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.

Wells Fargo Cut Sends Markets Down; Fed Beige Book Shows Tepid Progress; Obama Administration To Cut Executive Pay at Top TARP Companies by 50%; Boeing Shares Fall After Loss; E-Reader Introduction Fails to Impress B&N Shareholders; Oil Hits New 2009 High

  • Wells Fargo & Co. (NYSE: WFC) saw its profit skyrocket to $3.2 billion in its third quarter, but its shares from fell 5.02% to close at $28.93 after analyst Dick Bove cut the bank's rating to "sell," saying earnings were boosted by mortgage-servicing fees instead of improving business trends, Bloomberg News reported. The cut had a ripple effect on all three major market indices in the last hour of trading yesterday (Wednesday), sending the Dow Jones Industrial Average below 10,000 again to 9,949.36, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index down 9.66 to 1,081.40 and the Nasdaq Composite Index down 12.74 to 2,150.73.
  • Housing and manufacturing helped the U.S. Federal Reserve's 12 district banks see "stabilization or modest improvements" in many areas of the economy, according to the Fed's latest Beige Book report. Still, all regions recorded weak or declining commercial real estate markets and the economy. The Fed said demand for bank loans was "weak or declining," and that several regions reported a "further erosion of credit quality." The Beige Book "was more pessimistic than I expected," John Silvia, chief economist at Wells Fargo Securities LLC told Bloomberg News. "Economic improvements are modest at best with significant downside in terms of banking and bank loans. The Beige Book says the Fed is nowhere near ready to raise rates for any reason."
  • The Obama administration will order seven of the biggest beneficiaries of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) to slash cash payouts to their 25 best-paid executives by an average of roughly 90%, The New York Times reported, citing an official involved with the decision. Instead of cash, many of these executives will get stock that they will be restricted from selling right away. The result will be a drop in total compensation by about 50%. Companies named in the report were Citigroup Inc. (NYSE: C), Bank of America Corp. (NYSE: BAC), American International Group Inc. (NYSE: AIG), General Motors Corp. (NYSE: GRM), Chrysler Group LLC, as well as the financing arms of the two automakers.
  • Shares of The Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA) fell 2.43% to close at $50.63 after the company posted a worse-than-expected loss and cut its profit outlook amid manufacturing problems with its 787 and 747 planes. Excluding a loss from discontinued operations, Boeing posted a loss of $2.22 per share, compared to estimates of $2.12 in a Thomson Reuters poll of analysts. Boeing now expects to earn between $1.35 and $1.55 per share, down from previous guidance of between $4.70 and $5.00 per share. The company said it was still on track for a test flight of its 787 Dreamliner before the year is over.
  • Investors in Barnes & Noble Inc. (NYSE: BKS) weren't impressed with the introduction of the company's e-book reader, dubbed the "nook." Shares in the book retailer fell 2.65% to close at $18.40 in trading yesterday (Wednesday). The nook will go head-to-head with Inc.'s (Nasdaq: AMZN) Kindle this holiday season and sell for $259. The nook boasts many of the same features found in Kindle, but adds wi-fi support, a color LCD screen at the bottom as well as support for MP3 audio files and audio books. The nook's biggest advantage will be visibility in more than 778 Barnes & Noble brick-and-mortar retail stores.
  • The chairman of China's sixth-largest bank China Merchant's Bank Co. Ltd., Qin Xiao, said in a Financial Times column that the central government needs an "urgent" tightening of its monetary policy to prevent its $585 billion stimulus plan from inflating stock and property bubbles. The government shouldn't be afraid of a "moderate slowdown" in the economy resulting from a pullback of stimulus. "Monetary policy must not neglect asset-price movements," he wrote. "Therefore it is urgent that China shifts from a loose monetary policy stance to a neutral one."
  • Benchmark crude oil prices yesterday (Wednesday) hit another annual high, rising $2.25 to settle at $81.37 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) as the dollar fell to new lows against the euro. "The dollar obviously is the overriding factor," PFGBest analyst Phil Flynn told The Associated Press. "It's not about demand I can tell you that."