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BNP Pleads Guilty for $9 Billion, GM Recalls 29 Millionth Vehicle, and Winnebago Is Rocking

The first six months of 2014 were fun, with stocks rising to record highs, but the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  )  dipped 25 points on the last day of June as Wall Street starts the second half of the year.

1. BNP Paribas pays government $9 billion for sanctions violations
France's celebration Monday for beating Nigeria and moving on in the World Cup was soured when its biggest bank, BNP Paribas, pleaded guilty to violating U.S. sanctions laws. Besides the embarrassing jokes about the enormous fine (I'll take a $9 billion fine with a side of Freedom Fries, please, U.S. government), the bank has been suspended for a year from certain U.S. dollar transactions.

When Sudan's genocidal regime was put on the U.S. government's black list in 1997, trading with the country was outlawed and banks were to freeze all of its financial assets. Maybe there was a translation problem with the word "freeze," because BNP provided bank clearing services for over $190 billion of U.S. dollar transactions from 2002 to 2012-- and not just for Sudan, but also Iran and Cuba, two more countries in the USA's doghouse.

BNP can't even say it got confused, like your accidentally shoplifting grandpa. The bank had a sophisticated scheme in place to hide its lucrative but illegal business from U.S. authorities, including instructions such as "! Payment in $to [French Bank 1] without mentioning Sudan to N.Y.!!!." Not kidding.

The U.S. clearing business will have to be done through third-party banks during the suspension. And the fine will destroy any hope for profit in the quarter, and perhaps the year. If famous French footballer Zinedine Zidane is a BNP shareholder, I wouldn't want to be standing in head-butt range of him right now.

2. Winnebago sales surged last quarter
If the van is a-rockin', investors come a-knockin'. That's the basic premise behind the recent performance of Winnebago (NYSE: WGO  ) , the recreational-vehicle giant that all good nature-loving rural Americans love. The stock rose 3.6% Monday after reporting $247.7 million in quarterly revenue, a 13.5% jump from the same period last year.

So why is the stock accelerating? Two words: motor homes. Sales of Winnebago's casual yet comfortable mobile castles rose 18% to more than 2,300 units over the past three months. And that's after brutal winter weather that kept consumers curled up in their non-moving "land" homes, not buying cars. Living in a van down by the river has clearly never been more "in."

The takeaway is that Winnebago just drove off to its highest-revenue quarter since 2005, back when camping was cooler than Beiber. Investors, though, were also pumped to hear about the company's "new products and floor plans" in the quarterly earnings report, which have already tested positive with van dealers nationwide.

3. GM recalls 29 millionth car this year
Remember to always wear your seat belt, especially if you're unlucky enough to still own one of General Motors' (NYSE: GM  ) cars that's involved in the recalls. Detroit's biggest automaker announced recalls of another ridiculous 8.4 million cars, bringing the running total to 29 million this year.

The new CEO's humble and less-than-encouraging words about seat belts and removing all keychains from your key (or else your GM car might turn off suddenly) is literally how GM ended the press release. They also mentioned that this latest round of recalls will cost another $500 million in the second quarter.

The takeaway is that investors already knew GM made horrible cars for a long time, but this latest recall includes some made in 2014. The NYSE froze the stock as the announcement came out and then it dropped 0.9%. Oh, yeah, and the company's planning to give $1 million to each family that had a member perish from accidents caused by their faulty ignition switches.

As originally published on

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9/2/2015 4:36 PM
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