Fed faces tough call on bond buying as economy strengthens

Reuters: The Federal Reserve will decide today whether the U.S. economy is finally resilient enough to withstand less policy support, or whether it is prudent to wait a bit longer. With the world's financial markets on edge, the U.S. central bank wraps up a two-day meeting with a highly anticipated policy announcement at 1 p.m. CST, followed by Ben Bernanke's last news conference as Fed chairman a half-hour later.

 

U.S. housing starts jump to highest level in five years

Bloomberg: The pace of home construction reached a more than five-year high in November amid broad-based gains as builders boosted inventory to keep pace with demand. Housing starts jumped 22.7 percent to a 1.09 million annualized rate, exceeding all forecasts of economists surveyed by Bloomberg and the most since February 2008, the Commerce Department reported today in Washington. Permits for future projects held near a five-year high, indicating the pickup will be sustained into 2014.

 

U.S. preparing civil charges against Citigroup, Merrill Lynch

Reuters: The Justice Department is preparing to file civil fraud charges against Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp.'s Merrill Lynch unit over their sale of flawed mortgage securities ahead of the financial crisis, according to people familiar with the probes. The case allegedly shows that investors lost tens of billions of dollars after purchasing securities Citigroup had marketed as safe even though the bank had reason to believe otherwise. An investigation into the mortgage securities marketed by Merrill Lynch is also close to completion, two other people said.