The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) has been on a roller coaster so far today, starting high and then tumbling 40 points after some unexpectedly dour economic data. Big banks started out great, with both Dow heavyweight Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) and JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) up well above 1% by late morning. Both stayed green after the Dow dip, perhaps buoyed by the possibility that 2014 may be the year big banks get their groove back.
The U.S. Congress has two major matters on the docket today. One is the long-awaited confirmation of Janet Yellen as the new Federal Reserve chair, replacing departing chief Ben Bernanke. Senate Democrats are also moving to reinstate emergency extended unemployment benefits for 1.3 million people, after the program lapsed on Dec. 27. The program, in place since 2008, may be difficult to renew in the face of heavy Republican opposition.
Markets received some mixed economic news as well. The Census Bureau noted that factory orders were up 1.8% in November, the highest ever recorded, and beating estimates of 1.6%. However, the Institute for Supply Management's Nonmanufacturing Business Survey registered a value of 53 for December, down from November's 53.9 and far from the consensus of 54.8.
Not coincidentally, perhaps, the Dow stumbled badly shortly after this report -- losing all its former gains and delving deep into the red.
Big banks still shiny
Big bank stocks also dipped a bit, but continue to stay positive just before noon EST. Helping, perhaps, was a weekend piece in The Wall Street Journal noting that markets are expecting big banks to soar this year, right along with a brightening economy.
Goldman Sachs was given a boost earlier today by analysts at Susquehanna, who identified the firm as worthy of a raised price target of $206 in a note to investors.
JPMorgan's own shareholders may be sighing with relief over the bank's settlement of a huge legal problem, that of its involvement with scammer Bernie Madoff. The New York Times reported that the bank and government regulators are close to a $2 billion agreement to put to rest charges that JPMorgan ignored signals that Madoff wasn't operating on the up and up. The case could be wrapped up sometime this week, bringing to $20 billion the cost of settling government inquiries over the past year.