Last Call: Knock Knock
No thanks, but I would like a peanut instead!
-Below – why the Vatican is currently cash only.
Market Musings With CNBC Market Guru Robert Hum
Dow -21.19 (-0.16%) at 13391.36, S&P -3.05 (-0.21%) at 1459.37, Nasdaq -11.69 (-0.38%) at 3100.57.
Small losses ahead of Friday's jobs report and after Wednesday's surge.
Stocks weaken as Fed Minutes reveal a few Fed members expressed the view that "ongoing asset purchases would likely be warranted until about the end of 2013."
30-year & 10-year Treasury yields at 8-month highs.
Dollar Index closes at highest level since November 22.
The Word on The Street Tonight
End of Stimulus? What's Behind Fed's Surprise Statement/CNBC – Patti Domm: "n a surprise move, several Federal Reserve members said they want to end quantitative easing this year, but analysts said that doesn't mean the central bank will make a major policy shift anytime soon. The Fed sent ripples through financial markets Thursday when minutes of its Dec. 12 policy meeting showed that "several" members would like to stop the bond-buying program before the end of this year. That prompted traders to speculate about an early end to the Fed's four-year stimulus program—and the threat of higher interest rates ahead. "It's not a sea change," Bill Gross, Co-chief investment officer of PIMCO, told CNBC. "But it's a little bit of a surprise. The minutes basically say a few wanted QE to end about the end of 2013 and several wanted it well before. That means four or five members are in the opposing camp."
Would Going Over Cliff Have Been Better for U.S. Rating?/WSJ: "Stephen L. Bernard: "Don't be surprised if the biggest ratings firms believe it would have been better to go over the fiscal cliff than have Tuesday's 11th-hour budget deal approved by the U.S. Congress. … All three major ratings firms, Moody's Investors Service, Standard & Poor's and Fitch Ratings, have said recently any plan would need to reduce the debt-to-gross domestic product ratio. Both Moody's and S&P on Wednesday said they were in wait-and-see mode and appear to be sticking to prior statements that any downgrade isn't likely to occur until late in 2013.
Analysis: Geithner's planned departure puts Obama in tough spot/Reuters: "Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's plans to leave near the end of January put the White House in a tricky spot, depriving the Obama administration of its longest-serving economic adviser for its next fiscal showdown with Congress. Geithner, who spent his years as Treasury secretary battling the financial crisis and then fighting with Republican lawmakers in 2011 over raising the U.S. debt ceiling, has wanted to leave government service for some time. The Treasury Department said Geithner would stick to his previously announced schedule to stay until sometime around the January 21 inauguration. Bloomberg News reported that Geithner would leave at the end of January. … That puts Obama in the tough spot of nominating another Treasury secretary and asking the Senate to approve his choice when lawmakers are in the middle of another budget battle. "The confirmation process will be nasty regardless as it will be a referendum on Obama's economic and deficit plans," said Chris Krueger, a policy analyst with Guggenheim Partners."
Boeing Likely Reigns as No. 1 Aircraft Maker/WSJ – Jon Ostrower: "Boeing Co. said Thursday that it delivered 601 commercial jets last year, likely topping rival Airbus to become the world's largest aircraft manufacturer for the first time since 2002. New orders rose to their highest level since 2007 as Boeing garnered 914 new orders for the 737 Max, a revamped version of the U.S. company's best-selling plane. The 737 Max has now booked more than 1,000 sales. Boeing's 2012 output—its best result since 1999—exceeded the plane maker's guidance for between 585 and 600 deliveries, and included 46 787 Dreamliners, a jet that the company has struggled to deliver in higher numbers after years of production and design delays."
Case Ends Against Buffett's Ex-Aide/WSJ – Joann Lublin, Erik Holm, Serena Ng: "David Sokol, the former Berkshire Hathaway Inc. executive who resigned in 2011 amid questions about his stock purchases, won't face any enforcement action from the Securities and Exchange Commission, his lawyer said Thursday. The SEC had been investigating trades made by Mr. Sokol, once considered a possible successor to Berkshire Chief Executive Warren Buffett, ahead of Berkshire's purchase of chemicals company Lubrizol Corp. Barry Levine, Mr. Sokol's lawyer, said he was informed the SEC had wrapped up its investigation and decided not to take action. "There has been a thorough legal analysis and factual scrutiny, and the SEC has concluded, as we have always maintained, that David Sokol never did anything wrong," Mr. Levine said."
Ackman Walks Away From General Growth Fight With Big Returns/WSJ - David Benoit and Kris Hudson: "Bill Ackman's Pershing Square didn't get mall owner General Growth to sell itself like he hoped, but the activist firm is still looking at massive gains on its investment. Pershing Square is selling the warrants it held on General Growth to the company's largest shareholder Brookfield Asset Management, for $271.9 million. Pershing will continue to have an 8% stake in General Growth shares and agreed to be a passive shareholder, which means it will stop pushing the company to sell itself. Pershing Square's entire investment is now worth about $2.3 billion, up from the $60 million it invested, according to a person familiar with the matter."
