Fri, Jul 11, 2014, 9:58 PM EDT - U.S. Markets closed

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  • General Motors (GM) has taken one more step toward quelling the controversy over defective ignition switches in millions of cars, unveiling an open-ended plan to compensate victims without forcing them to sue in court. But the automaker still faces two big hurdles as it moves through a long checklist of items needed to restore its reputation among consumers and reassure shareholders.

    The victim-payout plan, developed by independent compensation expert Kenneth Feinberg, will entail payments as high as eight figures for victims killed or injured in defective GM vehicles, or their families. Payouts will vary by age and other factors, and account for things such as lost income and whether a victim had a spouse or children. GM will consider making deals even if victims were intoxicated or driving dangerously, provided the crash can be linked with the ignition problem.

    Those who accept a payout will forfeit the right to sue GM, but they’ll also get a sizable check in a matter of months

    Read More »from GM appeases recall-scandal victims but still faces two big hurdles
  • Corporate America is again splurging on mergers, as swelling CEO confidence, frisky financial markets and a friendlier global economy have energized the acquisitive urge.

    Yet banks and other financial companies – usually among the most avid shoppers for deals – have been conspicuously subdued amid the corporate coupling. In prior merger-and-acquisition cycles, bank mergers have produced increasingly gargantuan institutions and progressively more byzantine financial conglomerates. A popular infographic illustrates how the components of the largest four U.S. banks were 35 separate companies in 1990.

    Big Bank MergersBig Bank Mergers

    A firm regulatory commitment to keep the largest banks from getting any bigger or more complex is keeping this activity in check. The authorities intend for banking to stay boring – and this is how the sector will remain for consumers and investors. While headlines have noted global M&A is running at its busiest pace since 2007, financial deals have accounted for only 5.5% of transaction

    Read More »from Will we ever see another big bank merger?
  • The stock market is beating the tar out of professional stock pickers again this year. According to this morning’s Wall Street Journal more than 74% of actively managed mutual funds are lagging the S&P 500 (^GSPC) so far in 2014. Even when the numbers are tweaked so that funds are compared to their sometimes arbitrary benchmarks it’s the worst year for active managers since 2011.

    It’s a disheartening reversal from 2013 when 50% of actively managed funds were able to keep up with the S&P but it should hardly come as a surprise. Over the long-term very few funds beat their benchmarks or the market as a whole.

    Not that the numbers keep the industry from kneeling at the altar of stud money managers. The front page of today’s Journal features a 2,000+ word article about the comeback of Legg Mason’s “Mutual Fund King Bill Miller.” Miller’s Value Trust mutual fund outperformed the S&P 500 for a stunning 15 years before the financial crisis vaporized his relative gains, reputation and a good

    Read More »from Passive money management strategy actively crushing stock pickers
  • Time for your daily dose of trending tickers, the stocks that you're tracking as measured by Yahoo Finance ticker searches:

    After getting mashed on Friday, MannKind (MNKD) shares soaring today after the FDA finally approved its inhaled insulin drug Affreza. The drug is a powder that is inhaled through the lungs and is reportedly faster acting than injected insulin treatments. It's been a long road for Affrezza, after eight years of trials and obstacles, and two prior FDA rejections. Affreza will be used to treat type one and type two diabetes, but will carry the strongest advisory on its box warning due to pulmonary risks.

    Apple (AAPL) shares are higher and making the list not for any breaking news but on the basis of a phenomenal 2nd quarter. Shares are up 20% over the last 3 months, as the company slowly unveils its strategy for competing in the cloud-based world. No, we still don't have a television set, iPhone 6 or iWatch but the Yosemite OS shores up some glaring deficiencies and

    Read More »from Apple's amazing quarter, MannKind rebounds, Zillow zipping higher

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