Waiting, watching, hoping

Bank shares weighed down markets in Asia and Europe this morning (Bloomberg), and U.S. investors started the day cautious as they waited to see more data. Some were hoping for bad news, to up the chances of a rate cut. ( Early today, Harley-Davidson lowered its motorcycle shipment target and warned on lower profits, saying “this is a difficult time for the U.S. consumer.” (MarketWatch) “Markets are very nervous of course because nobody knows how much this credit crisis will affect the economy,” said economist Ralf Wiedenmann at VP Bank in Zurich. (Retuters)

Toy makers seek a little oversight

The Toy Industry Association is asking the government to set safety-testing standards for all toys sold in the U.S., in a bid to restore consumer confidence. U.S. toy makers are worried that anger over recent recalls of dangerous toys will hurt sales in the crucial Christmas season. “If the consumer is aware that the government has some responsibility and is holding companies responsible, it will set their minds at ease,” said toy executive Jeff Holtzman. (The New York Times, free registration required) Congress is investigating Mattel’s policies for informing regulators about hazardous toys. (Reuters)

Lehman, National City cut mortgage jobs

Lehman Brothers and National City bank said they were cutting a combined 2,150 mortgage-related jobs, in another sign of fallout from the subprime mess. (Reuters) Home mortgage foreclosures reached a record high, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported yesterday, led by California, Florida, Nevada, and Arizona. About 6.5 percent of homeowners with mortgages are not keeping up with payments. And with many adjustable-rate mortgages resetting upward, notes Ellen Schloemer of the Center for Responsible Lending, “it’s going to be worse than we’ve seen in the history of the modern mortgage market.” (The Washington Post)

Two-Buck Chuck and wine’s antisnob

Winemaker Fred Franzia is much hated in Napa Valley, and one reason is his super low prices. Franzia’s Bronco Wine is the fourth-largest U.S. wine company, and it is best known for its award-winning Charles Shaw brand, which retails for $2 at Trader Joe’s stores in California. Franzia says his budget wines are partly aimed at exposing pretentiousness in the industry. “What Franzia is doing, more than creating outrageous quality, is exposing a lot of mediocre people,” says wine critic Gary Vaynerchuk. “There are so many fools in the wine industry who are overpriced.” (Business 2.0 in