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Dec 17, 2010

F & F I N | KITCO New York metals Market Close


New York Market Close Dec 17/10 05:20 PM EST

CNBC: Evening Brief : Small Stocks Double Return of Big Caps in 2010; What's Next?


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Weekly Roundup : MarketWatch Top Ten Videos Of The Week Dec 13-17

Weekly Roundup
DECEMBER 17, 2010

Top 10 MarketWatch stories Dec. 13 - 17

By Greg Morcroft, MarketWatch

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) — U.S. stocks notched their third straight week of gains after a lackluster session Friday, with some optimism over tech-company results offset by a rising dollar and disappointment that European Union leaders failed to come up with a plan for near-term deficit problems at their meeting.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) gained 0.7% for the week. The S&P 500 (SPX) gained 0.3% for the week. The Nasdaq Composite (COMP) was up 0.2% for the week. The S&P 500 and Dow have risen for three straight weeks; the Nasdaq is up four.

Also, please remember to watch MarketWatch's Week Ahead videos for Asia, Europe and the U.S.

Europe's week ahead: Greek budget, Bank of England minutes

Asia's week ahead: Economic data from Japan

U.S. Week Ahead: Holiday season rolls in

Greg Morcroft, Assistant managing editor

Picower estate to settle Madoff claims for $7.2 billion

Victims of the biggest Ponzi scheme in history got an early Christmas present Friday. The estate of Jeffry Picower agreed to a massive settlement with the trustee for the liquidation of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC and federal prosecutors to compensate victims of Madoff's Ponzi scheme, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York said.Trustee Irving Picard said Picower's estate will pay $5 billion to resolve claims against it and certain related investment entities. The Picower group forfeited another $2.2 billion to the U.S. government, bringing the total to $7.2 billion. That's by far the largest recovery so far. Read MarketWatch coverage of the latest on the Madoff scam

Government mortgage aid plan comes up short

A $30 billion Obama administration program set up to help troubled homeowners modify mortgages has failed to help the vast majority of homeowners facing foreclosure, a congressional watchdog said Tuesday. Specifically, the program is expected to prevent roughly 800,000 foreclosures -- significantly less than the 3 to 4 million foreclosures that the White House aimed to stop, the Congressional Oversight Panel for the government's much-maligned $700 billion bailout package said in a report about foreclosures. Read MarketWatch story on the shortcomings of the HAMP program

Federal judge says part of Obama healthcare plan unconstitutional

A U.S. district judge in Virginia on Monday found part of the health-care law signed by President Obama unconstitutional, ruling that the mandate to buy insurance or pay a fine goes beyond federal authority. The White House said that the Justice Department is considering options for appealing the ruling, which was issued by Judge Henry Hudson of the Eastern District of Virginia in Richmond, Va.The argument over the Obama administration's signature domestic policy achievement is expected to go all the way to the Supreme Court. Read MarketWatch coverage of the important ruling on health care

Oracle post strong results as licensing grows

Oracle Corp. (ORCL) on Thursday posted a sharp profit gain and a 47% jump in fiscal second-quarter revenue compared to the same period last year, as businesses increased their purchases of the company's software. said net income rose to $1.87 billion, or 37 cents a share, from $1.46 billion, or 29 cents a share in the same period last year. Revenue for the period ended Nov. 30 rose 47% to $8.6 billion. Excluding one-time items, Oracle said earnings for the period were 51 cents a share. Analysts polled by FactSet Research had expected Oracle to report earnings excluding items of 46 cents a share, and $8.3 billion in revenue. Read more MarketWatch coverage of Oracle

Commentary: Five reasons to love Ben Bernanke

The Federal Reserve's quantitative-easing program has been bashed by opponents who are portraying Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke as public enemy No. 1. Opponents have widely criticized the program as simply printing money out of thin air. Bernanke claims the policy will not lead to inflation and said he isn't ruling out more quantitative easing. Bernanke has been vilified by critics, but not by me. I love him, and here are five reasons why. Read MarketWatch Outside the Box commentary on Fed Chief Ben Bernanke

