Opening Bell

Opening Bell: 12.10.12

U.S. authorities probe SAC for Weight Watchers (Reuters)
U.S. authorities are investigating Steven A. Cohen’s SAC Capital Advisors hedge fund for possible insider trading in the shares of the popular diet company Weight Watchers International Inc, according to people familiar with the matter. The investigation focuses on trading in Weight Watchers shares in the first half of 2011, when SAC Capital had taken a sizeable position in the stock, and potentially could implicate the billionaire hedge fund manager, the sources said on Friday. Regulatory filings show that Cohen’s $14 billion fund briefly held 2.1 million shares in Weight Watchers during the period under scrutiny by authorities – at which time the diet company’s stock price roughly doubled. The inquiry is in its early stages and it is not clear whether anything improper was done either by SAC Capital or Cohen himself, said the people familiar with the matter, who requested anonymity. The trading in Weight Watchers would be permissible as long as it was based on fundamental research or derived from individuals who did not have access to non-public corporate information.

Big Money Bets On Housing Rebound (NYT)
A flurry of private-equity giants and hedge funds have spent billions of dollars to buy thousands of foreclosed single-family homes. They are purchasing them on the cheap through bank auctions, multiple listing services, short sales and bulk purchases from local investors in need of cash, with plans to fix up the properties, rent them out and watch their values soar as the industry rebounds. They have raised as much as $8 billion to invest, according to Jade Rahmani, an analyst at Keefe Bruyette & Woods. The Blackstone Group, the New York private-equity firm run by Stephen A. Schwarzman, has spent more than $1 billion to buy 6,500 single-family homes so far this year. The Colony Capital Group, headed by the Los Angeles billionaire Thomas J. Barrack Jr., has bought 4,000.

Wall Street workers expecting worst bonus season since 2008 (NYP)
State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli estimates that the average bonus this year will be $101,000 — a 16.5 percent decline from last year and almost a 50 percent decline since 2006, when the average was $191,360. ‘‘I don’t think this year’s bonuses are going to be very good,’’ said Dan Shaffer, CEO of Shaffer Asset Management. ‘‘I don’t believe the typical bonuses, as we used to know them, exist anymore.’’

Obama Meets with Boehner Privately at White House (Bloomberg)
The meeting was the first known face-to-face conversation between the two leaders since Nov. 16, when Boehner and other congressional leaders sat down with Obama at the White House. They have talked on the telephone since then. Obama met with Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic minority leader, on Dec. 7.

Investors offer about $38.8 billion in Greek debt buyback (Reuters)
Greece is set to purchase back about half of its debt owned by private investors, broadly succeeding in a bond buyback that is key to the country’s international bailout, a Greek government official said on Saturday.

Hefner Husband Takes Insider Trading Into Playboy Bedroom (Bloomberg)
Christie Hefner, [daughter of Hugh and] former chief executive officer of Playboy Enterprises Inc., said she was shocked as her husband of 15 years, William Marovitz, confessed to her that he was being investigated for suspicious trading in Playboy shares. They were in their apartment atop a 42-story Lincoln Park tower overlooking the glittering Chicago skyline and Lake Michigan on a March evening in 2010. “He told me he had been contacted by the SEC,” Hefner said later in testimony before the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which didn’t accuse her of any wrongdoing. “And when did you learn your husband owned shares of Playboy?” she was asked. “In that conversation,” she replied. Hefner’s husband is just one of more than 400 persons the SEC and the U.S. Department of Justice have accused of insider trading in a crackdown in the last five years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. All involved betrayal — of clients, employers, relatives or friends. The Hefner episode and a handful of cases like it include an especially cruel breach of trust: betrayal of a wife by a husband.

Tennis star Novak buys up world’s supply of donkey cheese at £400 a pound for new restaurant chain (DM)
The cheese, known as pule, will be one of the key attractions at a chain of restaurants the Wimbledon champion and world number one is opening in his Serbian homeland…The Zasavica farm, which lies 50 miles west of the Serbian capital Belgrade, boasts a herd of 130 and is said to be the only place in the world where donkeys are milked for cheese.

