Commodities claw back from the bottom

After having their best fiscal first half in 35 years, commodities have had a rough third quarter, dropping 22 percent since June 30, according to the Reuters/Jefferies CRB index. Everything from oil to wheat and copper was hit by the strengthening dollar and weakening economy. But after Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson announced his sweeping plan to buy up illiquid mortgage-backed assets, commodities jumped 18 percent in three days through last Friday, the biggest such jump in 18 years. (Bloomberg) Although the details of the bailout are still being worked out, foreign banks successfully lobbied over the weekend to have their U.S. units’ toxic debt included in the bailout, raising the plan’s scope and cost. (The New York Times)

Goldman, Morgan Stanley end investment banking era

Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley will give up their status as the last two major Wall Street investment banks and become bank holding companies, the Federal Reserve said last night. The change in status, requested by the banks, will bring the two firms under the tighter regulation of the Federal Reserve, instead of just the SEC. (The New York Times) In return, Goldman and Morgan Stanley will be able to take bank deposits, buy commercial banks, and draw on the full range of Federal lending facilities. (AP in Yahoo! Finance) Their new status will reduce risk, but also cut profits. “The decision marks the end of Wall Street as we have known it,” said former FDIC chairman William Isaac. “It’s too bad.” (Bloomberg)

Japan’s Nomura buys Lehman Asian assets

Japanese bank Nomura Holdings has agreed to buy Lehman Brothers’ Asian operations for $250 million, The Wall Street Journal reported. The deal reportedly includes the bankrupt firm’s equities and investment banking units but not any of its balance sheets. (MarketWatch) Nomura is also bidding on some of Lehman’s European assets. (Financial Times) Lehman’s Asian operations employ about 3,000 people in 10 offices. The bank’s Asia-Pacific net revenue was $1.4 billion in the first half this year. Over the weekend, a bankruptcy judge approved Barclays purchase of Lehman’s U.S. operations. The firm liquidating Lehman’s European assets says the bank suspiciously transferred $8 billion to New York right before Lehman folded. (Reuters)

Houston, we have a program

As the country has been focusing on the Wall Street roller coaster, four Houston TV stations have been using the Internet to broadcast their exhaustive coverage of Hurricane Ike’s aftermath to interested viewers around the world. The Web streaming fills a gap left by cable TV, which largely abandoned the ongoing problems in Galveston and Houston for the presidential race and market turmoil. And people have tuned in as far away as Australia, Belgium, India, Norway, and Saudi Arabia. “The reach of local broadcasters has never been greater,” said Keith Connors, the news director for Houston CBS affiliate KHOU. (The New York Times)