New SEC Head Faces Tough Tasks

President-elect Barack Obama has picked Mary Schapiro to chair the Securities and Exchange Commission. Schaprio was a member of the SEC from 1988 to 1994–originally appointed by President Reagan–and is currently CEO of the non-governmental Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, a post she has held for about two years. She also chaired of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission for two years during the Clinton administration. Schapiro has a lot a work ahead of her as head of the SEC, to prevent this sort of thing from happening again: SEC: “Anything funny going on here, Mr. Madoff?” Bernie Madoff: “No, not at all.” SEC: “All right then.” The New York Times is reporting that the Madoff scandal is having an impact on the New York real estate business. In New York real estate, everybody seems to know everybody else, and a lot of people seemed to know Madoff. “Across the city, industry executives said deals had been scuttled or jeopardized because of the scandal… Many developers had pledged their investments with Mr. Madoff as collateral for projects, and are now worried that their banks will call in their loans.” First-time jobless claims nationwide fell to 554,000 for the week ending Dec. 13, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The week before, 575,000 people filed claims, the highest since 1982. Mortgage rates are down as well, according to Freddie Mac. The national average for fixed, 30-year mortgages is now 5.17 percent, down from 5.47 percent week. The rate averaged 6.14 percent a year ago. Yesterday the Mortgage Bankers Association’s most recent survey show that mortgage activity for the week ended Dec. 12 increased 2.9 percent compared with the same week a year ago. Applications to refinance home mortgages formed some 76.9 percent of all this activity, up from 74.3 percent the week before. The Dow Jones index gyrated all morning and by mid-day was down 0.48 percent. while the S&P 500 was up a slight 0.11 percent. The Nasdaq moved around a lot this morning as well, but only lost 0.02 percent by mid-day.