Wall Street Breakfast: Must-Know News

 |  Includes: AAL, BAC, GLD, GS, HGIC, MS, QQQ, SMFG, SPY, USO, VZ
by: Wall Street Breakfast
Wall Street Breakfast
Seeking Alpha's flagship daily business news summary, gives you a rapid overview of the day's key financial news. It is published before 7:00 AM ET every market day and delivered to over 900,000 email subscribers.

by Rachael Granby and the Market Currents team

U.S. banks to pay oversight fee. Banks with more than $50B in total assets will have to start paying a fee to cover the costs of the Financial Stability Oversight Council and the Office of Financial Research, according to a rule proposed yesterday by the Treasury. Banks will face a flat rate collected twice a year; the Treasury hasn't yet specified the size of the fee.

Banks borrow more from ECB. Banks borrowed €17.307B from the ECB overnight, a very sharp jump from the €4.321B borrowed on Wednesday and the highest level since February. Banks deposited €445.683B, still near the €452.034B record set earlier this week.

Credit gets tighter. The Fed's survey of senior credit officers found a "broad, but moderate tightening of credit terms" to large market participants over the past quarter, particularly noting REITs, hedge funds, and non-financial corporations. Though not directly mentioning Europe, events there clearly provide an undertone to the cautious report.

Sarkozy takes aim at unemployment. France's Nicolas Sarkozy is using the holiday break to work on a plan aimed at arresting the country's sharp rise in unemployment. Taking his cue from Germany in 2009, Sarkozy's draft plan calls for companies to retain all staff even when business is weak and for employees to accept pay cuts in exchange. Officials are also considering opening a broader debate on work-time flexibility.

Greek data looks ugly. The latest data showed continued deterioration in Greek tax revenue, with income taxes collected through November coming in 9.3% less than last year, suggesting the budget deficit will balloon above 10% of GDP. The Finance Ministry has alerted all state organs not to spend a euro above their budgets and that they should not take for granted that even budgeted funds will show up in their bank accounts.

China manufacturing contracts. China’s manufacturing contracted for a second month in December, with HSBC's PMI coming in at 48.7 from 47.7 the month before. The weak manufacturing data adds pressure to officials to consider loosening monetary policy.

Verizon fee irks customers. Verizon (NYSE:VZ) further angers customers by announcing it will start charging a $2 "convenience fee" for every payment made over the phone or online with credit cards. The company said the move is necessary to help pay for "single-bill payment options" but customers are less than pleased. The decision comes on the heels of a series of outages of Verizon's high-speed data network.

Goldman, Morgan face off on IPO. Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) and Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) appear to be the front-runners in the race to take the lead investment-banking role in Facebook's expected 2012 IPO. At stake is both bragging rights and hundreds of millions of dollars in potential fees.

Sumitomo Mitsui eyes opportunities. Japanese megabank Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group (NYSE:SMFG) plans to buy several hundred billion yen worth of assets being sold by European lenders seeking to raise capital to weather the region’s debt crisis. The bank is also considering buying an entire business unit, possibly a brokerage, from a European bank, taking advantage of expansion opportunities and a strong yen to buy operations abroad.

BofA is biggest loser. Heading into the last trading day of 2011, BofA (NYSE:BAC) looks set to be the DJIA's biggest loser of the year. Down 59% YTD, the bank has been beset by mortgage losses, new regulations, lack of confidence in management and the broader economic slowdown. In comparison, the DJIA is +6.1% YTD while the KBW Bank Index is "only" -24%.

Countrywide back in the spotlight. One week after paying a fine to make allegations go away that it discriminated against minority homeowners, Bank of America's (BAC) Countrywide unit is ordered to face another lawsuit as a federal judge reverses a lower court ruling. The suit stems from a Hispanic couple that contends they were pressured to refinance their home on terms they could neither understand nor afford.

Liberty Mutual challenges Harleysville sale. Liberty Mutual has asked regulators to scrutinize the sale of Harleysville (NASDAQ:HGIC) to a rival after its own bid for the company was rejected. The offer included a payout of $250M to its customers; HGIC instead agreed to a sale to Nationwide with no customer payout. Noteworthy: CEO Michael Browne's stock and options would be worth ~$27.9M in a sale to Nationwide vs. ~$13.9M in a Liberty deal.

AMR to leave the Big Board. The NYSE will delist shares of bankrupt American Airlines (AMR), suspending them from trading prior to the open on Jan. 5. Premarket: AMR -33.8% to $0.342 (6:30 ET).

Today's Markets:
In Asia, Japan +0.7% to 8455. Hong Kong +0.2% to 18434. China +1.2% to 2199. India -0.6% to 15455.
In Europe, at midday, London -0.5%. Paris +0.2%. Frankfurt +0.1%.
Futures at 7:00: Dow -0.02%. S&P +0.02%. Nasdaq +0.01%. Crude +0.25% to $99.90. Gold +2.1% to $1572.70.

Friday's economic calendar:
8:30 ISM New York Business Index
3:00 PM USDA Ag. Prices

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