Former Flextronics executive arrested had Apple link

One of four people arrested Thursday in connection with an insider-trading crackdown had leaked information related to Apple Inc. (AAPL) products, including the iPad, according to a Justice Department complaint. Walter Shimoon was a senior director of business development of contract manufacturer Flextronics International (FLEX) when he allegedly divulged information to an expert-networking firm on Apple, including the code name for the tablet product that became the iPad, the complaint said. Read MarketWatch story about how an executive from an Apple supplier is linked to insider trading probe

Gold's 2011 outlook a mixed bag

Newly wealthy Chinese families and well-heeled U.S. fund managers conspired to push gold to records this year and their investment rationale — rooted in fears of currency debasement and higher inflation — is likely to keep the gold rush going in 2011. But some of the global buyers that lifted gold futures past $1,400 an ounce could head for the exits if rising rates make bond yields more attractive. That's one of the pitfalls facing gold next year. Read about gold's 2011 prospects on MarketWatch

Canada's BMO boosts U.S. banking presence with M&I buy

BMO Financial Group (BMO) on Friday said it's in a deal with Marshall & Ilsley Corp. (MI)  to buy the regional bank for $4.1 billion in a stock swap. The deal values Milwaukee-based Marshall & Ilsley at $7.75 a share. The stock rose 20%. Speculation that other U.S. regional banks could be acquired lifted regional banks across the country and sector. Read about the biggest bank deal in the U.S. in some time, on MarketWatch

Retailers pull out all the stops with last minute holiday bargains

As retailers gear up for the final days before Christmas, they're hoping that extended store hours or promising last-minute deals can spur shoppers to open their wallets and fatten their cash registers in the industry's biggest selling period of the year. On the home page of clothing retailer Gap, a big red sale sign has popped up, advertising items up to 50% off with the promise of an extra 20% off between Saturday and Monday. Between 9 p.m. Friday through Sunday, Wal-Mart is promoting things such as a 32-inch Samsung TV plus a $50 gift card bundle for $348 and a Nintendo Wii console with a bonus $75 gift card for $199. Read full story about hot last minute holiday deals on MarketWatch

Top tricks to sell your house if all else fails

To sell a home in a weak market, people will try almost anything. Throwing a party is a fairly conventional idea, compared with some strategies sellers have tried. Here's a look at some of the more inventive, and offbeat, ways homeowners and their agents try to close the deal. Read Amy Hoak's Home Economics column on MarketWatch

F & F I N | Reuters Saily Investor Update : SEC expands mortgage probe: sources.

S&P ends up slightly; investors see pause
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The S&P 500 closed slightly higher on Friday to cling to a two-year high, while investors predicted a pause in the days ahead, when volumes are expected to dry up and after a 5 percent gain so far in December. | Full Article

