Mark Koba is a senior editor at CNBC.com. Topics for his feature story writing include the business of politics, health care, employment and the economy.
Before working at CNBC.com, he spent 11 years at Bloomberg LP, where among various duties, he was program producer for the award-winning "Bloomberg Small Business" television show.
Koba's background includes a decade of news writing and show producing at CNN, E! Entertainment Television, ABC's "World News Now," "Good Morning America" and CBS' "This Morning."
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"Morning Call" broke into a press conference by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg was answering questions about a "mysterious" gas odor that was filtering through Manhattan and parts of nearby New Jersey today. So far--there's no source for the smell. More importantly--there are no injuries--though some 27 people are said to have felt sick. It's not sure if all are related to the odor.
Oil prices are heading up this morning--currently at a price of $57.27. This comes after a rather steep dive last week. Analysts say the weather (it's 20 degrees warmer than usual right now in New York City) and possible production cuts by OPEC are fueling the rise. Oil is one of the topics tonight on the regular debut of CNBC's "Fast Money" at 8 pm (forgive another shameless plug).
Bad news from--and for Motorola today. The company announces poor fourth quarter expectations this morning--lowering its earnings and sales guidance. The cuts come as a result of shortfalls in its mobile devices unit. That news lead to downgrades by six analysts this morning. The stock is trading down nearly 8% in mid-day trading as a result. There was one analyst who may have seen this coming. He downgraded Motorola three weeks ago.
Apple's report that "cleared" CEO Steve Jobs of any irregularities in the stock options backdating issue--is not sitting well with some stockholders. A lawsuit has been filed against Apple and Jobs as a result. Mark Molumphy is a partner in the law firm of Cotchett, Pitre, Simon & McCarthy. They're the lead firm filing the suit. Molumphy appeared on "Squawk Box" to discuss the action.
Today's ISM numbers show there are some stable signs for manufacturing in the U.S. But is this just a blip or can the sector keep getting strong in 2007? That question was posed to two guests on "Morning Call." Joel Naroff is chief economist at Commerce Bank. He thinks it won't. Anthony Chan is from JP Morgan Private Client Services. He thinks there are some good days ahead for manufacturing.
Some not so good numbers for the U.S. job market. The ADP report out today showed a decline of 40 thousand jobs for the month of December (the report focuses on the private sector). CNBC's Steve Liesman on "Squawk Box" talked about the figures along with guest host Alan Murray from the Wall Street Journal and Joel Prakken of Macroeconomic Advisors.
Some big news today even before the opening bell. Home Depot CEO Robert Nardelli resigned this morning--effective immediately. Vice Chairman Frank Blake will take over the top spot. Nardelli had been CEO for the past six years and had upset many investors with the size of his pay package and the company's performance. Talking about the sudden change on "Squawk Box" was retail analyst David Schick from Stifel Nicolaus & Co. He spoke by phone.
As we've noted before--the U.S. housing market had its up and down in 2006. But when it comes to REITs (real estate investment trusts)--they did incredibly well--up on average of 35% for 2006. As we've been asking the question in other economic areas today--we ask if that kind of return will continue for REITs in 2007? Most say yes. John Wenker is portfolio manager for First American Real Estate and Michael Grupe is Executive VP of Research at NAREIT.
Not everyone is predicting a rosy economic scenario for 2007. There are some who think we could have some hard times this year. One of those is Emanuel Balarie. He's senior market strategist at Wisdom Financial. On "Power Lunch," Balarie says the U.S. housing market is still a concern. In fact, he says that besides housing---recession and inflation are major concerns as well.
The U.S. government spent some $30 billion on the defense in 2006--and that helped make stocks in the sector quite valuable to investors. As we look into 2007, the question about how defense stocks will do this year was a topic on "Morning Call" (we had viewer email submissions). The question may be even more important as the Democrats take control of Congress.