What’s Important in the Financial World (1/13/2012) iPhone Riots, Goldman Oil Price Forecast

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Layoffs have surged recently. There is no telling why they happened all at about the same time. Drug giant Novartis (NYSE: NVS) said it will cut nearly 2,000 jobs. Food Lion will shut 113 stores, which will cause several thousand layoffs. RBS (NYSE: RBS) just fired 3,500 people. And on the sidelines sit Sears (NASDAQ: SHLD), Eastman Kodak (NYSE: EK), Bank of America (NYSE: BAC) and AMR, the parent of American Airlines. Media reports of the past day or so say that each of these likely will cut large numbers of people because of debt or profit considerations. It has been a long time since so many companies, well-known but in trouble, have fired legions of workers.

Bank of America Disclosures

The list of what Bank of America conveniently forgets to tell stockholders has grown again. The Wall Street Journal reports that the Federal Reserve may force the bank to drop out of some businesses and let go of operations in regions around the country. A newspaper had to break the story. Bank of America management must not have considered it necessary to disclose. That lack of disclosure can be added to when the financial firm failed to say how deep its trouble was just ahead of an investment of $5 billion by Warren Buffett on terms not favorable to the bank, or the sales of its interest in China Construction Bank. It also has been left to the press to dig into Bank of America’s holdings of sovereign debt issued by weak nations in the eurozone. Suits against the firm over its mortgage practices and sales of mortgage securities also came out in the press or were issued in announcements by the government agencies planning to take action against the bank.

Goldman Sachs’ Forecast

Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS) has joined a chorus of experts suggesting the price of oil may soar in 2012. The most obvious reason for the increase is trouble with Iran and unrest in Nigeria. Goldman has added one more reason to the list. OPEC may be unable to make up for a shortfall in supply. The markets have counted on members of the cartel, particularly Saudi Arabia, to temporarily increase production if necessary. Goldman points out, however, that, “With Saudi producing close to 10 million barrels a day, OPEC will be operating with a very thin layer of spare capacity, making the oil market much more vulnerable to additional disruptions, with supplies from Nigeria being a particular concern.”

iPhone Riots in China

The demand for the Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhone 4S in China nearly touched off riots at its flagship store there. Other Apple stores in the country apparently sold out of the smartphone quickly. After a crowd at the flagship location threw eggs and other debris, police gathered to disburse the crowd. Apple’s solution was simple. In China, it will sell the iPhone 4S only online for now. Many times, Apple has had too few units of new products, and that has irked potential customers. The violent outbreak, however, is a first.

Douglas A. McIntyre