Shaky stocks: Jobless claims rose more than expected last week and retail sales unexpectedly fell in December. Dow is up a few points in early trading.
Calpers disclosures: The pension fund giant says that private investment firms paid at least $125 million to placement agents for help win contracts to manage the fund's money. Expect other embarassing reveleations as reams of documents are released in response to a public records request. (Bloomberg)
What happened to retail?: December sales were up 5.4 percent from a year earlier (when the roof caved in), but down 0.3 from the previous month. Economists expected a gain of about 0.5 percent, so overall it's a bit disappointing. (press release) From the NYT:
The tone of Thursday's report from the Commerce Department was at odds with hints of better-than-expected sales during the holidays. Earlier this month, Thomson Reuters reported that sales at major retailers were up 2.9 percent in December compared with the previous year. Economists noted, however, that Thursday's report was a broader measure of the industry -- it includes car dealers and grocery stores, for instance -- and that it compared changes in monthly sales as opposed to yearly fluctuations.
CA foreclosures head up: December filings rose 9 percent from the previous month, reversing four straight month-over-month declines. For all of 2009, filings were up 21 percent. From RealtyTrac press release:
"As bad as the 2009 numbers are, they probably would have been worse if not for legislative and industry-related delays in processing delinquent loans," said James J. Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac. "After peaking in July with over 361,000 homes receiving a foreclosure notice, we saw four straight monthly decreases driven primarily by short-term factors: trial loan modifications, state legislation extending the foreclosure process and an overwhelming volume of inventory clogging the foreclosure pipeline.
Bond woes: The state is still quite a ways from the junk bond pits, but it's getting there. S&P cut the rating on its general obligation bonds to A-, four steps above speculative grade. From Bloomberg:
A taxable California bond maturing in 2039 traded yesterday for as little as 97.90 cents on the dollar, to yield 7.73 percent. That's down from 98.67 cents a day earlier, when the yield was 7.66 percent. The extra yield on California 10-year bonds was 1.30 percentage points yesterday compared with top-rated municipal securities.
Redeem those IOUs: Almost 23,000 of them worth a total of $9.8 million have yet to be redeemed in L.A. County. Statewide, it's about $50 million. Each IOU accrued interest through September 3, 2009, but nothing after that date.
Aid to Haiti: The first of what promises to be a long list of U.S. companies began announcing plans to donate money and supplies. They include Coca-Cola, Wal-Mart, Procter & Gamble and UPS. (CNBC)