SUSIE GHARIB, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT ANCHOR: Stocks tumble, rates rise. Now that a budget deal has been reached in Washington, does the Federal Reserve have a green light to slow down its stimulus? And does that mean it`s time for investors to lock in their gain?
TYLER MATHISEN, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT ANCHOR: Five years later. Victims of Bernie Madoff`s $65 billion Ponzi scheme recalled the long road back, and the financial uncertainty that lies ahead.
GHARIB: The drone economy. Farmers may one day use them, so might energy companies. And now, the government is trying to figure out the rules for an industry expected to balloon.
We have all that and more tonight on NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT for Wednesday, December 11th.
MATHISEN: Well, good evening, everyone. Stocks had their worst day in a month today. The losses for the Dow were nearly a percent, more than that for the S&P 500 and NASDAQ. The reason, well, investors seemingly don`t like a functional Congress as much as they said they would.
Now, how is that again? Well, as we told you last night, congressional Republicans and Democrats agreed amazingly, days ahead of Friday`s deadline on a budget deal that will stabilize fiscal policy — no government shutdown, no brinksmanship.
But the problem, according to market swamis, is that all this congressional comity removes an important barrier that kept the Federal Reserve in the stimulus game. Barrier out, taper in, maybe as soon as next week. Kind of makes you long for gridlock, doesn`t it?
Well, here are the final numbers for a chilly day on Wall Street. Today, those blue chip Dow stocks fell 129 points, the NASDAQ ended lower by 56. Even briefly dipping back below the 4,000 mark, and S&P 500 was down 20.
GHARIB: More now on that proposed bipartisan budget deal reached by lawmakers. Two things, it doesn`t raise taxes but it restores some of the across-the-board spending cuts in the sequester. The House is expected to vote on the deal tomorrow.
Eamon Javers joins us now from Washington with more on this.
So, Eamon, tell us more about what`s in the deal, will it pass, and are Democrats as divided as the Republicans?
EAMON JAVERS, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: Well, here is the key to the deal. They are taking about $63 billion of those so-called sequester budget cuts, scrapping those and replacing them instead with $85 billion or thereabouts in longer-term budget cuts.
So, net, net, the deal proponents say this is a $23 billion improvement in the nation`s deficit picture over the life of this particular deal. Now, the speaker of the House and other leaders on Capitol Hill very much support this deal and the speaker was asked today what his reaction was to some of the conservative groups that have come out and opposed it.
Take a listen to Speaker Boehner.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: You mean the groups that came out and opposed it before they ever saw it?
REPORTER: Yes, those groups. Are you worried that they are —
BOEHNER: They are using our members and they`re using the American people for their own goals. This is ridiculous. Listen, if you`re for more deficit reduction, you`re for this agreement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JAVERS: Speaker Boehner there very outraged, you could say, about these conservative groups outside the Republican conference. Neutral groups in Washington, D.C., opposing this deal today. But not all of the members of Congress who emerged from briefing today said that they agreed necessarily with Speaker Boehner. Even the Republicans who came out of that briefing today, a lot of them said they`re going to oppose this deal.
Take a listen to some of this dissent as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TIM HUELSKAMP (R), KANSAS: It is the typical end of the year deal I`ve seen from my three years up here. It`s going to increase spending with a promise of spending cuts sometime in the future. At the end of the day, it`s going to increase the deficits. It`s going to raise taxes and fees and it`s not going to address the long-term overspending problem in Washington.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JAVERS: So, guys, that`s the bottom line when you got compromise, not everybody is going to be happy.
Back to you.
MATHISEN: So, Eamon, why are members of Congress now so seemingly willing to strike a deal when just six, eight weeks ago, they were so eager to fight it out?
JAVERS: Yes, that`s a big question here. The big turning point was the government shutdown that seemed to really scare off Republicans from this idea of pushing for another one early next year. They seem to be burned by the poll numbers there and willing to come up with a deal, although, they`re going to lose some votes on the Tea Party side. They might be able to make it up with Democratic votes. If they can get enough Democrats to come along with this thing, the expectation is it will pass.
GHARIB: Always fascinating to see this process in Washington. Thanks so much, Eamon Javers.
JAVERS: That`s right.
GHARIB: Eamon Javers reporting from Washington.
And here`s one top bank executive who is happy with what he heard from Washington. He said he`s, quote, “thankful” that lawmakers reached that tentative budget deal preventing another possible, government shutdown. JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM) Chase CEO Jamie Dimon said, quote, “This budget deal is a big deal because we don`t have to go through that crisis again.” Dimon also said he`s less worried now about the impact of the Fed scaling back its stimulus plan.
