This week in finance was full of big financial changes and resolutions. Some of it was quite positive, like BP finally capping the oil leak, some was mixed, like the sweeping financial reforms that made their way through the Senate, and Goldman's half-billion dollar fine, and some was negative, like the Dow's abrupt turn from seven positive sessions to ending the week on a low note. Read on for more on last week's financial news highlights. (If you missed Water Cooler Finance last week, check it out: I-Spy, IPOs and iPhones.)
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The Good News
So, BP finally got that oil leak plugged up, right? Though the results are still out as to whether the cap is going to solve all of BP's problems and make it able to drill relief wells, at least right now it looks like there are 35,000-80,000 less barrels of oil per day pouring into the ocean. For BP, this means that the clean-up costs can now be more accurately estimated, and investors can decide whether they believe it's OK to get back into investing in BP. Keep your eye on this story, as even the BP officials are warning that they may not be out of the woods yet. (Learn more about the oil spill's implications and myths in BP's Broken Window.)
Two huge developing stories have been concluded this week, at least in part, as the financial overhaul bill passed the Senate, and Goldman Sachs has finally been fined. The subject of a supreme Court case, Goldman Sachs faced its financial penalty for its part in the subprime meltdown. The company as forced to pay a $550 million fine for civil charges; one of the largest fines in history. However, according to the Wall Street Journal, this fine may seem like a lot, but it was a bargain for Goldman Sachs, as the company would make this money back with 14 days of profits. Not one of the major executives with the firm was forced to step down, and no criminal charges have yet been laid, though prosecutors are looking into whether there should be security fraud charges.
President Obama's promise has finally come true, as Senate passed the financial regulatory bill that will ensure that a financial meltdown will never, ever happen again. Sure. But still, it's now gone through Senate and the only thing holding it back will be if President Obama changes his mind on a possible legacy decision. The finance bill touches many parts of the financial world, and is the largest financial regulation bill to happen in 80 years. The new laws will affect everything from hedge funds to derivatives to ATM cards, and it's hard to say at this point how it will affect both Wall Street and Main Street. If we look at history, it's been rare when more bureaucracy has not had unforeseen consequences, but there's a first time for everything. (To learn more, see What Caused The Great Depression.)
End of a Winning Streak
The Dow was looking pretty good at the start of last week, having seen a slew of up-days and steady gains. That all came crashing down, however, as the Dow sank 2.5% on Friday, coming in at 10,097.9, one of the lowest endings in weeks. Though there were some strong earnings reported, the second fall in monthly retail sales and some big falls in Citigroup, GE and Bank of America, didn't bode well for the overall markets. Still, the Dow is above that magic figure of 10,000, and the summer slump is nothing new, so it's possible that things could bounce back in the fall.
Apple had to concede an error this week, something Steve Jobs doesn't do particularly well. While complaints over the iPhone 4 have flooded the headlines since its release, Apple admitted to the error and has offered a free fix. Rather than having a recall, Apple announced that it would provide a free case so that iPhone's users' hands would cease to interfere with the ongoing reception problems that have plagued those early iPhone 4 adopters. Jobs begrudgingly admitted to the problem on Friday, but not without claiming that it had been blown out of proportion.
Apple will be giving away free rubber bumpers to help with the antenna problems, and this give-away, as well as the bad press, had led to a slight decrease in Apple's shares.
The Bottom Line
This week has seen a lot of resolution for many major financial issues. Goldman Sachs will still continue to face some investigation into its part in the subprime meltdown, while it seems that Apple's "antennagate" problems are all but over. We'll have to continue to watch the financial overhaul to see if it will bring about the positive results that the Democrats claim or whether the increased bureaucracy will lead to more financial industry problems. And many are saying that we may not see a real bounce back in stock prices until 2011. Double-dip recession, anyone? (Learn how to protect yourself in 7 Ways To Recession-Proof Your Life.)