A new name in the race for 2016, auto sales come in mixed and subprime lending gets a boost

Stocks are retreating today from the highs that brought the Nasdaq Composite (^IXIC) above 5000 for the first time in fifteen years yesterday. Still, Yahoo Finance Senior Columnist Michael Santoli doesn’t think today’s action has as much to do with selling at Nasdaq 5000 as many pundits would have you believe.

“All the indexes had a rough start to the year,” he notes, before pointing out that since then stocks surged “seven percent in [the month of February] plus the first trading day of March. That shows you that we actually went a long way in a hurry and that’s what we’re digesting now. It’s not really about the 5000 hoopla.”

Also of note, the CBOE volatility index (^VIX) spent much of the past month slowly sliding before popping seven percent today to above the 13 level.

Auto sales
After a very solid January automakers are reporting a disappointing February today. Sales growth missed expectations at Chrysler (FCAU) and General Motors (GM) while at Ford (F), sales actually dropped from last year.

Santoli points out that a strong January would make for a weaker February given the fact that most consumers don’t buy cars very often. “I do think there’s some fatigue in the car boom,” he says, though he doesn’t believe the broader cycle of strength for the industry is over.

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Yahoo Finance’s Aaron Task pointed out gas prices and how they may have weighed on the industry. “The average American is taking the savings from lower gas prices putting it in the bank or paying off bills,” he says, citing articles in both the Wall Street Journal and New York Times today. “[I] think a lot of people who were able to get a new car have already got a new car.”

Subprime leader
Wall Street is celebrating the creation of a new subprime-lending leader from the spare parts of two financial giants at the center of the global financial crisis.

Springleaf Holdings Inc. (LEAF), a former subprime lending division of American International Group Inc. (AIG), has agreed to buy Citigroup Inc.’s (C) OneMain Financial, for $ 4.25 billion in cash.

The deal – which has been anticipated for a while but was cut at a far lower price than analysts expected – sent Springleaf shares soaring by as much 30% this morning to more than $ 52.

The road to 2016
And finally, another Republican is taking a big step towards throwing his hat in the ring for 2016. Retired pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson announced today that he is establishing a presidential exploratory committee.

Carson would fall into the Libertarian category that Task thinks is attractive to many on Wall Street who fancy themselves the same. Carson is “going to put a lot of people on notice that they are going to have to deal with this guy,” Task says, “and Wall Street, they’ll fund him if for no other reason than to put pressure on some of the other candidates to come around to their way of thinking.”

On the other side of the aisle is HIllary Clinton who may have encountered a hurdle on the path to the Democratic nomination. While Secretary of State Clinton used a personal email instead of a “state.gov” address, thus avoiding rules that all correspondence be saved on government servers.

Reports today suggest that current Secretary of State John kerry is in fact the first ever to use a “state.gov” address but that hasn’t deflected any criticism from Clinton.

Still, Santoli thinks that unless there is ”something very specific and damning in those emails” Clinton will survive the bump in the road to the White House.

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