Now that the fiscal-cliff debate is over, Washington is moving to the next crisis: the debt ceiling. With the U.S. Treasury already taking extraordinary measures to keep its borrowings under the current limit of roughly $16.4 trillion, politicians on both sides of the aisle are drawing battle lines for what could prove to be another contentious debate. Investors are rarely happy about political uncertainty, and after the S&P 500 hit a five-year closing high on Friday, the markets are giving back ground today, with the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) down about 40 points as of 10:45 a.m. EST.
Within the Dow, Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) was unchanged after announcing a settlement with Fannie Mae to resolve outstanding allegations of mortgage improprieties. B of A will pay more than $10 billion to end the dispute, including a $3.55 billion outright payment and the repurchase of tens of thousands of home loans from Fannie Mae for another $6.8 billion. As costly as the deal is, getting potential legal liability off the books is a big step for the long-beleaguered bank in its recovery.
Outside the Dow, though, the news wasn't as good. MAKO Surgical (NASDAQ: MAKO ) plunged more than 6.3% after announcing operating results for 2012. The company said it sold 45 RIO systems during 2012, down from 48 in 2011. Yet procedure volumes rose at a healthy pace of almost 30% year over year, and the company made progress in getting customers to add on its MAKOplasty total hip arthroplasty application to their RIO systems. Nevertheless, investors wanted the company to beat expectations, rather than just meet them, and shares fell to a new 52-week low on the news.
Finally, First Solar (NASDAQ: FSLR ) fell 5.3%, giving back some of the gains the solar giant enjoyed last week on news that Warren Buffett's MidAmerican Energy had made a deal with SunPower (NASDAQ: SPWR ) . Despite the increased commercial demand that should eventually come from lower prices, First Solar and its peers will need to figure out the right balance between cost and efficiency in order to keep customers happy and make solar a continuing part of the push toward renewable energy.
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