Low, low prices: Oil prices fell to below $35 a barrel this morning as investors eyed a slew of U.S. corporate earnings this week for signs of weakening consumer demand amid the worst recession in decades. Light, sweet crude for February delivery was down $1.88 to $34.63 a barrel by mid-afternoon in Europe in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
What’s in store? As hundreds of fourth-quarter earnings reports stream in this week, Wall Street’s reaction will turn on companies’ answers to one question: When will the recession end? “Not soon” is what the market heard last week. Big banks posted ugly numbers and told investors they were still struggling with rickety balance sheets. That revived fears that the economic recovery that some analysts have forecast for the second half of the year won’t materialize. The market has largely written off the first half of 2009. Now, stocks could take a beating if companies lead investors to believe a recovery will be pushed back to 2010.
Watch who you call: If you’re one of the estimated 2 million people expected to be at Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration Tuesday, the cell phone industry has one message for you: Go easy on the communications. The New York Times reports the country’s largest cellular companies are asking customers to limit their phone calls and delay sending pictures of the event so too much stress isn’t placed on the network. Carriers are also spending millions to temporarily and substantially upgrade their networks in Washington. To read the story, click here.