB) and BB&T Corporation (NYSE: BBT) repaid their debts of $6.6 billion and $3.1 billion respectively. The banks are among 10 other that agreed last week to repay $68 billion in TARP funds, Bloomberg News reported. "Our strong capital position allowed us to pay back TARP in a very short amount of time," BB&T Chief Executive Officer Kelly King said in the bank's statement.
  • Beleaguered outdoor clothing retailer Eddie Bauer Holdings Inc. (Nasdaq: EBHI) yesterday (Wednesday) filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and said it planned to sell itself to private equity firm CCMP Capital LLC for $202 million. The sale to CCMP, known as a 363 sale, means the sale needs the approval of a judge, and other bidders could emerge. CCMP is entitled to a $5 million breakup fee if it loses to a higher bidder. Court filings show that Bank of America Corp. (NYSE: BAC), General Electric Company (NYSE: GE) and CIT Group Inc. (NYSE: CIT) will provide up to $100 million in financing during the bankruptcy case, The New York Times reported. Eddie Bauer said its 371 stores in the United States and Canada are operating as usual.
  • FedEx Corp.'s (NYSE: FDX) losses more than tripled in its last quarter, and the company said things won't be much better in the near future, The Associated Press reported. The nation's second-largest package shipper reported a loss of $876 million, or $2.82 per share in the quarter ended May 30. That compares to a loss of $241 million, or 78 cents per share in the same period last year. "The operating environment for our first two quarters in fiscal 2010 is expected to be extremely difficult," Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Alan B. Graf Jr. said. The company has not yet decided whether it will have to lay off more workers or make further cutbacks due to poor economic conditions, Graf said in a conference call with investors.
  • The annual rise in gas prices entered its 50th straight day yesterday (Wednesday) after crude prices bounced back after an initial slump in the beginning of this week, The Associated Press reported. Pump prices are now at a national average of $2.67 per gallon. The rising crude prices and less production has added to the typical increase in demand in the late spring and summer months as more Americans take to the roads for vacation-related travel.
  • After being dogged by reports of orderless days at the Paris Air Show, The Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA) finally got a $153 million order for two single-aisle planes, The Associated Press reported. But this order pales when compared to the $6.2 billion in orders already attained by rival Airbus S.A.S. Both aircraft makers are feeling the economic crunch by the worldwide recession.
  • China will use part of its $200 billion sovereign wealth fund to invest in hedge funds, according to Felix Chee, who will initially run the fund. "We will have a preference for managed accounts," he said in an interview with Bloomberg News Wednesday at the GAIM International hedge fund conference at Monaco's Grimaldi Forum. "The platform would like a core of single-manager funds and fund-of-funds." Chee, is a special adviser to the chief investment officer of China Investment Corp.'s hedge fund and proprietary trading effort, "It'll be across the spectrum of strategies," he said. "We're looking for the best managers and a handful of fund of funds, and when I say handful I mean five or less."
  • A prominent Wall Street analyst sees the benchmark S&P 500 Index (NYSE: .INX) breaking its all-time record by the end 2012.  JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) Chief U.S. Equity Strategist Thomas Lee said on Wednesday the index should surge back above 1,500, its October 2007 high in less than three years, provided the U.S. economy sees a V-shaped recovery.  "The global economy is in the midst of a synchronized recovery," Lee said at the Reuters Investment Outlook Summit.  Lee also reiterated his year-end 2009 target of 1,100 for the S&P 500, saying the United States will likely come out of its recession some time this summer, followed by the rest of the developed world.
  • Prices on Fannie Mae (NYSE: FNM) and Freddie Mac (NYSE: FRE) mortgage securities rose for the fifth day Wednesday, pushing yields down as they tracked a drop in rates on benchmark U.S. Treasuries, foreshadowing possible further declines in borrowing costs for new home-loans. Yields on Washington-based Fannie Mae's 30- year fixed-rate mortgage bonds fell by 0.02% to 4.56% in New York trading, the lowest since June 3, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Treasuries and so-called agency mortgage bonds rallied after a government report showed the cost of living rose less than forecast in May. The mortgage-bond yields are down from 5.07% on June 10, the highest level since the Federal Reserve announced plans to buy home-loan bonds in November.
  • Applications for mortgages fell for a fourth consecutive week, with overall demand plunging to its lowest level in nearly seven months, according to a report Wednesday from the Mortgage Bankers Association.  Rising interest rates have tempered demand for refinancings and new purchase applications, as the industry group's seasonally-adjusted index fell 15.8% to 514.4 for the week ended June 12, the lowest since the week ended November 21, 2008.  Rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 5.50%, down 0.07% from the previous week, but significantly higher than the all-time low of 4.61% set in the week ended March 27, Reuters reported.