Irish debt downgraded as EU eschews crisis
December 17, 2010 12:36 PM ET
DUBLIN/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Ratings agency Moody's gave an emphatic thumbs-down on Friday to Europe's efforts to resolve a debt crisis, slashing Ireland's credit rating as EU leaders took no new action to prevent market turmoil spreading. | Full Article
Retailers focus on convenience as Christmas nears
December 17, 2010 03:08 PM ET
CHICAGO (Reuters) - U.S. retailers are focusing on convenience in the holiday season's home stretch. | Full Article
Growth prospects look firmer as year end nears
December 17, 2010 11:38 AM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. economy is gathering steam as the year draws to a close, boosting optimism about prospects in 2011, according to measures published by two separate economic research firms on Friday. | Full Article
SEC expands mortgage probe: sources
December 17, 2010 04:14 PM ET
NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Securities regulators have broadened their inquiry into the mortgage industry, asking big banks about the early stages of securitizing home loans, two sources familiar with the probe said. | Full Article
Obama signs tax bill into law
December 17, 2010 04:20 PM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Friday signed into law a bill extending Bush-era tax cuts and other benefits based on a deal he brokered with Republicans that angered liberals. | Full Article
North Korea says to strike South if drill goes ahead
December 17, 2010 02:46 PM ET
SEOUL/BEIJING (Reuters) - North Korea said on Friday it would strike again at the South if a live-fire drill by Seoul on a disputed island went ahead, with an even stronger response than last month's shelling that killed four people. | Full Article
Madoff insider's estate giving back $7.2 billion
December 17, 2010 01:54 PM ET
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The estate of Madoff insider Jeffry Picower agreed to give back $7.2 billion to settle civil claims on Friday, significantly boosting the amount available to repay thousands of investors swindled in the epic fraud. | Full Article
WikiLeaks' Assange says fears U.S. extradition
December 17, 2010 01:38 PM ET
ELLINGHAM, England (Reuters) - WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said on Friday that he was the target of an aggressive U.S. investigation and feared extradition to the United States was "increasingly likely." | Full Article
Court denies full hearing for ex-media mogul Black
December 17, 2010 02:59 PM ET
CHICAGO (Reuters) - The federal appeals court in Chicago on Friday denied a request from convicted former media mogul Conrad Black to have his case reheard by the full court, prompting Black's lawyer to say he would appeal to the Supreme Court. | Full Article
When the news breaks the journalist: PTSD
U.N. chief launches probe of Haiti cholera epidemic
Is marriage bad for your physical fitness?
Interactions cause seniors to drop antidepressants
So how much does IVF cost, anyway?

NYT: Afternoon Business News Update: Surprising Data in Real vs. Fake Christmas Tree Debate


Surprising Data in Real vs. Fake Christmas Tree Debate

Thinking they are helping the environment, Americans continue to buy millions of artificial Christmas trees. But a new study makes a surprisingly strong case in favor of natural trees.
Your Money

A Closer Look at Citi's Credit Card Reboot

The bank is retiring some cards, adding new ones, raising annual fees and adding some perks.
Off the Charts

The Euro's Uneven Benefit in Europe

Europe's common currency was meant to stimulate trade within the euro zone, but in the last decade, some members have lost export market share while others gained.

N. C. Plant Found to Be Maker of Recalled Rolaids

In a letter to the F.D.A., Representative Darrell Issa of California said the millions of recalled Rolaids soft chews were made by BestSweet in Mooresville, N.C.

Moody's Slashes Ireland's Credit Rating

Even as Europe's leaders were praising Dublin's deficit-cutting efforts, Ireland was hit with a steep downgrade and a warning that more could follow.

President Obama signs a bill to extend current tax rates for another two years : Fox Business News

President Obama signs a bill to extend current tax rates for another two years. The bill, at an estimated cost of nearly $900 billion, includes cuts in Social Security taxes and also business tax breaks intended to encourage investment.

More headlines from;

Pay freeze could heat things up at the exits: The Washington post Edition - Most Read Articles

Washington Post

1) Toasting the season with special brews

For me, there's no better time to be a beer lover than Christmas. Brewers around the globe craft rich, spicy ales that are perfect for cold winter evenings. (These beers tend to be much higher in alcohol than usual, which is why you feel so warm after finishing one.)

2) The new comeback kid

Don't be fooled by thin-skinned temperament Obama is a very smart man.

3) Congress passes extension of Bush-era tax cuts

Congress approved the most significant tax bill in nearly a decade late Thursday, overcoming liberal resistance to continue for two more years tax breaks enacted under President George W. Bush.

4) When it comes to politics, Obama's ego keeps getting in the way

He could have taken quiet credit for the bipartisan tax deal.

5) Mullen: eliminating Pakistani safe havens is key

KABUL - The top U.S. military officer said Friday that "the enemy is losing" in Afghanistan, but conceded that the Taliban will continue to have a sanctuary in Pakistan until that nation decides to fully tackle Islamist insurgents on its soil.

