Are Investors Afraid of the Recuperating Economy?

Encouraging economic news fails to lift the Dow ahead of the Fed minutes release.

Jan 8, 2014 at 11:59AM

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) is down in the dumps this morning despite some very good economic news. By late morning, the index has lost more than 50 points, perhaps as anxious investors await the 2 p.m. release of minutes from last month's Federal Open Market Committee meeting.

The Mortgage Bankers Association kicked things off early, reporting a 2.6% uptick in mortgage applications for last week, compared to a decrease of 4.2% for the week ending Dec. 27. The lion's share of the increase was due to refinancings, which soared by 4.6%, compared to the previous drop of 8.9%. Purchase loan applications decreased by 0.5%, after climbing 2.4% the prior week.

The big news lies in the employment area, with an astounding gain of 238,000 private-sector jobs from November to December, according to the ADP National Employment Report. This number not only surpassed expectations of 215,000, but also beat November's revised total of 229,000 -- making December the best month for employment for all of 2013.

The jobs data may be adding to Wall Street jitters concerning the Fed meeting minutes release. Analysts and investors alike will likely bury their noses in the document, scouring the text for a read on future plans for the tapering of quantitative easing. The Fed decided last month that it would lower its monthly bond-buying from $85 billion to $75 billion.

Good news, bad news for big banks
JPMorgan Chase
(NYSE:JPM) is in recovery mode today, after taking a beating yesterday by investors. The source could be some sweet words from Jefferies, which talked up both JPMorgan and Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) in an analyst's note early this morning.

Jefferies analyst Ken Usdin placed a $66 per-share price target on JPMorgan, saying he expects the bank to increase its dividend from $0.38 to $0.44 after the stress test -- despite the fact that the bank has announced an $850 million hit to fourth-quarter earnings following a slew of settlements with regulators. Meanwhile, Usdin noted that much of Bank of America's mortgage-related troubles should be in the past; he placed a $19 per-share price target on the stock. With BofA's share price up nearly 7% in 2014, it looks like the new target price might be reached very soon.

Federal investigations of big banks aren't over yet, though. The Wall Street Journal reported today that a new probe over whether some big banks deceived investors purchasing mortgage bonds after the financial crisis was under way, with JPMorgan once again under scrutiny.

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Fool contributor Amanda Alix has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Bank of America. The Motley Fool owns shares of Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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