Stocks Looking to Push Higher Again

Stocks kicked off the first quarter mostly higher Monday after a report on manufacturing showed unexpected expansion in the sector. Stocks lost much of their gains in the final hour, however, and in the end, the Dow gained 0.6%, the S&P tacked on 0.3%, while the Nasdaq shaved off 0.1%.

Futures this Tuesday morning are up across the board.

New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman has filed suit against JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) over the sale of mortgage-backed securities at Bear Stearns during the housing bubble. JPMorgan acquired Bear Stearns a bit later, in 2008, at a steep discount in a deal backed by the government. At the time, regulators were attempting to prevent Bear from touching off a panic on Wall Street.

The suit says Bear Stearns led investors to believe that the loans in its portfolio had been carefully evaluated and would be continuously monitored. The AG says Bear didn’t do either.

Investors have lost more than $22 billion on the subprime securities that Bear issued in 2006 and 2007. The settlement is the first under the RMBS Working Group, which was set up by President Obama to go after misconduct that contributed to the financial crisis.

Elsewhere, American Express (NYSE:AXP) is paying a total of $112.5 million in refunds and fines to settle several regulators' accusations that it charged unlawful late fees, discriminated against certain card applicants because of their age, and deceived customers to pressure them to pay off old debts or buy extra credit card services.

About 250,000 customers will be getting some money back. Last week, the consumer bureau and the FDIC reached a deal with Discover to refund $200 million to its customers.

Macy’s (NYSE:M) plans to hire about 80,000 seasonal workers this holiday season, or 2,000 more than last year. The workers will be used to staff not only its Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s stores, but also its call centers, distribution centers, and online fulfillment centers.

Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT), Kohl's (NYSE:KSS), and Toys R Us have all announced plans to hire more seasonal workers this year, and they're hoping consumers will spend more money.

The National Retail Federation says ... not so fast. The group expects November and December sales to rise by 4.1% this year. Believe it or not, that's the smallest increase since 2009, and NRF's CEO says this year was especially hard to predict because of the uncertainty facing businesses and consumers.