MATHISEN: Joining us now to talk more about the latest developments in Washington and what it all means for the markets, the economy and your money is Greg Valliere, chief political strategist at the Potomac Research Group.
So, Greg, welcome number one.
Is passage of this not-so grand bargain a done deal? Is it a sure thing? What if it doesn`t pass? What will the market reaction be?
GREG VALLIERE, THE POTOMAC RESEARCH GROUP: It`s pretty likely, Tyler. But nothing is ever certain in the House. It`s a close call as 55 percent or 60 percent chance that the House will approve it. If they don`t, it there is a big upset, a big surprise, I think the markets wouldn`t be happy because it shows — would show once again that Washington is broken. No one wants to see us go back to the dysfunction and incompetence that we saw during October.
GHARIB: Now, Greg, do these short-term fixes really accomplish anything? I mean, do we still have uncertainty about what`s going to happen for the next step, the next go around, there`s not really a long-term solution and so if it prevents people from going ahead or business from going and investing in the future and helping the economy or making, you know, job hires.
So, do these short-term fixes really work?
VALLIERE: I think this is a big deal, Susie, for this reason. We don`t have to mess with this for another year and a half. This deal takes us until October for 2015. So, for taxpayers, for businesses, for Wall Street, there is a sense of predictability, not the ridiculous dysfunction that we saw for the last two or three years.
MATHISEN: But the markets seem to like the ridiculous dysfunction, Greg. It had a great month in October.
VALLIERE: It did because the markets correctly ascertained we would not have a default crisis, and I think now we can see in retrospect, we know the economy began to turn around, and I think the improvement in the economy is a big story. It may not be a good story if you follow the fed and worry about tapering, but I think the economy is coming back.
GHARIB: So the subject now for Wall Street has gone from no more worries about the budget thing and worries about the Fed taper. What`s the word in the beltway about which way things are going?
VALLIERE: It seems like every few days the chances of tapering improve. We have a budget deal, despite its imperfections. So, that`s the sorts of uncertainty that`s been removed. Tomorrow, we get a retail sales report, and if that shows some strength, and I think it might, that would be another reason for the Fed to begin.
So, it`s not just a question of when. Maybe they wait until January, I don`t think they can wait longer than that. But it`s coming and you have to ask the question, is it fully in the markets? I`m not sure.
MATHISEN: What was interesting in this budget deal or proposed deal, Greg, to me is two things. One, that it goes straight at the cost of living adjustments of military pensions, and it also makes some changes to federal pensions, namely, that new workers, I guess, are going to have to pay a higher percentage of income to participate in those pensions.
That feels to me like the camel`s nose in the tent of entitlement reform?
VALLIERE: You`re right, Tyler, baby step, put your toe in the water, whatever analogy you want to use. But, yes, we have to begin the assault on entitlements. We have to curb entitlement growth. This begins to do that.
It may take the next presidential election to really go after entitlements but it`s coming.
GHARIB: You know, I was going to ask you something about entitlements, but let me ask you this way, instead. For next year, 2014, what is going to be the big issue, the big debate in Washington?
VALLIERE: I think now we free up some time. We`re not going to have to debate about the budget all the time. And, by the way, the deficit going to continue to fall and fall pretty significantly because we see it will be a pleasant surprise.
So, now, we can talk about immigration reform, tax reform, a lot of issues that may have been on the back burner, had we not dealt with a budget. Now, we get a chance to debate them.
MATHISEN: Of course, what we all know, Greg, is the big story in Washington today is the Redskins benched their quarterback. But we`ll save that for another day.
Greg Valliere —
VALLIERE: OK. They should bench the owner.
MATHISEN: — chief political strategist at Potomac Research Group.
GHARIB: Well, speaking of budget issues, higher tax revenues, a stronger economy, a rising stock market and lower federal spending. Add it all up and the government ran a much smaller budget deficit in November than it did a year ago. Last month`s $135 billion short fall is nearly 23 percent lower than it was last November.
MATHISEN: One of Ben Bernanke`s former teacher at MIT is apparently close to being nominated as the next vice chairman of the Federal Reserve, once Bernanke`s second term expires in January, and the current vice chair, Janet Yellen, ascends to the top post, presuming she is confirmed.
He`s Stanley Fischer, an American who led the Bank of Israel for the last eight years before stepping down this past June. Fischer, one of the deans of central banking, is 70.
GHARIB: So, the so-called great rotation seems to be actually happening, with the major stock averages reaching record highs. Earlier this month, investors pulled a record amount of money out of bond funds. According to researcher TrimTabs, outflows from bond mutual funds so far this year have topped $70 billion. That`s the most ever.
