With the end of 2013 well within sight, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) is up five points in late-morning trading after digesting some sobering news about housing and subdued manufacturing insights from Texas.

The National Association of Realtors reported this morning that pending home sales numbers in November rose from October, though not as much as analysts were hoping. The rate of signed contracts rose by 0.2%, compared with estimates of a 1.5% gain. The new value of 101.7% is lower than that of November 2012, when that number stood at 103.3%.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas released a snapshot of manufacturing activity in Texas, finding that the production index fell to 7.1 from a previous 16.9. Though the general business activity index rose slightly to 3.1 from 1.9, it fell short of the 4 that economists were expecting.

Another drag on the Dow could be the loss of unemployment benefits for 1.3 million jobless Americans, which analysts fear will hurt the economy as spending takes a hit. The renewal of the benefit program could goose GDP by 0.2% in the coming year, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Banks get slapped around, again
Big banks are glum this morning, with both JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) and Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) in the red as noon approaches. The New York Times gave JPMorgan's hiring shenanigans in China another airing today, after poring over emails and other communications between some of the bank's executives.

The newly revealed emails, which went back as far as 2009, showed dismay at JPMorgan losing lucrative Chinese deals to rivals such as Deutsche Bank. Noting that its peer had hired the offspring of Chinese officials, JPMorgan decided that it, too, could play that game.

Meanwhile, a federal judge in Manhattan has decided that investors can sue banks such as Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and UBS over dicey mortgage-backed securities sold by those institutions in 2006 and 2007. Investors in two separate lawsuits have claimed that banks knew about the poor quality of those securities when they sold them, and filed suit in 2008 for redress. Naturally, banks claimed that the complaints were too disparate to be lumped together, but the judge, noting many similarities in the documents, disagreed.

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