Opening Bell: 02.14.12

Greek Economy Shrinking Rapidly (WSJ)
Greece’s gross domestic product contracted by an annual rate of 7% when adjusted for inflation, according to preliminary data reported by the Greek government statistics office Tuesday. The dire number was far worse than forecasts of a decline of up to 5%, and showed an accelerating contraction from the 5% year-to-year fall clocked in third quarter.

German Economic Expectations Turn Positive (WSJ)
German economic expectations turned positive in February for the first time since May 2011, buoyed by good U.S. economic data and progress in Greece’s negotiations with its creditors, the Center for European Economic Research, or ZEW, said Tuesday. The Greek progress improved sentiment, thus the euro-zone’s sovereign debt crisis is “less scary than three months ago,” ZEW expert Marcus Kappler said, adding however that Greece’s resolutions have raise expectations and “the resolutions have to be met.” The widely watched ZEW index rose in February for the third consecutive month, after declining for nine straight months, during which Europe’s debt crisis deepened. Outperforming forecasts for a still-negative reading, the economic expectations index rose to 5.4 points in February, the highest since April 2011, from January’s unrevised -21.6. Experts polled by Dow Jones Newswires had expected a rise to -11.6 for February. “A majority of the experts [polled by ZEW] expect an improvement but it isn’t euphoria,” Mr. Kappler said.

Lin’s Lifting MSG Above The Rim (NYP)
Knicks fans, after crowding through the turnstiles at Madison Square Garden this month and pushing TV ratings to season highs — the better to drink in the heroics of the suddenly star-lit Jeremy Lin — yesterday elbowed their way into MSG stock, pushing it to a 52-week high. It was the ninth-straight session gain for the stock of Knicks’ parent company, MSG, the longest in over a year. It closed at $32.32, up 3.8 percent.

Volcker Rule Faces Harsh Critics (Bloomberg)
In scores of comment letters filed yesterday, bankers and their trade associations said the rule would increase risk, raise costs for investors, hurt U.S. competitiveness and be vulnerable to legal challenge. “Regardless of how the final rule turns out, it will be a shock to the U.S. financial system, as banking entities will need to take extraordinary measures to attempt to implement it,” Barry Zubrow, executive vice president of JPMorgan Chase & Co. said in a 67-page letter. Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America Corp. were set to submit their letters to regulators by yesterday.

Goldman Sachs Seeks Volcker Rule Exception (Bloomberg)
The bank, which says it owns the world’s largest family of so-called mezzanine loan funds, is asking regulators to loosen proposed limits on bank investments in such pools. Four Goldman Sachs employees and three lawyers from Sullivan & Cromwell LLP met on Feb. 2 with Federal Reserve Board staff to discuss Volcker rule limits on banks’ fund investments, according to a summary published yesterday by the central bank.

Picture Newt Gingrich, Celebrating Valentine’s Day (NYDN)
The struggling Republican presidential candidate coyly dished on his Valentine’s Day plans for third wife Callista, promising she would not be disappointed. Gingrich was at a campaign stop in El Monte Calif. on Monday when an audience member asked what his Feb. 14 plans were. “All I can promise is that I believe she will be quite happy,” the ex-House Speaker said to hoots and whistles from the audience…Gingrich then raised his arms in the air to wave off further questions, quickly adding “No more details!”

Analysis: Brewing model saves Germany from bankers’ droop (Reuters)
Raise a glass of beer in a German bar and the chances are it was made just down the road to a simple, ancient formula. German banking works in much the same way, rooted in local communities and structured in a way that discourages aggressive international expansion, innovation and complexity. Local banks dominate savings and loans in Europe’s largest economy. There are hundreds of small players, which by their very existence help limit the economic fallout from bank failures and makes sure banks do not get ‘too big to fail.’ The prevalence of municipally-owned savings and customer-owned cooperative banks, the microbreweries of the banking world, ensures a steady supply of business loans, reducing the likelihood of a credit crunch and helping to protect Germany’s coveted triple-A sovereign debt rating.

Empire State Building seeks $1B IPO (NYP)
The company that runs Manhattan’s most famous skyscraper, along with 11 other office properties, plans to sell shares to the public in a bid to raise a lofty $1 billion. The Empire State Realty Trust, led by father-and-son duo Peter and Anthony Malkin, will list its shares on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol “ESB,” according to a regulatory filing yesterday.

Bank of Japan Surprises by Easing, Setting Price Goal (WSJ)
BOJ Gov. Masaaki Shirakawa said that outside pressure was not involved in the central bank’s decision. “The BOJ never succumbs to political pressure when it implements monetary policy,” he said, though he added it does listen to a “wide-range of opinions, including discussion in the parliament and among economists and market participants.”

