What Do You Expect?

Another week, another crippling cold. It is January, after all, and numbing cold is only to be expected. But expectations are the key to surviving Winter, especially one as brutal as this one. As long as you expect it will be deadly cold, the few days spent actually above freezing turn into a blessing. And there is always the greatest expectation of all – that this can’t last forever and some day it will be Spring.

Expectations are also the key to understanding predictions and the sinking feeling of disappointment when they don’t come true. Barataria has come under some fire for insisting that predictions are the key to a worthy blog’s identity, so it’s only natural that we should deal with three stories of expectations gone horribly wrong in today’s news.

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Retail “Challenges”

The news whacked Wall Street and set off a slide of 1.4%.  WalMart, the biggest retailer, reported slow growth and earnings below expectations for the second quarter.  “The retail environment remains challenging in the U.S. and our international markets, as customers are cautious in their spending,” according to Chief Financial Officer Charles Holley.  Should we be worried about it?

Probably not.  While a turnaround consumer spending would be the quickest and easiest way to goose the economy and put people back to work, it shouldn’t come at the expense of fundamentals such as repairing household finances.  A little caution now could make for a stronger economy in the long run – and that picture is continuing to look a bit brighter.

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Cleaning Up Wall Street?

What charges can be brought against the biggest rogue traders out there?  The answer, apparently, is just about anything the SEC can get to stick.  After being humiliated in the US Senate and severely beaten to the punch by an aggressive NY District Attorney, they’re ready for action.  But they can be forgiven if the actual charge is a bit less than impressive – it comes with a lifetime ban on trading, if not a jail sentence.

It’s a start.  It comes about 5 years too late and may be a bit short of a landmark conviction, but it appears that a cadre of prosecutors and regulators are getting serious about doing their jobs.  Is it in time to save Wall Street?

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Through the Looking Glass

We live in an economy so through the looking glass that bad news is good news.  So what constitutes actual bad news?  Apparently, no news is potentially the worst news, although it is still shrugged off as nothing.  So perhaps it’s really bad news after all, making it good news.  It’s so hard to tell.

All we’re missing is a Mad Hatter.  Everyone, change places!

The lack of news at hand is the lawsuit against JP Morgan filed by US Attorney Eric Holder alleging a violation of the Martin Act.  That’s a somewhat obscure statute from 1921 that makes interesting lawsuits out of small violations.  The reason this isn’t news is that it wasn’t even JP Morgan, as we know them, that has a problem – it’s from the firm of Bear, Stearns that they purchased in 2008 on its way underwater.  And it involves mortgage problems that the industry supposedly corrected long ago.  The White Rabbit is a solid four years late.

Or – is it really news after all?  They picked up a lot of interesting stuff along the way, including some tidbits from Chase Manhattan Bank (aka Chased MadHatter) so is there more to come?

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