Water Cooler Finance: Buffett's Bank Fraud And Financial Eruptions

By Erin Joyce | April 19, 2010 AAA
Water Cooler Finance: Buffett's Bank Fraud And Financial Eruptions

This week was one of disasters, both natural and financial. From fraud charges to volcanic eruptions, this week's news was anything but boring. Get in the know for the coming week by catching up on the past week's top financial news stories.

IN PICTURES: 4 Biggest Investor Errors

The SEC, Recessions and Banks, Oh My!
Warren Buffett's investment in Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) has been controversial since the start, but recent news has only added fuel to the fire. On Friday, the SEC charged Goldman Sachs with defrauding investors, claiming that the bank misrepresented a security that took on risky subprime mortgages without properly informing those who were buying in. The announcement has caused several stocks and commodities to fall, including the bank itself, which fell nearly 13% on the news, contributing to a 2% drop in the S&P 500 and breaking the streak of six straight weeks of advances. (Learn more about subprime mortgages in The 2007-2008 Financial Crisis In Review.)

Goldman Sachs holds a lot of commodities, including gold, which hit a 10-day low on Friday, closing down 2%. Investors are scrambling to cash in on commodities and stocks tied to Goldman Sachs before the proceedings of the charge drive the prices even lower.

Not to be outdone, Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), which bought Merrill Lynch & Co. back in September 2008, reported a 25% drop in profits for the first quarter. However, Bank of America still handily beat analyst expectations. Sorry, Goldman Sachs.

Hold on Tight, Google
It seems tech giant Google (Nasdaq:GOOG) is on a rollercoaster this week. On April 15, the company reported a whopping 38% increase in earnings to $1.96 billion, or $6.06 per share. The company beat analyst expectations both in earnings and revenue for the first quarter. However, Google was not shy with its plans to continue hiring aggressively; the company hired almost 800 employees during the last quarter according to Bloomberg. Google also plans to increase its spending, perhaps through new acquisitions. The news saw shares dropping just over 7% by Friday afternoon. (To learn more about how earnings affect stock prices, see Everything Investors Need To Know About Earnings.)

The shares may head up as rumors of an Android-powered tablet gain steam. With its plans to increase spending, and the earnings to back this claim up, it probably won't be long before Google releases a little healthy competition for the iPad. Keep an eye - and some cash - out for the "iPad Killer", and watch for the potential for a bit more Google love as Apple takes flak for blocking Flash on its hardware.

Volcanic Finances
A volcanic eruption in Iceland on April 14 created a cloud of ash that quickly spread over Europe and the U.K., grounding all non-emergency flights and costing airlines an estimated $200 million a day in revenue according to Bloomberg. Thousands of travelers are stuck in various European countries and even shipping is being affected, forcing major players like FedEx (NYSE:FDX) and UPS (NYSE:UPS) to rely on ground transport instead of air in that region.

Airports are expected to be shut down for another three days or so, which could cost airlines an estimated US$1 billion and affect as many as six million passengers. This appears to be the greatest airline disruption since the attacks of September 11, and represents yet another blow for the struggling industry. (Airlines are squeezing passengers hard these days to make up for lost revenue. Read more in 7 Air Travel Perks That Used To Be Free.)

The Bottom Line
After a week filled with drama, it seems the U.S. banks are catching trouble from all sides and America is watching like a hawk. It's a sure thing that these stories are only beginning, so take a deep breath … unless there's ash in the air.

If you missed last week's news, see Water Cooler Finance: My iPad Beats Your Toyota.

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