Receiving Wide Coverage ...
Preparing: President-elect Donald Trump's Treasury secretary nominee Steven T. Mnuchin plans to divest himself of his financial interests in 43 companies, hedge funds and investment funds. He also plans resign from numerous board positions as he tries to disentangle himself from potential conflicts of interest before his Senate confirmation.
Mnuchin's financial disclosures, released Wednesday by the Office of Government Ethics, indicate the former hedge fund manager and Goldman Sachs executive's net worth exceeds $150 million and that he holds his wealth through a variety of trusts. Wall Street Journal, New York Times, American Banker
Wall Street Journal
Fintech power play: The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency will soon begin considering applications from financial-technology companies for national banking charters as a way to promote competition while both streamlining and strengthening regulation, according to the Journal.
The move, opposed by some state regulators, could bring more fintech firms — which offer online loans, smartphone payments and other banking services — under the direct supervision of the feds, giving them the power to make loans or transfer money without state approval."
Banks boosted: Prospects of President-elect Trump bringing a more benign approach to Wall Street sent the KBW Bank Index up nearly 24% since Election Day, a gain that is nearly 3½ times the rise in the S&P 500 index over the same period. Analysts have raised fourth-quarter earnings estimates for big banks based on better trading conditions and higher anticipated income from loans and securities because of rising interest rates.
Demand down: Demand for mortgages fell substantially during the fourth quarter of 2016 after rates spiked by more than half a percentage point in the wake of the presidential election. Total mortgage applications dropped 21% from the third quarter, led by demand for refinances which fell 31%, according to Mortgage Bankers Association data. Though the numbers were up slightly when compared with the same period a year earlier, they were not up enough for mortgage lenders to close the year on an optimistic note.
Better rewards: Amazon is trying to boost sales with a credit card aimed at its most loyal customers. The giant online retailer is introducing a card for its Prime customers, which will offer 5% back on all Amazon.com purchases. The Visa-branded card, issued by JPMorgan Chase will not charge annual or foreign-transaction fees. Meanwhile, "Heard on the Street" notes that credit card stocks have rallied broadly since the election on expectations of higher interest rate and growth, with JP Morgan Chase and Citi in the best positions to benefit as they fight for market share.
More Wells woes: Top U.S. lawmakers are challenging Wells Fargo to explain a recent rise in overdraft fees, the FT reports, signaling a new regulatory fight for the banking company still reeling from a fake accounts scandal.
New York Times
Whistleblower fine: JPMorgan inappropriately retaliated against a former employee who raised questions about the bank's sales tactics and investment products, the Times reports. The Labor Department ordered the bank to pay back wages and damages to Johnny Burris, a former broker at one of its Arizona branches.
Millennial debt: While acknowledging it's "difficult to pin down a direct relationship between college loans and entrepreneurial activity," the Times reports that the weight of student debt appears to be deterring some would-be millennial small-business owners.
"[I]n politically-driven markets, the combination of an erratic POTUS and a market which leaps to conclusions and heads off down culs-de-sac with manic enthusiasm, is a recipe for mayhem and anarchy." — Kit Juckes, macro strategist at Société Générale, following President-elect Trump's press conference Wednesday