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Pandit Shocks Wall Street
Pandit Shocks Wall Street

Vikram Pandit shocked Wall Street Tuesday, announcing he would immediately step down as chief executive officer, as well as leave Citi’s (C) board. "It was my decision," Pandit said, not the board's. "I have a profound sense of responsibility and I wouldn't do this unless I thought the company was exactly in the right shape to make this decision." Pandit’s announcement came just after 8:00am Eastern Time, in the middle of bank earnings season and only a day after Citi announced positive Q3 results. Though Citi profits fell due to one-time charges, underlying earnings were considered good. "When you look at the track record over the last five years, when I came to where we are today: This is a completely different company," Pandit said. "The strategy is set, we are executing well, we have momentum, and that is clear from the third-quarter numbers that just came out." "I believe the company is ready to take off," Pandit said, “Given the progress we have made in the last few years, I have concluded that now is the right time for someone else to take the helm at Citigroup.” Pandit's tenure with Citi was marked by $45 billion in taxpayer bailouts and more than $200 billion in federal guarantees. He also walks away with a total of $261 million in compensation, including the money paid for his hedge fund. Pandit's fund, Old Lane, had been acquired by his predecessor CEO Charles Prince. John Havens - Pandit’s deputy - who was president and chief operating officer at Citi, also departed. Havens said he had planned to retire at year-end, but Pandit’s resignation brought his decision to depart sooner. The timing and manner of the exits puzzle observers.

Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) announced Tuesday morning, the launch of the first version of its Surface tablet is scheduled for October 26 with a starting price of $499 for a 32GB version. The Surface tablet will run the RT version of Microsoft's new Windows 8 operating system which means the software is designed to run on the ARM-based chips used in mobile devices. A Tegra processor from Nvidia (NVDA) will power this version of the Surface tablet. The Surface tablet will go on sale in stores in the U.S. plus Canada, and be available online in eight other countries beginning October 26. A 32GB version of the tablet bundled with a touch keypad cover will cost $599. The Touch Covers will sell separately in five different colors for $120 each.

Apple Inc. (AAPL) sent out invitations to media representatives on Tuesday for an October 23 "special event" that is widely expected to feature a new, smaller iPad. "We've got a little more to show you," the invite read. Per its usual secretive policy around new products, Apple shared no other details of what will be unveiled at the event although expectations are for a new "iPad Mini" with a screen size approximately 7 inches that may compete directly against smaller tablets such as the Kindle Fire from Amazon.com (AMZN), the Nexus 7 from Google (GOOG) plus the Galaxy Tab line from Samsung.

The Labor Department reported Tuesday that U.S. consumer prices rose 0.6% during September, mostly because of higher gas prices. Core prices, seen as a better gauge of inflationary trends, rose a seasonally adjusted 0.1% for the third consecutive month. The core figure strips out volatile food and energy costs. Consumer prices have risen an unadjusted 2.0% over the past 12 months, up from 1.7% in August. The core rate has also risen 2.0% during that span of time, up from 1.9% in previous month. Inflation-adjusted hourly wages fell by 0.3% during September and real wages have fallen 0.2% over the past 12 months as inflation climbed slightly faster than the increase in pay.

The Federal Reserve said Tuesday that the output of the nation's factories, mines and utilities rebounded 0.4% during September after a steep drop in August. Part of the gain in September was primarily due to a resumption of oil production along the Gulf of Mexico that had been idled in late August in anticipation of Hurricane Isaac. August production, hurt by the drop in oil production, was revised down to a 1.4% decrease from the initial estimate of a 1.2% decline, while July production was revised to a 0.7% gain from a 0.5% rise. Industrial production declined at a 0.4% annual rate in Q3. After a 0.9% decline in August, factory activity alone rose 0.2% during September. Manufacturing moved down at a 0.9% annual rate for its first decline since the recession ended in the summer of 2009, during Q3. Capacity utilization - a gauge of slack in the economy - rose to 78.3% in September from 78.0% in August, still well below the 79.2% level reached in July.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo on Tuesday reported builder confidence in October moved higher, ever so slightly, to mark the sixth gain in a row and the top reading in more than six years. Housing market index inched up 1 point to 41, marking the highest level since June 2006. The index historically has a very strong correlation with single-family housing starts and has surged from as low as 17 during October 2011. In October, the component measuring current sales conditions remained at 42 and the component measuring sales prospects for the next six months held at 51. The index measuring traffic of prospective buyers rose 5 points to 35 for the highest level since April 2006.


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Oct 16, 2012


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