Much of the country continues to suffer from the economic downturn, with homeowner equity eroding, tight credit conditions for small businesses and low interest rates hammering savers. Unemployment remains high and taxpayers remain on the hook for bank debt that is guaranteed by the government. The Federal Reserve gave several banks, including JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, the green light to increase dividends and expand their share buybacks. "That's good news, at least in the short run for bank investors, but it is a dubious development for everyone else," according to this New York Times editorial.

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