Mayor, 70, Nods Little to Age (WSJ)
Michael Rubens Bloomberg took the oath of office as New York City’s 108th mayor when he was 59 years old. He turns 70 on Tuesday, and if he finishes his third term as expected next year, he would be the oldest serving mayor since the five boroughs were consolidated in 1898. Mr. Bloomberg may get teased about his advanced years this Valentine’s Day, but the mayor typically hasn’t allowed his senior status to get him down. The billionaire likes to say tomorrow will always be his best day, and maybe it doesn’t hurt that 25-year-old Lady Gaga kissed him smack on the lips this New Year’s Eve. In honor of Mr. Bloomberg’s 70th birthday, The Wall Street Journal asked two image consultants to look at photographs of the mayor and evaluate whether time and the rigors of City Hall have accelerated his aging, as some believe the White House dramatically speeds up the aging of presidents. Their conclusion: The mayor looks good. “He hasn’t really changed that much,” said Laura Rubeli, a Las Vegas-based image consultant who is originally from New York. “For a 70-year-old man, I think he looks fantastic. I really do. In my opinion, he looks fabulous.” During an appearance Monday at a fashion-related event in Midtown Manhattan, he received high praise from designer Diane von Furstenberg. When a reporter asked if she had any fashion advice for the mayor, she said the mayor is “so hot—he doesn’t need any.”

40 comments (hidden to protect delicate sensibilities)
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Comments (40)

  1. Posted by Inquisitive Soul | February 14, 2012 at 10:01 AM

    So will I have a better chance at Brother Jimmy's or Dorrian's tonight?

  2. Posted by Banker Chick | February 14, 2012 at 10:04 AM

    If those are the options, I'd say just kill yourself.

  3. Posted by Guest | February 14, 2012 at 10:14 AM

    Make it a 'cultural experience' and head down to a food truck.

  4. Posted by bluehorseshoe | February 14, 2012 at 10:20 AM

    penn station tacobell

  5. Posted by pip pip | February 14, 2012 at 10:20 AM

    Grand Central Taco Bell

  6. Posted by Shecky Cupid | February 14, 2012 at 10:30 AM

    So a Goldman Sachs traders comes home from another 80 hour week and asks his wife what she wants for Valentine's Day. "Diamonds….art?" he suggests.

    She replies, "I want a divorce!"

    Goldman Sachs guy says, "I wasn't planning on spending that much."

  7. Posted by Lax Bro | February 14, 2012 at 10:31 AM

    So not chill.

  8. Posted by Texashedge | February 14, 2012 at 10:38 AM

    He looks so reagle in that pic

  9. Posted by Guest | February 14, 2012 at 10:38 AM

    I wonder if Warrant will ever get back together.

  10. Posted by Rodney MacLuhan | February 14, 2012 at 10:42 AM

    A JP Morgan trader and his wife are watching Who Wants To Be A Millionaire while in bed. The trader turned to her and said, 'Do you want to have sex?' 'No,'she answered. The trader then said, 'Is that your final answer?' She didn't even look at him that time, simply saying 'Yes.'

    So the trader said,'Then I'd like to phone a friend.' And that's when the fight started…

  11. Posted by 2 Easy | February 14, 2012 at 10:43 AM

    when asked about gaga las vegas image consultant remarked "For a 70-year-old man, I think he looks fantastic."

  12. Posted by Guest | February 14, 2012 at 10:54 AM

    Bloomberg – so hot right now.

    – Jacobim M.

  13. Posted by Whoops | February 14, 2012 at 11:08 AM

    That's right, nothing ever goes wrong with German Banks!

    -IKB Deutsche Industriebank MD

  14. Posted by VandelayCapital | February 14, 2012 at 11:20 AM

    Anyone know a good machete store in NYC?

    S. Alito

  15. Posted by Texashedge | February 14, 2012 at 11:24 AM

    Can't read those words without immediately hearing Radiohead

  16. Posted by Wylie Coyote, CFA | February 14, 2012 at 11:25 AM

    I tried, Sam, but it was hard to see through the mask and we know how Breyer can bob and weave…

    – C. Thomas

  17. Posted by guest | February 14, 2012 at 11:27 AM

    Two words, Kate Upton

  18. Posted by Rich Dickman | February 14, 2012 at 11:48 AM

    we think of you more as a fox and hound, battery
    pak city guy, guy.

    thats your gig

  19. Posted by Slacker | February 14, 2012 at 11:52 AM

    Only post of the day before noon. Nice work.

  20. Posted by guest | February 14, 2012 at 11:56 AM

    Why don't you tell us what you've done…other than post only one (!) dickbag comment on dealbreaker.

  21. Posted by R. Chambers | February 14, 2012 at 12:06 PM

    Well if he's going with the latter option why limit himself like that?

  22. Posted by birdseye | February 14, 2012 at 12:22 PM

    the same things we all do every day.

    type, talk on the phone, move pieces of paper around, talk to people seated
    nearby, stare at screen, televisions.

    everyone does the same thing.

    its all about the bucks kid, the rest is just conversation.

  23. Posted by Matt | February 14, 2012 at 12:25 PM

    I'll be posting something soon. On word 15,000, only 4,000 more to go.

  24. Posted by PermaGuestII | February 14, 2012 at 12:42 PM

    Nothing at all, ever!

    -Bankgesselschaft Berlin Sr. VP

  25. Posted by Motivational Speaker | February 14, 2012 at 12:52 PM

    Come on, make it a round 20,000, take some pride in your work.

  26. Posted by VonSloneker | February 14, 2012 at 12:52 PM

    The Regal Beagle

    – The Ghost of J. Tripper

  27. Posted by Slacker | February 14, 2012 at 12:55 PM

    I've now done two things. The first was note that I came to this site to read something, but alas there is no new content. The second was to check an overly aggressive dealbreaker commenter who got out of pocket.

  28. Posted by trojan_ | February 14, 2012 at 1:48 PM

    egg mcmuffin is the jeremy lin of breakfast sandwiches

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