Wegelin Pleads Guilty in U.S. Case Over Secret Accounts/WSJ – Chyad Bray – "In the latest blow to Switzerland's centuries-old banking practices, the country's oldest bank pleaded guilty to a criminal conspiracy charge in the U.S. on Thursday and admitted that it helped wealthy Americans for years avoid tens of millions of dollars in taxes by hiding their income from secret accounts abroad. Wegelin & Co., founded in 1741, is the latest Swiss bank to reach a deal with U.S. prosecutors as they crack down on Americans who kept their money in secret accounts overseas and the entities which helped them. Three Wegelin bankers also were charged criminally in the U.S. last year. However, the private bank, which plans to close its doors once the matter wraps up, is the first to plead guilty to a criminal charge in the U.S. government's probe."
Sony in talks for virtual MSO service/Variety – Andrew Wallenstein: "Sony Corp. will show off a wide range of new products at next week's Consumer Electronics Show, but one that will stay under wraps could be its riskiest: a multichannel TV service to rival cable. The Japanese conglomerate is in active negotiations with at least two major content companies about licensing their channels for a package that could roll out in the U.S. later this year, according to sources. … Few specifics are known about the proposed service, but it would be a package of linear channels akin to what pay-TV distributors traditionally provide, only delivered via broadband connection. In contrast to the cable operators who are bound by a geographic footprint, a virtual MSO can conceivably offer TV service to any subscriber nationwide. But while Sony would presumably be aiming to come to market at a lower price point than incumbent MSOs, that could prove difficult given the content and infrastructure costs could total billions of dollars."
How Google beat the feds/Politico – Tony Romm: "Google escaped from a nearly two-year federal antitrust probe with only a few scratches by proving that the best defense is a good offense. Instead of ignoring Washington — as rival Microsoft did before its costly monopolization trial in the 1990s — Google spent about $25 million in lobbying, cozied up to the Obama administration and hired influential Republicans and former regulators. It even consulted with the late Robert Bork and The Heritage Foundation, while meeting with senators like John Kerry to make its case. In other words, these traditional outsiders worked the system from the inside. … "It was a multi-year campaign focused on this very moment, knowing as the company grew these issues were going to come up," said Alan Davidson, once the head of Google's Washington office before leaving last year for MIT. "We had the benefit of watching those who had come before us, and we saw the mistakes that were made. We didn't want to replicate what they had done."
Toyota, Audi Prep Self-Driving Cars/WSJ – Ian Sherr & Mike Ramsey: "Toyota Motor Corp. and Audi AG are throwing their hats into the ring of potential suppliers of self-driving vehicles. Both auto makers confirmed on Thursday that they will be demonstrating autonomous-driving features at the Consumer Electronics Show in the coming week, signaling a new effort to raise the technology's profile among consumers. n a preview video posted to its website on Thursday, Toyota showed a five-second clip of one of its Lexus brand cars outfitted with various sensors and the caption, "Lexus advanced active safety research vehicle is leading the industry into a new automated era."
It's cash only at the Vatican/LA Times – Hugo Martin: "In God we trust. All others pay cash. That may be the new motto at the Vatican since the Bank of Italy pulled its authorization to accept credit cards and other electronic payments from visitors as of Dec. 31.According to Italian news reports, the Italian central bank took the action because Deutsche Bank in Italy, which has handled electronic transactions for the Vatican for years, has not yet fully complied with the European Union's stringent safeguards against money laundering. The website for the Vatican museum has posted a message saying: "We regret to inform visitors that from 1 January 2013, for reasons beyond the control of the Directorate of the Museums, it will not be possible to make payments in the Vatican Museums by electronic means such as Bancomat or credit/debit card. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause."
Recreational marijuana users could get pot from vending machines, company says/NBC News: "If a California company has its way, recreational marijuana users in Colorado and Washington state will one day be able to get their pot out of vending machines. Such machines are already in use in some states where medical marijuana is legal, but now the maker's founder says the company is working to adapt the machines to comply with new laws in Colorado and Washington, where adults can legally use marijuana for recreation. The vending machines for medicine require a fingerprint scan to verify the identification of the patient, which is then linked to a prescription on file. But as Washington and Colorado figure out how to create a legal pot market for the masses, Hollywood-based Medbox, a public company, is offering up its expertise in convenient delivery systems."
Guess where world's biggest Cinnabon fans live/NBC News – Martha White: "In the aftermath of a revolution, sometimes a sticky cinnamon roll hits the spot. American mall staple Cinnabon is winning legions of fans in an unlikely place: Tripoli. The chain's outpost in Libya's capital city does three times as much business as the average store, Randy Mercer, the regional vice president of international operations for Cinnabon parent Focus Brands Inc., told the English-language Libya Herald."