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According to the Labor Department's official monthly report, the U.S. added only 74,000 jobs in December -- economists had expected 200,000 new jobs, since America's been impressively averaging 190,000-plus new jobs monthly since September. And even though the unemployment rate fell from 7% to 6.7%, much of that was from the jump in folks leaving the workforce, unable to find jobs. Although some blame winter weather (it's hard to build buildings under snow), the overall report wasn't a fun one to start the weekend with.
2. The fourth-quarter earnings season began
Everyone loves the fourth-quarter earnings season, when public companies report their financial performance from the final three months of the year. As usual, aluminum and steel giant Alcoa kicked things off Thursday. But this time, it delivered disappointment -- the company's earnings and revenue dropped last quarter, as low steel prices hurt its business. Earnings were strong all 2013, but it's never fun to the end the year on a down note.
Macy's (NYSE: M ) may be trimming the fat of 2,500 workers to start the New Year, but a better-than-expected holiday sales season lifted the department store's earnings projections. America's satellite-radio provider, Sirius XM Radio (NASDAQ: SIRI ) , tuned in to some good news that media conglomerate Liberty Media, which owns 53% of the company, wants to snag 100% of the shares.
4. ... And stock market losers
Sears Holdings was no fun at all after announcing that its holiday sales were so bad, down 9%, that it's expecting a $1.35 billion quarterly loss. The company with the best 2013 performance in the S&P, Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX ) , got smacked by Morgan Stanley analysts, who downgraded the stock on concerns over new streaming competition from folks like Amazon.com.
5. JPM's (other) big fine
JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM ) is paying $2 billion to settle its role in the Bernie Madoff Ponzi-scheme scandal -- investigators say JPMorgan turned a blind eye to the trades and accounts it held for Madoff, which he duped investors with. JPMorgan has dished out a hernia-inducing $20 billion in fines over the past year (most related to its sketchy housing-market activities that helped lead to the housing crisis), but Wall Street isn't fazed, and the stock price is doing fine, since America's largest bank keeps a hefty reserve account to pay for these legal woes.
6. Janet Yellen's officially the next Fed head
After months of job interviewing with Congress, Janet Yellen was approved by the U.S. Senate to replace Ben Bernanke as his eight-year reign as head of the Federal Reserve comes to a close. Yellen is the first woman to chair the nation's central bank, and the first Democrat since Paul Volcker in 1979. Wall Street's expecting her to keep Bernanke's low-interest-rate economic-stimulus policies in place a bit longer.
What MarketSnacks is checking out this week:
- Monday: The Treasury's budget, earnings: American Airlines Group
- Tuesday: Retail sales numbers, earnings: JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo
- Wednesday: The Fed's "Beige Book," earnings: Bank of America
- Thursday: Weekly jobless claims, earnings: BlackRock, Goldman Sachs
- Friday: Housing starts, earnings: Morgan Stanley
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