As the clock ticks inexorably closer toward noon, investors are surely biting their nails in anticipation of the Federal Reserve's minutes from its most recent Federal Open Market Committee meeting. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) has been a bit twitchy, but remained in the green most of the morning as most analysts see a taper postponement ahead. Still, jitters remain, and the index plunged into negative territory shortly before noon.

With the budget and debt-ceiling fiasco in Washington earlier this month, as well as a depressing jobs report for September, the economy is feeling a bit queasy. The ADP National Employment Report, which measures only private-sector employment, offered up the addition of only 130,000 jobs to the economy from September to October, as well as news that the previous report of 166,000 new jobs added was revised downward to 145,000.

While this news can't be characterized as good, it does lend credence to the notion that quantitative easing will remain alive and well for the near future. On the mortgage front, the Mortgage Bankers Association noted earlier today that applications for home mortgages edged up 6.4% for the week ending Oct. 25, as interest rates dipped.

Banks look peppy early, but falter
The latter tidbit is good news for JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM), one of a handful of big banks to suffer from the mortgage slowdown lately, but news concerning the battered institution is not entirely good this morning.

The bank's $13 billion settlement with government regulators has been called into question, and the process came to a screeching halt where the issue of blame is concerned. JPMorgan wants to be absolved of -- and not forced to pay for -- the wrongheadedness of its crisis-era acquisition Washington Mutual. At the same time, the bank would like to wind down some pending investigations into other pre-crisis mortgage-related issues, which could ostensibly lead to criminal charges. So far, at least, the government isn't bending.

Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) is losing ground as lunchtime approaches, perhaps because of a possible spot of trouble in some of its dealings across the pond. The firm is being asked to speak with a parliamentary committee regarding its coordination of the Royal Mail IPO, which took place earlier this month.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Goldman Sachs and fellow coordinator UBS will be questioned about why their valuation of the postal entity was so much lower, at 3.3 billion pounds, than its current 5.3 billion. The discrepancy has generated criticism of the British government, causing some to say that the mail operator was undervalued, and that the IPO shortchanged taxpayers.