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It's another topsy-turvy day in the markets, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) jumps and plunges depending upon which bit of economic news is hitting the wires at the moment. Overall, things appear to be looking up for the economy -- which probably has investors biting their nails in earnest, worrying more than ever about how and when the Federal Reserve will begin to taper its easy money program.
The U.S. Department of Labor got the ball rolling early this morning, announcing a stunning 23,000 drop in initial jobless claims for last week. This brought the total number of initial claims to 298,000, while the market had expected a number close to 330,000.
More good news came in the form of expansion in the gross domestic product for the third quarter, which increased 3.6% -- 0.6% higher than estimates. The Bureau of Economic Analysis noted that the rise likely was the result of private inventory increases and personal consumption spending, although the latter slowed a bit from the second quarter.
Consumer confidence continues to rise, and Bloomberg's Consumer Comfort Index registered a minus 31.3 as the month of November closed, compared to the previous reading of minus 33.7. Big discounts offered by retailers during the beginning of the holiday shopping season may have boosted consumers' attitudes, Bloomberg said.
All the warm and fuzzy economic news of late has pushed up mortgage rates, with Freddie Mac noting that its Primary Mortgage Market Survey showed rates for 30-year fixed-rate loans sitting at 4.46% for this week, up from 4.29%. One year ago, 30-year mortgage rates were a mere 3.34%.
Banks can thank JPMorgan for stricter trading rules
Both JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM ) and Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS ) are down today, with Goldman losing 1% since the market opened and JPMorgan dropping by nearly 2%. Some of this lethargy is likely JPMorgan's fault, as the ghosts of its past peccadillos continue to haunt the entire sector.
As regulators polish the Volker rule in preparation for its debut, news has leaked out that the latest version will include a ban on portfolio hedging. The tactic was originally going to be allowed under the reform law, but JPMorgan Chase's London Whale fiasco changed regulators' minds. The big bank's peers are likely not very happy with the Bank of Dimon today, I expect.
Likewise, an announcement that more mortgage fraud investigations will be forthcoming in the new year hasn't brought cheer to the banking sector this morning. The U.S. Department of Justice says it will use its recent case against JPMorgan, which ended in a $13 billion settlement, as the model in those future cases.
One last bit of news that is very likely weighing on JPMorgan's stock today concerns a security breach of its UCard system, a prepaid cash card product used by employers and government agencies. The cyberattack occurred in mid-September, and hackers may have accessed personal data of up to 465,000 card holders.
The bank is now notifying these customers of the breach, but some may wonder what took it so long. JPMorgan said no funds were stolen during the attack, and that the bank notified law enforcement promptly when the breach was discovered.
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