MATHISEN: But a lot more people, Susie, are flowing into the new health insurance plan. The administration says enrollment in private insurance plans through state online marketplaces, and the federal Healthcare.gov Web site did rise sharply in November, adding 258,000 more Americans.
In the meantime, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is asking for an investigation into the botched rollout of that federal Web site.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: Today, I`m announcing additional steps I`ve taken. I`ve asked the inspector general, Dan Levinson, to investigate the development of Healthcare.gov, including contractor accusation, the overall management of the project and performance and payment of our contractors.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATHISEN: After two months of patchwork and repairs, the Affordable Care Act is far from the goal of providing coverage to millions of uninsured Americans.
GHARIB: A big anniversary today, but not the kind you celebrate. Five years ago, Bernie Madoff was arrested for orchestrating Wall Street`s biggest fraud ever, $65 billion in paper losses.
Scott Cohn spoke with some of Madoff`s victims and to Madoff himself about that massive Ponzi scheme.
STEPHANIE HALIO, MADOFF VICTIM: Really lost everything except the home we`re living in now.
SCOTT COHN, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Now in their 70s, Stephanie Halio and her husband had to go back to work, operating a small limo service.
HALIO: I have to lift 50-pound suit cases.
COHN: They`ve gotten some money back, but not close to what they thought.
HALIO: You don`t have that total amount. You only have what you deposited.
COHN: Under the formula upheld by the courts, victims aren`t entitled to any returns on their money because Madoff didn`t make any actual trades.
(on camera): The essential theory is that the returns that you thought you were making on your investment were actually just money that were stolen from other investors?
IRVING PICARD, SIPC TRUSTEE FOR MADOFF LIQUIDATION: Correct.
COHN (voice-over): Madoff trustee Irving Picard and his counsel David Sheehan re responsible for rounding up and distributing the money.
PICARD: We understand that people thought they were making money, and that`s what they were getting paid.
DAVID SHEEHAN, TRUSTEE`S CHIEF COUNSEL: I`m sure if you ask the people that got more than their own money back, other money from other people that they felt were profits, that they thought the others who didn`t get their money back, should get their money. I`m sure they would agree they should.
COHN: Picard and his team have recovered more than $9.5 billion out of $17 billion in actual losses, and they are optimistic they`ll recover everything.
Less clear is the fate of thousands of people like Daphne Brogdon and Mark Peel, who lost $4 million through a Madoff feeder fund and have to rely on recoveries by the Justice Department.
DAPHNE BROGDON, MADOFF VICTIM: It felt like quick sand.
MARK PEEL, MADOFF VICTIM: We were in the funds because of actions of family and family friends, and there is a certain level of trust there that is violated.
HALIO: SPIC was supposed to protect us. The SEC was supposed to protect us. Nobody protected the small investors.
COHN: Stephen Harbeck is president of SPIC.
(on camera): Should people are concerned that this is a rigged game?
STEPHEN HARBECK, SECURITIES INVESTOR PROTECTION CORP.: These folks are victims. But the fact of the matter is that if you allow the measure of what is owed to people to be used by the last imaginary statement that Bernard Madoff pulled out of thin air, you`re letting the thief determine who wins and loses.
COHN: The thief, Bernie Madoff, is now 75, living out his life in a medium security federal prison in North Carolina. He allowed us to visit earlier this year and while he insisted the conversation be off the record, he appeared relaxed and confident, much different from his infamous court appearances in 2009.
Madoff has claimed he`s instrumental in recovering money for his victims, which trustee Irving Picard says is just another Madoff fraud.
Scott Cohn, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT.
GHARIB: To read more about Bernie Madoff five years later, go to our Web site, NBR.com.
MATHISEN: And still ahead, shares of MasterCard (NYSE:MA) and Visa (NYSE:V) are charging ahead, out performing the broader market this year. But are credit card stocks still a safe investment, even as competition heats up?
GHARIB: Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) will become the newest member of the S&P 500. The company replaces Teradyne (NYSE:TER), and it`s effective after the close of trading on December 20th. The news was announced tonight after the closing bell, sending shares of Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) initially higher.
MATHISEN: Well, talk about a rewards program rising a staggering 1,600 percent, since going public in 2006, MasterCard (NYSE:MA) recently announced a 10-1 stock split and dividend hike like it`s competitor visa, the payment processer is benefitting from the global trend of paying with credit cards instead of cash.
But is it time for investors who have made profits to cash out?
Mary Thompson has our story.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can go ahead and swipe it any time.
