Ahead of the Bell: Consumer Credit

Consumer borrowing likely fell in January for a record 12th consecutive month. Economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters expect consumer credit declined at an annual rate of $4.5 billion in January. The Federal Reserve is scheduled to release the monthly report on consumer credit at 3 p.m. EST Friday.

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In December, the Fed said that consumer credit had dropped by $1.7 billion, marking the 11th straight monthly decline, surpassing the old mark which was seven consecutive declines set in 1943 and again in 1991.

The $1.7 billion December decline followed a plunge of $21.8 billion in November which had been the largest decrease in dollar terms since the Fed began keeping records in 1943.

The continued decreases in borrowing show that consumers are still holding back amid lingering economic uncertainty and high unemployment. [Read the full article]

Shares of General Growth Properties Inc., which last year filed the largest U.S. real estate bankruptcy case in history, will resume trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Friday.

General Growth delisted from the NYSE when it filed for bankruptcy last April. It had grown rapidly during the real estate boom preceding the recession, racking up $27 billion in debt. It was unable to refinance its short-term loans in a tight credit environment.

The company’s shares will stop trading over the counter as “GGWPQ” and resume trading on the NYSE under the symbol “GGP” Friday.

The relisting comes after a bankruptcy court on Wednesday gave the shopping mall operator four more months to file a reorganization plan detailing an exit from Chapter 11 bankruptcy and weigh takeover offers.

The Chicago company last month rejected a $10 billion takeover offer by shopping mall giant Simon Property Group Inc. [Read the full article]

An analyst said Friday that Alabama’s possible shutdown of electronic bingo parlors may not necessarily be a bad thing for gaming equipment supplier Bally Technologies Inc.

Ryan Worst of Brean Murray Carret & Co. said in a client note that the gaming devices maker might be able to lower some of its costs if the bingo parlors are closed.

Alabama Governor Bob Riley, a lifelong opponent of gambling, has started sending state troopers on late-night raids to shut down electronic bingo parlors. The governor argues that the electronic devices are essentially slot machines, which are illegal in the state.

Riley has forced the shutdown of more than 30 gambling halls. Opponents contend that a permanent shutdown would cost many jobs, and are encouraging a statewide referendum on reopening the bingo parlors. [Read the full article]

U.S. stocks were poised for early gains Friday, as investors reacted to the government’s better-than-expected employment report.

Dow Jones industrial average, S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 futures were higher, doubling their gains following the employment report.

Futures measure current index values against perceived future performance and can offer an indication of how markets will open when trading begins in New York.

Wall Street finished Thursday’s session higher, but trading was choppy as investors took a wait-and-see attitude before the monthly jobs report.

U.S. futures were trading higher even before the employment report was released. Philip Isherwood, equities strategist at Evolution Securities in London, said prior to the report that U.S. futures were trading higher on expectations of good news concerning the job market, their confidence fueled by Thursday’s report that unemployment claims were on the decline. [Read the full article]

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