A few quick notes from Europe: Berlusconi was expelled from parliament in Italy for his role in a tax-fraud scheme. Stripped of parliamentary immunity, he almost immediately faced new criminal charges, this time involving bribery. . . . Also in Italy, troubled bank Monte dei Paschi is shutting down its back-office operations at the end of the year and laying off more than a thousand workers. This step is presented as a cost-cutting move but may also be seen as a preliminary step toward shutting down the bank while selling off some branches. . . . The European economy in general is seen as doing better, but while Spain saw its debt upgraded, the Netherlands and France have seen downgrades this month.
In the United States, today is Black Friday, the busiest day of the year at retail. Early indications are generally favorable for the state of the U.S. economy and consumer confidence in particular, which were shaken by a near-default experience barely a month ago.