Credit worries once more haunt world markets, but frankly, the only headlines that matter are the ones that will be released by the Fed tomorrow afternoon.
The big story of today though is what former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan is saying."Greenspan breaks 18 years of silence," says CNBC's senior economic correspondent Steve Liesman. It's not that we haven't heard Greenspan speak, but we have never had such an insightful look into Greenspan, the man and the economist. Also interesting, the dance he had with political Washington all those years as he served at the helm of the independent Federal Reserve.
CNBC has had unparalleled access to the former Fed chairman ahead of the release of his new book, "Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World." Maria Bartiromo's hour-long special interview with Greenspan can be seen tonight at 9 p.m., EST and CNBC senior economic correspondent Steve Liesman also spoke to the former Fed chairman, getting his insight on the Fed, the economy, and inflation among other topics.
Greenspan told Liesman the risk for recession has slightly increased from when he first predicted a 1/3 chance of a recession months ago. "I think the risks are probably, obviously, larger now than back then. But not a great deal," he said.
Also interesting to us is what Greenspan says about the Fed now and when he was running it. "Well-- you know, people are comparing the way the Fed behaved when I was Chairman, in the way when-- currently when Ben Bernanke's chairman, as though they're the same. They're not. I was in the period in which there was this-- we were in the grips of significant long-term disinflation. We did not have to be concerned, terribly much, about inflation," he told Liesman.
We will dig into all of those comments to see what we might glean about the Fed's current thinking and of course, what it might say tomorrow.
The U.K.'s floundering mortgage lender Northern Rockcontinues to shake the banking sector in Europe and is sending ripples through world markets. Asian markets were mostly lower overnight and European stocks are weaker.
In a striking blow,a European Union court today backed the European Commission's 2004 antitrust rulingagainst Microsoft , and EU's antitrust commissioner immediately called for a sharp cut in Microsoft's market share. The court dismissed Microsoft's appeal of all the key points of the ruling. The EU's Neelie Kroes immediately said she won't tolerate non compliance. She said it was too early to say whether Microsoft's Vista product would be affected. The stock is falling ahead of the opening.
Oil is weaker this morning. There certainly has been a lot of chatter about Iran over the weekend. First, France's foreign minister said in a worst case Iran's nuclear pursuits could lead to war. Today, the chief UN nuclear inspector Mohamed El Baradei criticized the war talk as "hype."
Burning Down the Houses
Hovnanian reported to CNBC.com's Peter Kang yesterday that the company's three day fire sale was "phenomenally" successful. Today, home builders speak in New York at a Credit Suisse conference. It will be interesting to see if those builders also say they are going to burn their inventory (and some would say their former customers) with similar stunts.
The Wall Street Journal reports General Motors and the United Auto Workers made significant progress in talks over the weekend. Those talks continue.
Bob Pisani's producer showed us a creepy chart Friday showing the dive in the shares of Countrywide Financial and the U.K.'s Northern Rock. Since February both went on a perilous downhill ride in a somewhat interesting pattern. Northern Rock though has since diverged and is falling more sharply, as the company desperately seeks a buyer and depositors continue to flee. Meanwhile, Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo speaks at a Bank of America conference in San Francisco tomorrow.