Receiving Wide Coverage ...
Chilly Economy: The major papers celebrated Valentine's Day by focusing on love, the union of Comcast and Time Warner and Mother Nature's frosty gifts for all of us east of Pasadena. That said, after taking it all in, Scan is fretful about the economic picture. It would be nice to say cabin fever has put Scan and consumers in a funk, but retail sales fell more than expected in January after a tough December, suggesting that the numbers are being depressed by more than the weather. Those Commerce Department numbers released Thursday were "the latest in a string of worrying economic data," the Washington Post says. Economists interviewed each month by the Wall Street Journal trimmed their forecast for growth in gross domestic product in the first quarter to 2.2% from 2.5%. However, "once the weather moderates, the economy should pick up," the economists said. And keep your eyes on the world economy how many times has Scan said that? Though the Eurozone recovery "gained a little traction" in the fourth quarter, Britain's economic policies risk "a bigger hangover" and "2014 could well be another grind for global trade," according to several pieces in the Financial Times. Meanwhile, European banks' repayments of crisis loans next week will be lower than expected, which has its good and bad points, according to a Reuters story in the New York Times. Overall Scan looks forward to U.S. bank CEOs' comments between now and the next earnings season in April, to see if they are still as upbeat as they were in January or if their outlooks worsen.
AIG's Comeback: Nothing says success like another round of job cuts (sigh). American International Group is on the comeback trail, some of the papers reported, and it is "ramping up its awards to investors" in the form of stock dividends and repurchases, according to the Journal. But it is also cutting 3% of its workforce, more than 1,500 jobs, as part of cost cuts to streamline the organization. "Simplifying AIG will help you work more effectively, be more empowered to make decisions, and to be more informed," Chief Executive Robert Benmosche wrote in a memo to staff, obtained by the Financial Times. Asset sales have shrunk AIG to half its pre-crisis size, the FT reports.
Lloyds Update: Speaking of comeback efforts, Lloyds Banking Group reported a narrower loss and pledged to pay out sizable dividends, the Journal reports. And CEO Ant-nio Horta-Os-rio was bullish that it is getting closer to the day when the bank can return to being fully privatized, the FT reported.
Wall Street Journal
The Securities and Exchange Commission has lost too many cases in court lately, so Chairman Mary Jo White has restructured her nest of legal eagles.
Meanwhile, from the appointments desk, President Obama has nominated former Federal Reserve official Nathan Sheets to be Treasury undersecretary for international affairs, and longtime Treasury Department official Mark Sobel to the International Monetary Fund board. And the SEC's White is said to have named Stephen Luparello, a former executive at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, to an SEC post overseeing trading firms and stock exchanges.
MBIA is said to have agreed to settle for as much as $408 million a dispute with Nomura Holdings over soured mortgage-backed securities.
A chuckle over titles and practicality: as in why "Chair Janet Yellen" works but "Chair Bair" not so much.
This FT column makes a strong case why if J.P.Morgan came back to life, he'd rather be a private-equity chief than the head of the more traditional banking operation that bears his name. He would make more money, more loans and have more fun, the piece argues.
New York Times
OK, let's close with some happier news ... Old Second National Bank in Aurora, Ill., is a small-bank success story that (gasp) stems from a crisis-era bailout, Floyd Norris says in the High and Low Finance column. The community bank received $73 million, took its lumps and reorganized. It reported a profit through Sept. 30 and its parent company has filed for a public offering of shares.
Editor's note: Morning Scan will not publish on Monday, February 17 in observance of the Presidents Day holiday. Well be back on Tuesday, February 18.