General Electric (GE) has been stripped of their AAA credit rating by Standard & Poor’s, citing troubles within inner-workings,. but exchange traded funds (ETFs) and market are rising above it so far.

GE was cited for the poor performance of their finance unit, however, shares rose 11% as investors prepared for the worst. The Associated Press reports that S&P said on Thursday a sharp deterioration in world economies would lead to rising credit losses across GE’s finance portfolio.

As layoffs and cutbacks continue, the number of initial claims for jobless benefits rose last week, while the total number of people continuing to receive benefits set a record high. Christopher S. Rugaber for the Associated Press reports that the Labor Department reported that first-time requests for unemployment rose to 654,000 from the previous week’s upwardly revised figure of 645,000, topping analysts’ expectations.

The Commerce Department said retail sales fell by 0.1% in February, though that drop was much less than the 0.5% analysts expected.

  • SPDR S&P Retail (XRT): down 2.3% year-to-date; up 3.2% over three months

Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche agreed to pay $46.8 billion to buy 44% of Genentech (DNA). The $95-per-share deal brings Roche all of the sales of Genentech’s highly profitable cancer drugs as well as its promising research pipeline and scientific corporate culture, explains Alexander G. Higgens for the Associated Press.

Plenty of megadeals are taking place within the industry, as a push for cost savings and a rush to combine is dominating the biotech/drug market.

  • Biotech HOLDRs (BBH): down 3.4% year-to-date; up 3.7% over one week; Genentech is 45.8%

U.S. District Judge Denny Chin denied bail for Bernie Madoff and ordered him to jail after he pleaded guilty to running a Ponzi scheme. As he was led off in handcuffs, the courtroom of victims applauded. Madoff earlier spoke softly but firmly to the judge as he pleaded guilty to 11 charges in his first public comments about his crimes, saying he was “deeply sorry and and ashamed,” report Larry Neumeister and Tom Hays for the Associated Press.

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