Receiving Wide Coverage ...
Fed Talks: Recently released Federal Reserve meeting minutes lend a few insights into how the central bank is feeling about its ongoing stimulus program. Readers may recall that the Fed surprised everyone back in December when it elected to slow its bond-buying program by $10 billion a month and, the slow taper is likely to continue. "Officials have suggested a similar cut is the most likely result when the Fed's policy-making committee next meets in late January," reports the Times. But tapering, apparently, isn't the only item on the Fed's agenda. Per the Journal, "watching for bubble threats could become one of the first big issues" for newly confirmed Fed chairwoman Janet Yellen, who officially assumes office February 1. "Last year several officials looked closely at risks building in booming credit markets. More recently they have eyed stock markets," the paper reports.
StanChart, JPM Personnel Changes: Standard Chartered Finance Director Richard Meddings is leaving the bank as part of a restructuring meant to stem waning profits. One analyst tells the Journal "poor earnings is the catalyst for Meddings's departure." In a statement to Dealbook, Meddings said "this is a natural point for me to step away." Consumer banking head Steve Bertamini is also leaving as part of the re-org that will see StanChart's consumer banking and wholesale banking merged and categorized into three client groups. Wholesale banking head Mike Rees will oversee the integrated unit. Meanwhile, JPMorgan Chase has hired former IMF director Anoop Singh as head of Asia-Pacific regulatory strategy. "The newly created position comes amid a probe into JPMorgan's hiring practices in China and a global investigation into the manipulation of foreign exchange trading that has ensnared other banks," the FT reminds readers.
Bad News for Bitcoin? Effective Jan. 14, Alibaba, a Chinese e-commerce giant, will ban the sale of Bitcoin on its website. The move makes Alibaba "the latest in a growing chorus of governments and businesses to raise questions about" the cryptocurrency notes the Times. Scan readers will recall the European Banking Authority issued a statement about the volatility of digital currencies shortly after the Bank of China restricted its banks from using Bitcoin as a currency in December. One Reuters Breaking Views columnist believes Bitcoin "is close enough to collapse to merit an early retrospective." Economics Editor Edward Hadas focuses on Bitcoin as currency, quickly writing off its worth as an (ahem) payments system by noting "if speculators were thinking clearly, they would stay away from any supposed money that banks don't accept. After all, banks are involved in almost all exchanges in today's economies." But here's one reason why customers may be in the mood for a new medium of exchange. And here's four others.
Wall Street Journal
The precedent set by a decision in the forthcoming trial of Jesse C. Litvak a former Jefferies trader accused of using dishonest sales tactics to mark up prices on mortgage bonds could directly affect the federal bond probe the paper reported Wednesday.
The Financial Stability Board plans to add "nonbank, non-insurance firms" to its "systemically important" list.
Lending companies are mining Facebook and other social media sites for supplemental information about whether a borrower is worthy of a loan. The companies (mostly startups) say use of the data "helps make credit available to people who might otherwise be denied and that they are careful not to violate federal credit laws." But some consumer advocates believe the practice will actually work against prospective borrowers.
New York Times
Columnist Jesse Eisinger argues that the public's reaction to a burgeoning stock market is now tempered by the following crisis-related lessons: "that the exuberance could just as easily disappear, leaving a crash in its wake; that strong capital markets don't necessarily signify a strong economy; and that the gains are unequal."
Columnist Simon Johnson argues the Fed may move toward more aggressively limiting the damages a big bank can do to the economy and stumps for Fed governor Daniel Tarullo to be appointed vice chairman for supervision. "I'm optimistic that Mr. Tarullo could work closely with the emerging coalition of bipartisan senators willing to push further to reduce the dangers associated with global megabanks," he writes.