6) Redskins Insider: Grossman to start over McNabb Sunday

The Redskins are preparing to start Rex Grossman over Donovan McNabb at quarterback Sunday in Dallas, according to a source close to the situation. The news was first reported by Kelli Johnson of CSN Washington.

7) Post-ABC poll: Sarah Palin lags Obama in theoretical 2012 presidential election

Sarah Palin has played a prominent role in defining Republican Party politics this year but still faces sizable obstacles if she decides to run for president in 2012, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

8) Revamping of airport checkpoint system urged

Nine years after the Sept. 11 attacks and decades after hijackers first began to target passenger airliners, the United States has invested billions of dollars in an airport system that makes technology the last line of defense to intercept terrorists.

9) The Fix: Why Sarah Palin could struggle in 2012

1. Sarah Palin has been making the rounds with more traditional media of late, a development that has people rightly wagering that she may be inching toward a presidential run.

10) Pay freeze could heat things up at the exits

Actions have consequences. One unintended consequence of the two-year pay freeze President Obama asked Congress to impose on federal workers is the impact it may have on higher income employees and those eligible to retire.

Stocks May See Slow Start On Light Friday - U.S. Commentary . RTTNews Morning Market Briefing.

Morning Market Briefing Fri Dec 17  2010


Dec 17, 2010 Stocks May See Slow Start On Light Friday - U.S. Commentary Stock futures are pointing to a lackluster start on Friday in what seems likely to be another light trading session, even amid news of the passage of the extension of the Bush tax cuts, which is currently on track to be signed into law by President Barack Obama. Full Article

Economic News

Dec 17, 2010 UK Consumer Morale Drops AgainUK consumer confidence plunged to its lowest level since March 2009 in November as the government's Spending Review further eroded morale, reports said citing the results of a new survey. Full Article
Dec 17, 2010 Next EU Stress Tests Need To Be More Transparent: BoE The next European Union's stress tests should have greater transparency, the Bank of England said in its Financial Stability Report on Friday. Full Article
Dec 17, 2010 Singapore Exports Slow Sharply Singaporean exports suffered a sharp slowdown in November as global demand for goods fell, official figures showed on Friday. Full Article
Dec 17, 2010 Ireland Rating Cut Five Levels By Moody's Ireland's credit rating has been cut by five notches to Baa1 by Moody's, which blamed the Republic's deteriorating fiscal position for the action. Full Article
Dec 17, 2010 EU To Set Up Permanent Bailout Mechanism; ECB Signals Risk In Bond Buying European Union leaders decided on Thursday to establish a permanent bailout mechanism for debt-trapped economies from 2013 and not to raise the size of the existing temporary rescue fund. Full Article
Dec 17, 2010 French Mfg Confidence Brightens In December French manufacturing confidence climbed to a two-and-a-half-year high in December as industrial economic situation in the country improved, results of a survey conducted by Insee revealed Friday. Full Article
Dec 17, 2010 German December Business Sentiment At Record High German business morale improved unexpectedly to a record high, reflecting ongoing strong economic expansion, results of key survey showed Friday. Full Article
Dec 17, 2010 Eurozone Trade Surplus Doubles In October Eurozone trade balance with the rest of the world remained in surplus in October and was double the level recorded in September. Full Article

