Tapering will be done gradually later this year
Recapping the day's news and newsmakers through the lens of CNBC.
Gentle Ben's bedside manner
By now, you probably know that Chairman Ben Bernanke reiterated his policy plans for the Federal Reserve's quantitative easing program before Congress Wednesday, again linking the timing of when it will slow its $85 billion a month in bond purchases to economic growth and unemployment. With the economy expected to continue improving in the second half, tapering is expected to start sometime later this year.
He said that 6.5 percent unemployment is still the threshold for potentially stopping bond purchases, not the trigger, and when tapering does start, it will be done gradually to mitigate a paralyzing rise in interest rates.
Housing is recovering nicely, but rising rates could derail or slow that, employment is improving, albeit too slowly, and consumer price inflation is still below the Fed's 2 percent target, he said.
A low Fed funds rate will remain for at least as long as inflation is well behaved, he added.
So, all in all, not bad news for the market. No preset course on tapering, no preset end date on bond purchases and even the possibility of an increase in purchases. Stocks hovered in the green as some market watchers waxed nostalgic for a time when you judged a company on earnings, not monetary policy.
"With unemployment still high and declining only gradually, and with inflation running below the Committee's longer-run objective, a highly accommodative monetary policy will remain appropriate for the foreseeable future."—Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke
"It would be great to value stocks as stocks again."—CNBC's Jim Cramer
One more for the road?
Bank of America's second-quarter profit was up by 63 percent, beating analysts' estimates on stronger equities sales and trading, and lower expenses. The country's second-biggest bank is now the fifth bank in a row to post robust numbers in the second quarter, following JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs.
Enjoy it while you can, some are saying; the threat of added government regulation and higher capital requirements could pull the plug on this profit party, not to mention the uphill fight BofA will have in boosting its earnings from here with what amounts to still-middling economic conditions. For now, the bank's shares were outpacing the market after its earnings report and have surged 80 percent in the past 12 months.
"I have a little trouble getting the revenue growth up to where it needs to be to really generate some earnings growth over the next 12 months. I think after that some of the expense saves kick in but I kind of view BofA as in a position here where they need the environment to get a lot better for earnings to get a lot better in the near term and I don't think that things will get all that better anytime soon."—Jeffery Harte of Sandler O'Neill
Wall Street wrongdoers warned
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who has become well-known for his gusto in going after financial crimes, said that anyone who has committed a crime on Wall Street shouldn't feel safe because a lot of time has passed or because they have used secretive technology to communicate.
The man who prosecuted Galleon Group for insider trading and convicted Raj Rajaratnam on 14 counts related to insider trading said many institutions his office is monitoring aren't aware they are being watched. That's sure to send a shiver down the spine of any would-be Wall Street wrongdoer. He also warned that many people who think they know what they're doing actually don't.
"People should be fearful of bad conduct that they have committed catching up with them. People should have a healthy respect and fear of the law because that's what causes deterrence. If you have done bad things and are looking at the clock to see if you are safe and going to have repose at the stroke of midnight on a particular day, that's not a good way to conduct yourself. People should be afraid that the bad acts committed in the past are going to catch up with them."—U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara
Something to cheer about
Yahoo shares hit a new 52-week high Wednesday despite posting lackluster numbers in the second quarter. The shares were up significantly as the company beat earnings expectations despite falling short on revenue. Yahoo is feeling some pricing pressure in its online ads, but analysts were more interested in the rising value of its stake in China's Alibaba, the strength of Yahoo Japan and the efforts of CEO Marissa Mayer to develop new products.
"Well, it is because Alibaba is incredibly strong. That's the IPO that every bank is waiting for and licking their chops over and desperately trying to get the underwriter position on."—CNBC's David Faber
China targets corruption
Another problem for multinational companies, and this time it has nothing to do with taxes. China appears to be targeting multinationals in what one academic is calling a well-orchestrated campaign against bribery and corruption.
In the most recent case, China barred the local finance chief of pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline from leaving the country as part of its investigation of a $490 million bribery scandal. Glaxo had already seen four of its Chinese executives detained because of the investigation into whether GSK employees bribed doctors to prescribe their drugs. Subsequently, Glaxo was accused by Chinese investigators of paying that $490 million to travel agencies and other go-betweens for bribes to doctors.
"It's likely that this will be the largest, well-orchestrated campaign to go after multinationals. This looks like it is something serious affecting foreign companies in China."—Willy Lam, professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong
—By Doug Cubberley, Special to CNBC.com.