Hot Stock Minute

Feds launch criminal investigation into Citigroup; What does Google's stock split mean? Is the middle class a thing of the past?

Weekly jobless claims rose 16,000 last week to 326,000 according to the Labor Department. Estimates were for an increase of 10,000 claims. Tomorrow, the Labor Department will release the employment report for March. Economists are expecting to see about 200,000 new jobs created.

The FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office have reportedly launched a criminal investigation of Citigroup (C) over a $400 million fraud at the bank’s Banamex unit in Mexico. According to The New York Times, investigators are looking at whether Citigroup ignored warning signs about fraudulent activity between Banamex and an oil services company. They're also looking into whether the fraud involved more than one employee at the bank, if the fraud involved employees in the U.S. or if Citigroup lacked the proper safeguards to detect such fraud. The Securities and Exchange Commission is also conducting its own investigation into the matter.

And Wednesday was a tough day of questions on Capitol Hill for General Motors (GM) CEO Mary Barra. It was her second day answering to lawmakers about the company's handling of recalls over faulty ignition switches that have been linked to at least 12 deaths. During Barra's appearance yesterday in front of a Senate subcommittee, GM was accused of having a "culture of cover up." Barra, only on the job as CEO for three months, said that she didn't learn about the problem with ignition switches until January, right before the recalls were ordered. But Barra refused to answer specific questions about why it took so long to issue the recall when reports of the problems started appearing in 2001. She said she would wait for GM's internal investigation to be completed before she answered those questions.

One of the stocks we're watching today is Twitter (TWTR). Turkey's high court ruled the country's ban on the social networking site must be lifted, saying it violates freedom of speech and individual rights. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan banned Twitter on March 21 before local elections in the country were held on March 30. Twitter was used to share wiretaps and documents alleging misconduct by the prime minister, his associates and family members. YouTube was blocked in the country one week after Twitter.

And today is the first day of trading for the new Google stocks after the long-awaited 2-for-1 stock split. Shareholders of record as of March 27 will get two shares for each one they own. The Class C shares will trade under the original ticker, GOOG, but will be nonvoting shares. The Class A shares, which will come with voting-rights, will trade under the ticker GOOGL. The move allows Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin to maintain control by halting the dilution of their Class B shares, which are not publicly-traded. As of yesterday's close, before the split took effect, shares of Google were up 40% in the last year.

According to a Pew Research Center survey, the share of people who call themselves “middle class” has fallen by nearly one-fifth since 2008, from 53% to 44%. About 40% identify themselves as either lower-middle class or lower class, compared to 25% in 2008. This reflects the widening gap between the richest Americans and everyone else. The difference between the top 5% of income earners and the median-income household has increased 24% over the last 30 years. This brings us to our poll question today. Do you consider yourself middle class? Cast your vote and post your comments as well.  

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