So much for a September stock swoon
Recapping the day's news and newsmakers through the lens of CNBC.
September's bum rap
Supposedly the worst month of the year for stocks, September has pretty much stuck its thumb in the collective eye of naysayers. The month is well on its way to being one of the best in this already turbocharged year. What makes the trend especially interesting is that the market had more than the calendar conspiring against it.
There's a lengthy menu of unappetizing factors, none of which has been able to make a dent: possible U.S. military action in Syria, unrest over both Federal Reserve policy and who will lead the central bank in the post-Ben Bernanke era, and more disturbing news on the jobs front that indicate an aggressive recovery is still far off.
"Anyone with a negative take on stocks at this point must, however, consider the possibility that something else is afoot with the most recent bounce higher."
— Nick Colas, chief market strategist at ConvergEx
What the loan market layoffs mean
The job market is slowly improving, unless your job is handling mortgage applications. Rising mortgage rates have dramatically undercut the refinancing business, which for years has accounted for the majority of loan applications. Lenders now are laying off loan origination folks. JPMorgan recently cut 2,000 positions, Bank of America 2,100 and Wells Fargo 3,000. Because it's hard to hire and train these workers, the cuts mean the banks don't expect any pickup in applications anytime soon.
On another note, some good news for housing, homeowners and the economy. In August, lenders initiated the lowest number of foreclosures in eight years. The figure, 55,775, was down 8 percent from July and 44 percent from a year earlier. In normal times, there are about 52,000 foreclosures a year. A key factor is rising home values, which allow formerly "underwater" homeowners to refinance or sell. The year is on track for about 490,000 foreclosures, less than half of the 1.05 million peak in 2010.
"It's not the first time banks have downsized in mortgage banking, but the bulk of the previous cuts have been units that serviced bad loans. This is the first time we've seen cuts to units that originate new loans."
—CNBC's Kayla Tausche
"It's going to be a big hit. Mortgage lending has been a big revenue driver for the banks in the past year."
—Ed Groshans of Height Analytics
Jobless claims plunge! Whoops, maybe not
If you've been holding your breath for this week's jobless claims, exhale—then inhale and hold for next week. Sadly, a reporting glitch made this week's numbers all but useless. Officially, claims fell to the lowest since 2006, but states upgrading computer systems may have under-reported their claims.
Happily, the downward trend in unemployment does seem to be holding. There was no suggestion claims had gone higher in the past week.
"Reminds me of John Cleese ... Faulty news from Fawlty Towers."
—CNBC's Rick Santelli
Don't fear the bond reaper
For the past 30 years, bonds have produced stocklike returns averaging around 10 percent a year. But now investors are fleeing bonds as rising yields undermine prices. So what's the alternative, stocks? So far, investors don't seem to be making that "great rotation," probably because they realize bonds still provide valuable diversification. Instead, they're reducing bond risks by shortening durations, among other measures.
We turned to one of the biggest bond fund managers in the U.S. for some perspective. The exodus isn't such a bad thing, the manager said—in fact, it signals a healthier economy and a healthy readjustment in fixed-income valuations.
"The gradual rise in rates is a sign of a healthier economy and other assets doing better. That's not something to be feared."
—Thomas Fahey, associate macro strategist, Loomis Sayles, which manages $170 billion in fixed-income assets
Off the treadmill, on the treadmill
How many calories can you burn while working in an office? Soon, the scientific literature aiming to answer that question should have a lot more data to work with, or we should say, work out.
A growing number of Americans are standing, walking and even cycling their way through the workday at treadmill desks, standing desks or other workstations that involve movement.
There's a glob of information that sitting is killing us. You're basically sitting yourself into a coffin."
—Dr. James Levine, an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic
—By Jeff Brown, Special to CNBC.com