• Our panelists give you the scoop on all the inside business information before you hear it anywhere else in The Informer segment:

    David Asman: Leigh, let's start with you. Retailers. It'll be a tough Christmas?

    Leigh Gallagher, staff writer: We're looking at one of the worst retails Christmas's in over a decade. 

    David Asman: But you say there are still retailers who won't do so bad.

    Leigh Gallagher: That's true.  There are some retailers who are impervious to the seasonality of Christmas: Wal-Mart (WMT), Bed, Bath & Beyond (BBBY), Costco (COST), Kohl's (KSS), Dollar Tree (DLTR), these retailers sell a lot of items and they sell them cheaply. 

    Bob Lenzner, national editor: Why is it going to be so bad?

    Leigh Gallagher: Well, several factors. There are six fewer shopping days in the season this year, there are no must-have fashion items like sweater sets or cargo pants, there's backed up inventory at West Coast ports thanks to the strike a few weeks ago, and add to that, plunging consumer confidence and there's probably not going to be snow.

    David Asman: Does anybody think that maybe retailers or going to be surprised this year?

    Elizabeth MacDonald, senior editor: I'd stay away from the entire retail sector all together until we see the shakeout.  I wouldn't go near any of these stocks right now.

    David Asman: Well Bob, you're not going anywhere near banks.

    Bob Lenzner: It was just disclosed that the Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller are doing a special investigation of the way banks value the loans on their books and the loans they've promised to make.  And they're saying it doesn't look to them like they're really carrying them in fair value. 

    David Asman: Which specific banks are doing this?

    Bob Lenzner: JP Morgan Chase (JPM), all the really major banks.

    David Asman: What about Citigroup (C)?

    Bob Lenzner: It's a great company, but there may be things hidden away there, they may not be fully reserved on some of the loans, and some of the loans they may be carrying on the books may not be worth what they say they're worth.

    David Asman: Elizabeth, you're our accounting cop, what do you think?

    Elizabeth MacDonald: I think that the fair valuation that Bob is referencing is a huge problem with the banking sector.  I think it's going to bite them.

    Scott Woolley, associate editor: But it's worse for the smaller banks because those are the banks that these big banks ship these bum loans on to.  The bigger banks that issue them, that might be the real scandal.

    Bob Lenzner: They've pushed these loans on to the foreign banks, and there they don't even know what they're holding. 

    David Asman: This was a big election week, but we didn't see Ross Perot.  What's he up to?