MARY THOMPSON, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It pays to be in the payments business.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m a big credit card girl. I`ll never stop using credit cards.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I use credit cards for most of my purchases.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s just more convenient. I don`t like carrying cash around me that much.
THOMPSON: Yes, cash is still king. MasterCard (NYSE:MA) said it`s used to pay for 85 percent of all consumer purchases. But as more buyers opt to pay with credit and debit cards, analysts say MasterCard (NYSE:MA) and Visa (NYSE:V) continue to see the pay off.
JASON KUPFERBERG, JEFFERIES: They make fees every time we swipe the card.
THOMPSON: MasterCard (NYSE:MA) and Visa (NYSE:V) operate the network`s processing roughly 80 percent of all the world`s debit and credit debt card transactions, making money from the sides and frequency of purchases made with these cards.
So, even if people spend less, if they pay for more of what they buy with these cards, Visa (NYSE:V) and MasterCard (NYSE:MA) benefit. So, too, do investors. The stocks handily beating the S&P 500`s return over the last five years and analysts don`t see these stocks maxing out. With MasterCard (NYSE:MA) getting half of its revenue from outside the U.S., it should benefit from an improving global economy, while its larger rival Visa (NYSE:V) maintains the dominant position here in the U.S.
(on camera): Analysts say there are still risks, though, like more competitors in the debit card space and ongoing legal battle with retailers over fees, the chance consumers could be more frugal and, of course, regulators.
KUPFERBERG: They are worried about there being a level playing field from a competitive standpoint, as well as fair pricing for consumers and merchants.
THOMPSON (voice-over): But in the meantime, Wall Street sees the stock prices charging ahead.
For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I`m Mary Thompson.
GHARIB: Hilton Hotels is hoping to book a value of $2.5 billion through some new investors. The big hotel chain returns to the markets, selling of shares again to the public. Just after the closing bell today, Hilton Worldwide Holdings priced its shares at $20 each and it will begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange tomorrow under the ticker symbol HLT.
MATHISEN: Discovery may cook up a bid for Food Network and HGTV owner Scripps Networks and that`s where we begin tonight`s “Market Focus.”
The parent of Animal Planet and the Oprah Winfrey Network was reportedly discussing a possible takeover of Scripps in a recent Discovery board meeting. Shares of Discovery were down fractionally today to $84.53. Meanwhile, shares of Scripps were on a tear, up more than 7.5 percent to $81.
Lower gas prices, and a stronger dollar pinched Costco`s profit. Revenue and net income missed the estimated mark but the wholesale club`s profit still was up 2 percent as it pulled in more money for membership fees. The miss did however disappoint investors. Shares slipped to $118.57.
At it`s annual investor conference, Home Depot (NYSE:HD) said it expects to meet its profitability goal, a year earlier than a expected, as rising home prices mean more renovations, the largest home improvement retailer in the U.S. also upped its stock buyback program to $5 billion worth. Shares were up slightly to $79.
And Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) got European Union approval for its $8.5 billion acquisition of Skype. That didn`t please Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) Systems. Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) filed complaints in Europe, saying the deal would hurt competition and it appealed the original ruling — the ruling approval. Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) sales video conferencing software that is more expensive than Skype.
Shares of Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) down 1.5 percent to $20.88.
GHARIB: Shares of Avon also down today. The company says it plans to cut 650 jobs and freeze its management technology rollout in attempt to trim $400 million in cost. The troubled cosmetics company launched the technology back in 2009 to improve communications with sales representatives. But the system caused disruptions that lead to lower sales in Canada.
Shares were down more than 4 percent to $17 and change.
Profits at Joy Global (NASDAQ:JOYG) plunged 87 percent. The mining equipment maker faces weak demand. Coal miners, who make up most of Joy`s revenue, have cut back on buying equipment because of a supply overload and poor prices. And to top it off, the company gave a weak outlook. Shares plunged 5 percent to $53.15.
By contrast, shares of Auto Home soared today in its market debut. This Chinese auto information Web site provides online information listings and reviews for Chinese automotive consumers. Investors bought up shares to get in on the massive potential for car purchases from China`s middle class. The stock jumped about 77 percent to $30 and change.
And Valero Energy (NYSE:VLO) partners also went public today. The company is an oil and gas pipeline operator formed by refining giant Valero Energy (NYSE:VLO). It makes money by charging for transportation of crude and refined petroleum products. Shares rose almost 22 percent to $28 a share.
MATHISEN: Black Friday weekend was a good one for sales of consumer electronics. The research firm NPD says that online and retail store sales of TVs, tablets and smart phones and other gadgets increased 10 percent from last year to nearly $5 billion worth.
