Wildfires, Bitcoin blasts higher, Bank stock will rock in 2018, Congressional staffers complain to the Office of Compliance seeking sexual harassment training and more…

By Jack Kelly

While I am nice and cozy in my New Jersey office complaining about a temperature drop to 50 degrees (it’s usually about 30 degrees this time of year), Wildfires continue to blaze through Southern California. If you haven’t seen any of the pictures, it looks worse than an over-the-top scene in an apocalyptic movie.  

Fresh fires hit the Los Angeles neighborhood of Bel-Air and is burning up to the edge of the 405,  closing large parts of the state’s most active highway. Nearly 200,000 people in the Los Angeles and Ventura areas were forced to evacuate.  State and government officials predict conditions will continue to worsen over the next few days with winds reaching up to 80mph.  In Ventura County, the fire has  consumed 90,000 acres already.

On a brighter note, 2018 looks like it will be a huge year for banks and their stock prices.  A combination of  deregulation,  higher interest rates, and corporate share buybacks, will be good news for banks and their bottom line

Jason Goldberg, an analyst with Barclays, in a recent report, predicts that, “We believe large-cap bank stocks have the ability to continue to increase, as well as outperform the market, over the next 12 months.”  Chris Whalen, a bank analyst and financial services consultant, agrees. “Bank earnings in 2018 are likely to continue to rise with asset returns, and expenses are likely to fall as regulatory changes ripple through the world of banks and non-banks alike,” he wrote.

Also, according to MarketWatch, “If there’s one thing that’s certain, it’s that banks will be regulated less. That means not only a freer hand in how they run their businesses—but also less time, money, and energy devoted to compliance exercises”.

 

Congressional staffers are flooding the Office of Compliance with sexual harassment training requests.  In light of recent events, the Congressional Office of Compliance, which handles sexual harassment and assault complaints from Capitol Hill members and staffers, said it has seen a major uptick in visits to its website seeking information on how to report incidents and requests for prevention training.  “Over the last six weeks, we have seen a triple-digit percentage increase in the number of requests for in-person sexual harassment prevention training, a triple-digit percentage increase in the number of staffers enrolling in our online training module, twice as many visits to our online information about how to report sexual harassment,” Susan Tsui Grundmann, executive director of the Office of Compliance, told the Committee on House Administration.

 

Speaking of sexual harassment, Minnesota Senator Al Franken announced that he would resign “in the coming weeks,” shortly after a seventh woman accused him of sexual harassment. The move follows calls from more than half his Democratic colleagues to step down. It also follows the resignation of another colleague, John Conyers of Michigan, amid multiple accusations of sexual misconduct by female aides.

It seems that if a company wants to get their stock price up they fire lots of people.  To cut over $1 billion in expenses and refocus on key businesses, General Electric is eliminating 12,000 jobs from its power divisionThat’s about 18% of the unit — which was the company’s biggest at the end of last year, with sales of $26.8 billion.   As I am writing this piece, shares of GE are trading up, and there is no word if GE CEO is taking any cuts to his salary and bonuses.

After delays, the House of Representatives will vote on a  bill that would extend government funding for two weeks — and narrowly avoid a government shutdown this weekend.  The bill will keep the government funded through December 22, giving lawmakers some time to think of a Hail Mary pass to figure out a funding plan. Given all the drama in Washington, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad for it to close over the holidays. That would be a nice holiday present for all of us. A little peace and quiet without all the constant squabbling, in-fighting, and name calling between the two parties.

 

The ridiculous rise in Bitcoin just won’t stop (yes, I’m bitter, miserable, and angry that I wasn’t smart enough to load-up when it traded at only a couple of bucks).  Bitcoin just passed $17,000 on the Coinbase exchange just a couple of days after hitting $12,000.  One of the recent factors for the continued rise in price of the cryptocurrency is that The Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), the largest futures exchange,  will launch Bitcoin futures.  Trading on the CBOE offers mainstream establishment support for an area that was, up until recently, viewed as the wild west of the investment world. Don’t buy into the hype too quickly. There is risk of it being in a bubble which could soon burst. Also, it is still not really regulated and has some sketchy characters hanging around.  Recently about $68 million in the cryptocurrency may have been stolen in a cyber attack on mining marketplace NiceHash

 

Six women have sued The Weinstein Co. on racketeering charges, saying the company facilitated and concealed Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct. The case, the second to seek class-action status against the producer, alleges Weinstein wielded the threat of blacklisting his victims with the help of lawyers, detectives and other complicit industry figures. Counts in the suit include witness tampering, mail and wire fraud, assault and civil battery. Since October, more than 80 women have publicly accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct.

 

Once the robots inherit Wall Street, bankers will be paid much less money.  The Chief Executive Officer of Nordea Bank says that the banking industry must rethink pretty much everything it’s doing to brace for the future. And, by the way, this includes how much bankers are being paid.

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