Obama Rips Banks, Proposes Ban On Proprietary Trading and Intuitive Shares Soar On Strong Q4 Results

He proposed limits on banks’ size and proprietary trading and said he would work to “rein in excessive abuse that brought down our system.”

He said banks “backed by the American people” shouldn’t be allowed to own or sponsor hedge funds and private equity funds for their own profit, while putting customers at risk.

President Obama outlines his proposal for regulating banks Thursday at the White House. Joining him, from left, are Council of Economic Advisers… View Enlarged Image

The news hit stocks hard. The Dow fell 2%, the S&P 500 1.9% and the Nasdaq 1.1%. Big financials were among the hardest hit.

Obama’s proposals will be added to sweeping new financial regulations already being mulled by Congress. Obama called his proposal “the Volcker rule,” after former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, who has been pushing for such reform for months. [Read the full article]

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Intuitive logged profit of $77.6 million, or $1.95 a share. That was up from $50.8 million, or $1.27 a share, the prior year. Revenue climbed 40% to $323 million, due primarily to growth in sales of da Vinci systems.

Intuitive shares rose nearly 13% to 343.80 in midday trading on Friday, their highest point since April 2008.

For the full year, the company grew earnings 16% to $5.93 a share. Revenue increased 20% to $1.05 billion.

5:15 p.m. Update: U.S. stocks fell hard Friday as bank worries persisted. A delay in confirming Ben Bernanke for a second term as Fed chairman also weighed on sentiment. The Nasdaq dived 2.7%, hurt by semiconductors and a number of high-profile issues. Citigroup downgraded seven chip gear makers. …

Intuitive Surgical (ISRG), a maker of surgical devices, said its Q4 EPS rose 53.5% to $1.95, smashing views by 24 cents. Revenue jumped 40% to $323 mil, above views. Shares jumped 8%. … [Read the full article]

Signs point to an economic recovery this year, and lenders are more open to doling out funds. Consumers and businesses likely have long laundry lists of things they want and need to buy.

Rick Mahoney of Billerica, Mass., center, passes a pen to daughter Ally, left, as they sign a purchase contract in front of salesman Ivan Lovera at… View Enlarged Image

That depends on whether they can get enough funding to keep up with loan requests, says Chris Stinebert, who heads the American Financial Services Association. The trade group comprises 350 member companies, including 80% of the biggest U.S. lenders.

“The number of loans they can make is only restricted by the amount of capital they have to make loans,” he said. “There is great appetite for that capital.”

The Federal Reserve Board says it will keep interest rates down for a while to promote lending. And lending banks are becoming more open to supplying capital to consumer and business lenders. [Read the full article]

So far this year, the Food and Drug Administration has issued only two drug approvals. One is for a reformulation of an existing drug, Lyrica, made by Pfizer (PFE) to treat fibromyalgia. The second is Actemra, an anti-inflammatory biologic from Roche’s Genentech unit.

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In all of 2009, the FDA approved 29 original drugs — both chemical-based compounds and biologics — according to Washington Analysis, a supplier of research to institutional investors. That’s up from 26 in 2008.

The FDA is a major factor in the slow rate of new cures on the market, says Margaret Anderson, executive director of FasterCures/The Center for Accelerating Medical Solutions, an arm of the Milken Institute think tank.

Her organization looks for strategies that will get pharmaceuticals to people sooner. It can take up to 15 years from inception to market for a new drug. [Read the full article]

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