Earnings News

Dec 17, 2010 Oracle beats Street ViewOracle Corp. (ORCL) Thursday reported a 33% increase in non-GAAP earnings per share, as a result of “strong revenue performance and disciplined business management”. Revenues went up 47%, with new license sales growing 21%. The results exceeded market expectations. The company expects third-quarter earnings above consensus. Full Article
Dec 17, 2010 Accenture Q1 Profit rises; ups FY11 viewAccenture plc (ACN) Thursday reported improved results for the first quarter that beat analysts' estimates. The company raised its fiscal 2011 outlook, with earnings forecast above the Street View. Full Article
Dec 17, 2010 Take Two Interactive Takes In Three-Month Profit on Strong Uptake of New TitlesTake Two Interactive Software Inc. (TTWO) swung to a profit for the three months ended October 31, on strong demand for its new titles. On a non-GAAP basis, earnings topped estimates, as did quarterly revenues. The company revised its fiscal calendar with the year now ending March 31, per which the just-ended quarter is the second. Full Article
Dec 17, 2010 Suncor sees FY11 Capex of C$6.7 blnSuncor Energy Inc. (SU, SU.TO) Friday announced a capital expenditure forecast of C$6.7 billion for fiscal 2011, up from C$5.5 billion last year. Also, Suncor said it would receive a total cash consideration of about C$1.75 billion in a strategic oil sands alliance with Total E&P Canada Ltd. Full Article
Dec 17, 2010 ITT Reaffirms FY10 EPS GuidanceITT Corp. (ITT), an engineering and manufacturing company, Friday reaffirmed its adjusted earnings per share outlook for the fiscal year 2010, while providing initial outlook for fiscal 2011. Full Article
Dec 17, 2010 Coca-Cola Enterprises Reaffirms FY10 OutlookBeverage major Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) Friday reaffirmed its 2010 full year guidance, reflecting solid business performance and outlook. Full Article
Dec 17, 2010 Research in Motion Q3 Profit Jumps as Blackberry Torch-es the marketResearch in Motion Ltd. (RIMM, RIM.TO) announced Thursday a 45% hike in third-quarter earnings, as a result of increased Blackberry shipments. The results surpassed expectations. The company provided outlook for the fourth quarter, above analysts' estimates. Full Article

Corporate News

Dec 17, 2010 BMO Financial to buy Marshall & Ilsley for $4.1 blnBMO Financial Group (BMO, BMO.TO) agreed to buy financial services company Marshall & Ilsley Corp. (MI) in an all-stock deal worth about US$4.1 billion. Full Article

Broker Ratings Changes

Dec 17, 2010 FBR Capital Markets Cuts Nasdaq OMX Group Inc. (NDAQ) To Market Perform From Outperform With $26 Up From $25 Price Target

Todays WS Events

Dec 17, 2010 Coca-Cola Investor And Analyst Conference Call At 10:00 AM ET Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) will host a conference call with analysts and investors, to provide an update on 2010 business trends and discuss its outlook for 2011, on December 17, 2010. The event is scheduled to begin at 10:00 AM ET. To access the live Iwebcast, log on to
Dec 17, 2010 ITT Investor Conference Call At 8:00 AM ET ITT Corporation (ITT) will host a investor conference call at 8:00 AM ET, December 17, 2010, to discuss its outlook for full-year 2011 financial performance. To access the live webcast, log on at To listen to the live call, dial +1 (706) 643-7542 using ID# 26847199. A replay of the call by dialing +1 (706) 645-9291 using ID# 26847199.

F & F I N : Reuters- Before The Bell


S&P index futures slip after Ireland downgrade
NEW YORK (Reuters) - S&P 500 index futures dipped on Friday on renewed concerns about the euro zone debt crisis after Ireland's credit rating was slashed. | Full Article

