"What we're really focused on is the banking institutions and what is the quality of their earnings, what is the quality of their revenues," said Keith Bliss, Cuttone director of sales and marketing. He said two things are "vastly important" when looking at these companies. One is net interest margin. "Right now it's been shrinking for the big banks primarily because of the low interest rate environment and the flat yield curve that we've had for the last two years." "The other is the loan-to-deposit ratio," Bliss said. Most banks, to make money, want to be at a 100% loan-to-deposit ratio. "Most of them are riding in the 70% category right now, which means they want to lend the money out, but they're just not finding good quality borrowers," he explained. Bliss said that it's expected that the insurers will be weak as they're going to have to pay out their claims on Hurricane Sandy, which are substantial. In midday Monday, President Barack Obama said during a media conference that if the debt ceiling is not raised, the U.S. may be tipped into recession. On the other hand, if "politics don't get in the way," Washington will have a good year. "Congress must authorize me to pay for those items of spending they have already authorized," he said. A number of Federal Reserve officials spoke Monday ahead of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's scheduled 4:30 p.m. EST speech on monetary policy and the U.S. economy at the University of Michigan with Ford School Dean Susan Collins. "Fed Chairman Bernanke is speaking on the longer term challenges for the U.S. economy," said Paul Donovan, global economist at UBS. "There are quite a few of these. The fiscal position remains very much in focus, and this is likely to be where markets keep their attention." Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart said during a talk on the economic outlook at the Rotary Club of Atlanta that the Fed's open-ended bond purchase isn't "without bound," and the program is not "QE Infinity." He stressed that in determining how long the purchase programs should continue, the FOMC has indicated that it intends to assess labor market developments on the one hand and review the program's efficacy and costs on the other. "The accumulating purchases of bonds could complicate the FOMC's efforts to withdraw monetary stimulus when the appropriate time comes. We have tested tools for exit, but it will be uncharted territory," said Lockhart. Before Lockhart's speech, San Francisco Fed President John Williams said during his keynote speech on the economic outlook to an industry strategy symposium in California that he anticipated that the continued purchases of mortgage-backed securities and longer-term Treasury securities would be needed well into the second half of 2013. No major U.S. economic releases were expected for Monday. European markets were giving up earlier gains as investors waited for the momentum to pick up for earnings season. The FTSE 100 in London closed off 0.22%, while the DAX in Germany finished up 0.18%. Hong Kong's Hang Seng closed up 0.64% after the China Securities Regulatory Commission Chairman Guo Shuqing said the country could significantly raise the quota for foreign investment in Chinese equity markets.