Dow Frets Over Bank Earnings

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is in a definite slump this morning, down 66 at noon EST following some disappointing results from big banks Goldman Sachs and Citigroup .

General economic news has been mixed, possibly adding to the lethargy on the Dow. Yesterday's Beige Book reading, which reported moderate expansion of the economy across the Federal Reserve's 12 districts, certainly wasn't bad, and the news from RealtyTrac that 2013 property foreclosures dropped to 1.36 million from the all-time high of 2.9 million in 2010 showcases a definite healing of the housing market.

However, in other housing news, Freddie Mac today noted that 30-year mortgage rates dropped last week to 4.41% from the previous week's 4.51%. The downward drift was attributed to a weakening economy.

The National Association of Home Builders today reported a drop in builder confidence to 56 in January, compared to the slightly better reading of 57 in December.

Employment news was a bit brighter. Initial jobless claims were down by 2,000 last week, lowering the total to 326,000 from the prior week's 328,000.

Bank earnings fail to excite investors
Though Dow heavyweight Goldman Sachs handily beat estimates on earnings and revenue, fourth-quarter numbers did not top previous figures, with net income falling 19% from the year-ago quarter and fixed income dropping 15% from the same time period. For the year, Goldman saw revenue from market-making activity dip by 17%. The bank also put up more money for litigation and regulatory expenses in the last quarter -- $561 million versus $260 million in the year ago-quarter.

Citigroup's fourth-quarter earnings fell short of predictions, though the bank did manage to bulk up profits to $2.69 billion from the paltry $1.2 billion reported in the last quarter of 2012. The bank made great strides in its program to reduce the bloat in Citi Holdings, the assets of which dropped by 25% year over year. Revenue from Citi Holdings increased 22% from the year-ago quarter, despite Citigroup's overall revenue dipping by 1% from the prior-year period. CEO Michael Corbat noted that, although the bank has made great strides in the past year, it didn't finish out 2013 "as strongly as we would have liked."

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