Irish debt downgraded after EU sets rescue fund
December 17, 2010 07:35 AM ET
DUBLIN/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Ratings agency Moody's gave a resounding thumbs-down on Friday to Europe's efforts to resolve a rolling debt crisis, slashing Ireland's credit rating by five notches despite this month's EU/IMF bailout. | Full Article
Total, Suncor in $1.8 billion Canada oil sands deal
December 17, 2010 06:23 AM ET
PARIS (Reuters) - France's Total said on Friday it would spend C$1.75 billion ($1.8 billion) to forge a partnership with Suncor Energy in Canada's oil sands, the latest foreign push into a booming new source of oil wealth. | Full Article
Oracle software sales surge, shares rise
December 16, 2010 07:35 PM ET
BOSTON (Reuters) - Oracle Corp forecast that its profit in the current quarter will beat Wall Street estimates, suggesting that its strategy of offering a one-stop shop for software and hardware is paying off. | Full Article
Level 3 calls for conditions on Comcast/NBC deal
December 17, 2010 02:43 AM ET
NEW YORK/ BANGALORE (Reuters) - Level 3 Communications Inc asked U.S. antitrust officials to set conditions on Comcast Corp's planned acquisition of NBC Universal that would assure "unfettered access" to all internet content. | Full Article
Congress passes Obama tax deal
December 17, 2010 03:44 AM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Congress gave final approval late on Thursday to the deal President Barack Obama and Republicans made to extend expiring tax cuts -- a high-stakes gamble to create jobs at a cost of deepening the U.S. debt. | Full Article
WikiLeaks' Assange says he is victim of smears
December 17, 2010 05:36 AM ET
ELLINGHAM, England (Reuters) - WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange has declared that he is the victim of a smear campaign after being freed on bail over rape allegations and sent to spend Christmas at an English country house. | Full Article
North Korea says to strike South if drill goes ahead
December 17, 2010 05:42 AM ET
SEOUL/BEIJING (Reuters) - North Korea said on Friday it would strike again at the South if a live-firing drill by Seoul on a disputed island went ahead, with an even stronger response than last month's shelling that killed four people. | Full Article
Democrats abruptly drop spending fight
December 16, 2010 09:42 PM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democrats abruptly abandoned a fight over spending on Thursday and said they would instead extend government funding on a temporary basis, a move that gives Republicans a greater chance to enact the deep cuts they have promised. | Full Article
U.S. arrests 4 in widening insider trading probe
December 16, 2010 09:50 PM ET
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Four people were arrested on charges of leaking secrets about technology companies to hedge funds, including details about Apple Inc's iPad ahead of its launch, in a widening U.S. probe into insider trading. | Full Article
U.S., states spar in Florida court over health law
Gene scan shows childhood brain cancer is different
So how much does IVF cost, anyway?
FDA uncovers more problems at J&J Fort Washington plant
Could acupuncture be used to treat "lazy eye?"

Wonkbook : The Washington Post:

Congress was up late last night. First, something that could've gone wrong didn't. The tax deal passed, and despite a day of peculiar haggling over the way the vote would go down, most House Democrats joined with most House Republicans to protect the deal from amendment and pass it through the chamber. It doesn't have to go back to the Senate, a new round of negotiations isn't needed. It's done.
But then, something that wasn't supposed to go wrong did. Harry Reid announced he didn't have enough votes to pass the bill funding the government. That means he'll fall back on continuing funding at current levels -- never a good thing for the federal bureaucracy, as priorities change and programs that we needed last year should lose money while programs that we need next year should gain it.
And the lame-duck session still isn't done: Reid has announced the Senate will take another crack at repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell (and this time, it looks like they have the votes), and will also vote on the DREAM Act and the START treaty. To this, some Republicans say the Senate doesn't have enough time to consider all this legislation before it adjourns. Reid disagrees. The Senate doesn't have enough time only if it stops working the week before Christmas and doesn't come back. "We are in session, if necessary, up to January 5th," Reid said. "That is the clock our Republican colleagues need to run out. It's a long clock."
Welcome to Wonkbook.
Top Stories