GHARIB: Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) has some bragging to do, as well. It sold more than 2 million Xbox One video game consoles in the first 18 days after its launch on November 22nd, but rival Sony (NYSE:SNE) was even faster. It took Sony (NYSE:SNE) just 15 days to sell 2 million PS4 consoles. It hit stores a week earlier than the Xbox One and cost $100 less.
MATHISEN: Meantime, the CEO of the nation`s largest computer maker says the personal computer is not dead yet, despite slumping sales. Meg Whitman says Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) can remain competitive in sales of PCs, especially to businesses.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MEG WHITMAN, HEWLETT-PACKARD CEO: In the commercial business, we`ve got a tremendously strong lineup because we can go all the way from virtual desktop to workstations to desktop. By the way, desktops are not dead, to laptops, to hybrids, to tablets, for the commercial enterprise. And then we do play in the consumer business, this is a much more competitive business with very low price points.
So, we`re going to be careful about where we play, and how we`re going to win, because there is no point in not making money.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATHISEN: Ms. Whitman also reminded investors that she`s only two years into a five year turn-around plan at HP.
GHARIB: And coming up on the program, the drone economy is taking off and the commercial potential has grabbed the attention of companies both big and small.
GHARIB: The production of unmanned drones is ramping up in Oklahoma, of all places, and drones mean big business there.
Josh Lipton has more.
JOSH LIPTON, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Think of Oklahoma and you probably imagine cowboys, football and steak. But here is what the Sooner State wants you to think of what when you hear of Oklahoma — drones.
Today, the state of Oklahoma hosted a drone conference where local politicians, academics and businessmen gathered to discuss the different applications of drones or unmanned aerial systems as the industry likes to call them. Right now, drones are used by the military and law enforcement agencies, but they`re also potential commercial applications for drones, helping farmers check their crops for diseases or monitoring pipelines for energy companies.
By the end of the year, the FAA is expected to launch six drone test sights around the country. The agency wants to collect data from the sites in order to figure out the right rules and regulations for the industry.
STEPHEN MCKEEVER, OKLAHOMA SECRETARY OF SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY: The buzz is already is here.
LIPTON: Steven, Oklahoma`s secretary of science and technology, says the drone industry could bring more jobs to his state.
MCKEEVER: It will be creating a lot of jobs both in the vehicle design, but also the operations, certification and analysis of the data that comes out.
So, we will see a growth in jobs throughout the nation, but especially in those locations where the industry is sensitive.
LIPTON: By 2025, the drone industry says it could create 100,000 jobs and add $82 billion to the economy if drones are cleared for commercial use. That has aerospace giants like Boeing (NYSE:BA) excited about the technology, as well as private drone manufacturers.
BEN KIMBRO, EVP TACTICAL ELECTRONICS: I`m certain that it`s going to happen.
LIPTON: Ben Kimbro is the executive vice president of tactical electronics in Oklahoma. He sees a big market for the industry.
KIMBRO: There are really so many places that UAS can be used and anywhere that`s dirty, dangerous, remote or out there (ph) where it would be unsuitable, unsafe or, you know, to put a human being.
LIPTON: There are concerns about drones. In the past year, according to the ACLU, 42 states have considered drone-related bills, mostly pertained to issues of privacy.
(on camera): But at the conference today, industry veterans say drones are coming. The technology is available and applications are too attractive to pass up.
Josh Lipton, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, Midwest City, Oklahoma.
MATHISEN: And finally tonight, after just nine months on the job. Pope Francis was selected by “Time” magazine as its person of the year. “Time`s” managing editor Nancy Gibbs says it was a tight race between the pontiff and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NANCY GIBBS, TIME MAGAZINE: Well, it was a very close call between the two. In Snowden`s case, it`s the ongoing argument about the balance between privacy and security and how much the government should know about what we are doing at all times. But in the case of this pope, it really is a fundamental question about inequality and about mercy in what we owe to the least among us as he would put it and ultimately we felt that that conversation is so crucial in so many parts of the world that Pope Francis ended up being our pick this year.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATHISEN: Gibbs also said that Pope Francis had changed the tone, perception and focus of the Catholic Church in extraordinary ways so far this year.
GHARIB: Also on the list, Miley Cyrus, Jeff Bezos, and the president of Iran, a lot of people with good and bad behavior.
MATHISEN: Yes. They said the person who affected the news for better or worse.
GHARIB: That`s right.
Well, that`s NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT for tonight. I`m Susie Gharib. Thanks so much for joining us tonight.
MATHISEN: I`m Tyler Mathisen. Thanks from me as well. Have a great evening everybody and hope to see you back here tomorrow night.
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