Bank of America Settlement Gives Banks a Lift

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) is having a pretty quiet day thus far, as the first weekend of holiday shopping proved to be a bit of a disappointment. While the National Retail Federation noted that 141 million unique shoppers braved the crowds over Thanksgiving weekend – an improvement over last year's 139 million – sales were down, with the average purchase of $407.02 down year over year from $423.55.

Economic news brighter in November
In better news, November's Purchasing Managers' Index hit its highest mark in 10 months, registering 54.7 compared to October's 51.8. The Institute for Supply Management also announced an increase in economic activity for last month, showing a 0.9 point increase in November to 57.3 over the previous month's reading. The report notes that this is the highest reading since April 2012, and represents sixth months in a row of economic expansion.

Construction spending also edged up in October, rising 0.8% to $908.4 billion over September's $901.2 billion.

Bank of America settles with Freddie Mac, and other banking news
The big announcement in the banking sector has to do with former Dow component Bank of America (NYSE: BAC  ) , which has agreed to pay government-sponsored entity Freddie Mac (NASDAQOTCBB: FMCC  ) more than $400 million to settle claims related to toxic mortgages created by subprime mortgage mill Countrywide. The settlement will resolve all outstanding issues in that regard up to 2009, taking a long-standing problem off Bank of America's plate.

Both JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs are in the green today, perhaps riding high on Bank of America's news – as well as a weekend announcement regarding a four-year Department of Justice probe into credit default swaps . The government has decided to wind down its antitrust investigation into irregularities in the CDS market without penalizing any of the big banks involved, a list that includes JPMorgan and Goldman. While the DOJ isn't closing the inquiry concerning anti-competitive practices in that market, regulators seem to feel that financial reform rules, such as the Dodd-Frank legislation, will prevent any future problems in that arena.

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