The House has passed the tax deal, report Lori Montgomery and Shailagh Murray: "Congress approved the most significant tax bill in nearly a decade late Thursday, overcoming liberal resistance to continue for two more years tax breaks enacted under President George W. Bush and to provide a fresh boost of federal support to the tepid economic recovery. The package, brokered by President Obama and Republican leaders in the wake of the November elections, angered many Democrats, who have long argued that the Bush tax cuts were skewed to benefit the wealthy. But their last-minute campaign to scale back the bill's benefits for taxpayers at the highest income levels failed, and the House passed the measure 277 to 148, with 112 Democrats and 36 Republicans voting 'no.'...The $858 billion package now goes to the White House."
The unemployment benefit extension won't help 99ers:
Senate Democrats have given up on a bill to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year, report Paul Kane and Mary Beth Sheridan: "Senate Democrats on Thursday abandoned their efforts to approve a comprehensive funding bill for the federal government after Republicans rebelled against its $1.2 trillion cost and the inclusion of nearly 7,000 line-item projects for individual lawmakers. After a day of backroom negotiations, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) announced that he could not overcome a Republican filibuster after GOP senators turned their backs on billions of dollars of so-called earmarks they had sought in the bill. Instead, a slimmed-down resolution that would fund the government mostly at current levels will come before the Senate, and Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said it will pass by Saturday."
Obama might've just won reelection, writes Charles Krauthammer: "If Barack Obama wins reelection in 2012, as is now more likely than not, historians will mark his comeback as beginning on Dec. 6, the day of the Great Tax Cut Deal of 2010...Remember the question after Election Day: Can Obama move to the center to win back the independents who had abandoned the party in November? And if so, how long would it take? Answer: Five weeks. An indoor record, although an asterisk should denote that he had help - Republicans clearing his path and sprinkling it with rose petals."
Got tips, additions, or comments? E-mail me.
Beyoncé cover interlude: ceo plays "Halo".
Still to come: Krauthammer says the Republicans got schooled on the tax deal; Paul Krugman vs. the Republicans on the FCIC; America will ignore the Basel Committee's anti-credit measures; the Senate confirmed four of 38 judges; and a dog goes down a water slide.

The Fed is requiring lower swipe fees on debit cards, reports Ylan Mui: "The Federal Reserve proposed on Thursday lowering the fees that merchants must pay when shoppers use debit cards, a move that could reduce retail prices but result in higher banking fees for consumers. Under the recommended new rules, the so-called interchange fee, or 'swipe fee,' on debit cards would be capped at 12 cents - about 70 percent lower than the average fee of 44 cents per transaction last year, according to the Fed. The total amount banks received from debit card interchange fees was $16.2 billion. The move was applauded by retail industry groups and small businesses, which have long complained that the fees were excessive and they have little power to negotiate them down."
The US is rejecting a Basel committee proposal to prevent asset bubbles, reports Howard Schneider: "A committee writing new international financial standards has recommended strict new guidelines to restrain bank lending, an idea considered central to preventing the global financial system from overheating, but one that some feel could choke off needed credit for households and businesses. U.S. officials say they have already decided to ignore key parts of the proposal because of the potentially damaging impact to the country's economy. Data released by the group, the Switzerland-based Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, indicates that under the proposed guidelines, U.S. banks would have faced restrictions on lending for at least 13 of the 23 years from 1985 to 2007."
GM has bought the rest of its shares back from the federal government, reports Chris Nicholson: "The United States Treasury says General Motors has repurchased the rest of the preferred shares owned by the government for $2.1 billion. G.M. bought the 84 million shares for $25.50 a piece, 2 percent more than their liquidation value. The company said it would book a $700 million charge related to the buyback early next year. After G.M.’s initial public offering last month netted $13.5 billion for taxpayers, the buyback brings to $23.1 billion the amount the company has repaid out of $49.5 billion the government invested in a bailout."
The narrative pushed by Republicans on the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission makes no sense, writes Paul Krugman: "For one thing, as I’ve already noted, the housing bubble was international -- and Fannie and Freddie weren’t guaranteeing mortgages in Latvia. Nor were they guaranteeing loans in commercial real estate, which also experienced a huge bubble. Beyond that, the timing shows that private players weren’t suckered into a government-created bubble. It was the other way around. During the peak years of housing inflation, Fannie and Freddie were pushed to the sidelines; they only got into dubious lending late in the game, as they tried to regain market share. But the G.O.P. commissioners are just doing their job, which is to sustain the conservative narrative."
Wage growth isn't keeping pace with productivity growth, writes Alan Blinder:
Republicans' defenses of tax cuts for the rich don't hold water, writes Steven Pearlstein: "Equally unconvincing is the argument that they are primarily concerned about small-business job creation. Surely there are other ways to encourage small businesses to expand their payrolls without giving tax breaks to movie stars, professional athletes, law firm partners and hedge fund billionaires. There may be some truth to the Republican belief that lowering taxes overall is a good way to boost economic growth or contain the size of government. However, that would apply just as well to cuts in corporate and payroll taxes or additional income tax cuts for the middle class. Yet you don't see Republicans drawing lines in the sand over those. What's so magical about the estate tax or the top marginal income tax rate?"
Supercut interlude: Movie characters noting that they're "not in Kansas anymore."
Health Care

