Dow Flat as JPMorgan Takes a $9.2 Billion Charge

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) is kicking off the trading day around breakeven, down 16 points at the opening bell.

Politicians didn't reach a deal to end the budget standoff last night, but they made progress, and Congress could vote on extending the nation's debt ceiling as early as today. That's the good news. The bad news is that the current proposal would only give the Treasury six additional weeks worth of borrowing authority. We could be back in the heat of the standoff in late November, just as the holiday shopping season gets under way.

With that bigger picture in mind, here are a few individual stock stories to watch for in today's market.

JPMorgan Chase's (NYSE: JPM  ) legal expenses hit $9.2 billion in the quarter that just ended. The bank announced a net loss of $0.17 per share on account of those costs, as compared to the $1.40 it saw in the year-ago quarter. JPMorgan is embroiled in a number of probes being led by multiple government agencies and, while it expects litigation costs to drop over time, "they may continue to be volatile over the next several quarters," it warned. Absent the legal fees, earnings would have been $1.42 a share, well ahead of the $1.21 that analysts expected. That growth is impressive considering that mortgage activity fell hard, taking the bank's noninterest revenue down 27%. JPMorgan's stock is up ever so slightly this morning.

Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC  )  also turned in solid income growth this morning, boosting profit by 13% to $0.99 a share. But revenue fell by almost $1 billion, to $20.5 billion as the dip in mortgage refinancing volumes took its toll. Wells Fargo stock is down more than 1% in early trading.

Finally, Safeway (NYSE: SWY  ) should see active trading today following its earnings report last night. The grocer booked adjusted earnings of $0.10 a share, well below the $0.16 it reported last year. Revenue ticked up 1% to $8.6 billion. Comparable-store sales also crept higher by 1.9%. Safeway announced plans to exit the Chicago market, where its 72 Dominick's stores have been unprofitable lately. The stock is up 4% in early trading.

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