In government news, Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee were a no show during an executive session, blocking a vote on Tom Price and Steven Mnuchin — both nominees of President Donald Trump — as Health and Human Services secretary and Treasury secretary, respectively.
Meanwhile, Trump has nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.
Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy expressed his opposition to a proposed legislation by state Democrats to create a 19% surcharge for hedge funds, noting that such measure would be "detrimental to the state." The Wall Street Journal reports on this.
On fines and settlements, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ordered mortgage bank Prospect Mortgage LLC to pay a $3.5 million civil penalty for allegedly paying kickbacks for mortgage business referrals and violating the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act.
Fintech firm Western Union Co. agreed to pay $5 million to a number of states for costs and fees as part of an agreement to settle a state-based investigation into its anti-fraud and anti-money-laundering practices.
In banking news, Minnesota-based Ameri Financial Group Inc. is seeking to purchase 100% of state peer First Resource Bank, and Texas-based Vista Bancshares Inc. is set to acquire all outstanding shares of Hamlin Financial Corp.
Severance packages of more than 400 recently terminated employees of Wells Fargo & Co. have been blocked due to the OCC's additional restrictions imposed in November 2016 in the aftermath of the fake-accounts scandal, The New York Times reports. The people who were let go were part of the company's regular business adjustments and not accused of wrongdoing. Wells has stopped all layoffs for the time being until the issue is resolved.
To be more transparent to investors, beginning in January, monthly investment account statements of Bank of America Corp.'s Merrill Lynch will break out advisory fees, commissions on purchases of stocks, bonds and other investment products, and charges related to using automated-teller machines, the Journal reports.
Elsewhere, Medallion Financial Corp. is transitioning away from medallion lending and is instead focusing on its consumer finance business.
Specialty lender Walker & Dunlop Inc. has acquired the loan origination platform of New Jersey-based commercial mortgage brokerage and advisory firm Deerwood Real Estate Capital.
The Mortgage Bankers Association released a paper outlining its recommended approach for secondary mortgage market reform, with the objective of ending the conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and establishing a new, durable foundation for the secondary mortgage market.
Asset manager Betterment LLC is now offering hybrid services, giving clients the option to hire a human adviser, on top of its computerized financial advice, for an additional fee, the Journal reports.
And Canada's central bank is likely to leave its key interest rate unchanged this year and possibly in 2018. "Do not expect to see Canada following the U.S.," Gov. Stephen Poloz said at a press conference. The Journal covers the story.
In other parts of the world
Asia-Pacific: German online lender enters NZ market; Japan raises growth outlook
Europe: BBVA, Julius Bär post FY'16 results; ECB happy with UniCredit plan
Middle East & Africa: 3 UAE banks post Q4 results; Njoroge warns of 'Trump effect' on Kenya
The day ahead
Early morning futures indicators pointed to a higher opening for the U.S. market.
In Asia, the Hang Seng fell 0.18% to 23,318.39, and the Nikkei 225 was up 0.56% to 19,148.08.
In Europe, as of midday, the FTSE 100 was up 0.64% to 7,144.27, and the Euronext 100 had climbed 1.08% to 926.64.
On the macro front
The Bank Reserve Settlement report, the motor vehicle sales report, the MBA mortgage applications report, the ADP employment report, the Gallup U.S. job creation index, the Treasury refunding announcement, the PMI manufacturing index report, the construction spending report, the EIA petroleum status report and the FOMC meeting announcement are due out today.
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