America’s Big Banks Girded for a Wave of Bad Loans. They’re Still Waiting.

America’s top bankers signaled the economic recovery has held up better than they expected and should continue in the new year, releasing some of the stockpiles of cash they had set aside for a wave of soured loans. JPMorgan Chase & Co. posted a record quarterly profit while Citigroup Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co. both posted higher-than-expected earnings in the final three months of the year, boosted by the reserve releases and Wall Street’s record-setting run. The period capped a tumultuous 2020, when a sharp decline in economic activity in the spring gave way to an uneven recovery that has […]

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Ethanol Lobbyists Don’t Want to Be Labeled

America led the world decades ago by sticking warning labels on cigarettes, but not without a fight from an influential industry. In the latest scrap over a label, this one for ethanol, things might be going the other way. While corn-based fuel blended into almost all gasoline is mostly a wasteful boondoggle, using too much of it merely endangers the health of your boat, lawn mower or older car, not that of a human being. But advocates for the higher blend called E15, denoting 15% ethanol content, as opposed to the more common E10, are pushing to change or get rid […]

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More Cash Means More Problems for Big Banks

Big banks have a tantalizing amount of cash on their books, but there is still a ways to go before it can make its way into shareholders’ pockets. JPMorgan Chase said Friday that it ended 2020 with $1.4 trillion in cash and marketable securities, which it said is some $450 billion in excess of what regulators require. Across Citigroup , PNC Financial Services , JPMorgan and Wells Fargo , which all reported earnings Friday, cash assets at year-end represented about 15% of their total assets, well up from less than 10% a year before. Behind this is a wave of deposits […]

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Stimulus Checks Can’t Come Soon Enough for U.S. Retailers

Retailers could probably use a bit of stimulus around now. They could use an easing of the pandemic even more. The Commerce Department reported December retail sales figures Friday. Calling them “bad” might be an understatement. Overall sales fell 0.7% from a month earlier, worse than the 0.1% decline economists expected the report to show. Even worse, November sales were revised lower, and now show a drop of 1.4% versus the previously reported 1.1% decline. The report quantifies just how hobbling the rise in Covid-19 cases over the past few months has been. For the many retailers that rely heavily on […]

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Biden Stimulus Adds Fuel to Copper Rally

Investors are ramping up wagers that the Biden administration’s focus on economic stimulus and electric vehicles will turbocharge a monthslong climb in copper and other industrial metals. Even though they slid alongside other commodities Friday, most actively traded copper futures are still up more than 2% so far in 2021 and near their highest level since early in 2013. They have been lifted by buoyant demand from China and wagers that an improving global economy will further increase consumption later this year. Copper and other raw materials such as zinc and aluminum are the building blocks of construction, used to manufacture […]

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The Story Behind the Market’s Hottest Funds

Investors used to love “story stocks.” Now they love story ETFs. A story stock is driven not by earnings or assets but by a simple, alluring narrative: a dynamic new boss, dazzling technology or customers going ga-ga for its products. A story ETF is an exchange-traded fund that invests not in an entire market or single sector but rather in a concept or trend. You’re probably better off buying a story ETF than a story stock; at least the fund is somewhat diversified. But story ETFs carry their own risks. Often called thematic ETFs, these funds cut across industries, trying to […]

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Citigroup Beats Profit Expectations for Fourth Quarter

Citigroup Inc. on Friday said its fourth-quarter income fell 7% and it drew down some of the reserves it set aside to cover potentially soured loans. The New York bank said profit fell to $4.63 billion, or $2.08 per share, compared with $4.98 billion, or $2.15 per share, a year earlier. Still, that beat the $1.34 expected by analysts polled by FactSet. Revenue fell 10% to $16.5 billion, falling short of the $16.72 billion analysts expected. For all of 2020, a year of upheaval in the economy, profit at the nation’s third-biggest bank by assets fell 41% to $11.37 billion and […]

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