Another federal judge appears likely to rule the individual mandate unconstitutional, reports N.C. Aizenman: "As in the Richmond case, Thursday's hearing before Judge Roger Vinson of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida will largely center on whether Congress has the constitutional authority to require virtually all Americans to obtain health insurance or pay a fine...Vinson...has already signaled that he might be willing to rule at least partly for the states. In an October decision allowing the case to move forward, he sternly rejected the Obama administration's assertion that the law's penalty for being uninsured amounts to a tax, which the Constitution gives Congress broad powers to levy."
The administration has given a thumbs up to lab-manufactured organisms:
Judge Hudson's ruling against the individual mandate has a century's worth of precedent behind it, writes Jason Mazzone:
Domestic Policy

The Senate has begun to act on Obama's judicial nominations, reports Abby Phillip: "The Senate unanimously confirmed four of 38 pending judicial nominations Thursday evening, the first of President Barack Obama’s judicial nominees to be approved since September. The nominees -- Catherine Eagles, Kimberly Mueller, John Gibney, and James Bredar-- had waited the longest on the Senate calendar, despite having won unanimous votes from the Senate Judiciary Committee. The nominations for Eagles, Mueller and Gibney were sent to the full Senate in May and Bredar was reported out of the committee in June. The White House hailed the confirmations but said the Senate must continue to act."
Senate Republicans are moving to block net neutrality, reports Cecilia Kang: "Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.), ranking member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee filed an amendment to an appropriations bill aimed at preventing the Federal Communications Commission from adopting net neutrality regulation. Hutchison's amendment, co-signed by John Ensign (R-Nev.) and six other Republican lawmakers, would 'prohibit the FCC from using any appropriated funds to adopt, implement or otherwise litigate any network neutrality based rules, protocols or standards.' An FCC spokeswoman declined comment on the amendment."
The White House wants an Internet "privacy bill of rights":
Obama should offer each side a big policy achievement, writes David Brooks: "To get the left excited, Obama might offer an activist growth agenda. This would involve spending more on infrastructure, research and job training — the basic things he has always talked about. But it also would mean going further and embracing industrial policy...To get the right excited, he needs to offer fundamental welfare state reform...Paul Ryan, a Republican, and Alice Rivlin, a Democrat, have come up with a Medicare reform plan in which new enrollees would receive a fixed contribution from the government, growing a bit faster than inflation. They would apply that money against the cost of health insurance. This would make Medicare a defined contribution program and save hundreds of billions.
Adorable animals in water interlude: A dog that loves water slides.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller wants to force a vote on stripping the EPA of its authority on climate change, reports Darren Goode: "Sen. John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) is pressing forward on his drive to vote this month on his plan to delay Obama administration climate regulations for two years, threatening to go directly to the Senate floor and force a vote to include it in a catch-all spending bill...'If left with no other option, Senator Rockefeller will seek to suspend the rules on the Omnibus Appropriations bill to bring up his legislation,' his office said in a statement. Such a maneuver would require 67 votes, which he is unlikely to get. A POLITICO analysis shows at least 56 senators would likely support Rockefeller’s amendment."
House climate skeptic James Sensenbrenner now has a senior post on the Science committee:
Closing credits: Wonkbook is compiled and produced with help from Dylan Matthews, Mike Shepard, and Michelle Williams.