Banking Industry Squirms Over European Rate Probe (WSJ)
The scandal over banks’ attempted manipulation of interest rates has mostly centered on the London interbank offered rate. But Libor’s lesser known cousin, the euro interbank offered rate, or Euribor, is facing mounting attacks. The European Union is expected soon to accuse multiple banks of attempted collusion in the setting of Euribor, according to people briefed on the probe. Barclays has already acknowledged trying to rig the rate, and other banks are likely to be pressed by regulators in the U.S., U.K. and elsewhere into similar admissions, according to industry and regulatory officials.

Mortgage Crisis Presents a New Reckoning to Banks (NYT)
Regulators, prosecutors, investors and insurers have filed dozens of new claims against Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and others, related to more than $1 trillion worth of securities backed by residential mortgages. Estimates of potential costs from these cases vary widely, but some in the banking industry fear they could reach $300 billion if the institutions lose all of the litigation. Depending on the final price tag, the costs could lower profits and slow the economic recovery by weakening the banks’ ability to lend just as the housing market is showing signs of life.

Crisis Measure Nears End (WSJ)
Barring action by Congress, the FDIC on Dec. 31 will stop providing an unlimited guarantee on zero-interest bank accounts used by businesses and municipalities for payroll and other services. The guarantee would then revert to the normal $250,000 in insurance per depositor at any given bank. If the guarantee isn’t extended, FBR Capital Markets estimates as much as $250 billion in deposits could flow out of smaller banks to large banks or big money-market mutual funds.

Stylish primate charms Toronto shoppers (The Star)
A North York Ikea store attracted an unusual customer Sunday afternoon, when a tiny monkey dressed in a fitted faux shearling coat and diapers appeared in the store’s upper parking garage around 2 p.m. “It was just running around screaming,” said shopper Bronwyn Page…“It was really cute,” said Lisa Lin, another shopper. “It was smaller than a cat.” But if the monkey had hoped to stock up on Billy bookcases or Swedish meatballs, its plans were thwarted. The diminutive shopper never made it into the store, said manager Alvaro Carmona. No one was hurt in the incident, which lasted no more than half an hour, he added. Animal Services identified the monkey as a rhesus macaque, an Asian species that is prohibited in Ontario. The monkeys are known for their ability to live in diverse habitats – although Canadian winters obviously require a warm coat. The owner of the primate turned himself in to Animal Services just after 5 p.m. He was charged with owning a prohibited animal, an offence that carries a $200 fine. The seven-month-old monkey has somehow managed to escape his owner’s car in the Ikea parking lot, said animal control officer David Behan.

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60 Responses to “Opening Bell: 12.10.12”

  1. E. Texas Gas Trader says:

    Before I mention the monkey article to the schedulers, how is "macaque" pronounced?

  2. Ikea says:

    “It was just running around screaming,” said shopper Bronwyn Page. "Like 90% of our other shoppers," confirmed manager Alvaro Carmona.

  3. Ravaging Raj says:

    Well dont look at me on this one.

  4. JP 3rd year says:

    They're gonna bone us this year.

  5. calling it says:

    Phillip Seymour Hoffman plays Steve Cohen when they get around to making a movie about the SAC case

  6. light humor says:

    Hefner husband investigated for inside her trading.

  7. guest says:

    who would have thought the weight watchers / domino's barbell would backfire? seemed so airtight.

  8. Guest says:

    What? Bought up the world supply of smegma? Can that be possible?

  9. Darko Milicic says:

    I wants the donkey cheese

  10. Victor Kiam says:

    I liked the diet so much, I bought the company. Nothing here to see.

  11. Guest says:

    If you don't want to know why it's called pule, don't ask how donkeys are milked for cheese….

  12. Guest says:

    As per the mosaic theory, knowing that raj raj stopped buying weight watchers is material but not non-public. Hence Steve Cohen should get acquitted of these charges.

    -CFA level 1 candidate

  13. Deleveraging says:

    So the monkey was running around screaming in the parking garage. To think in Red Hook they are usually running around screaming and yelling out on the streets.

    – Guy who had the dumb idea of going to Ikea in Red Hook 3 weeks ago only to remember why he had not been to an Ikea store since 1991.

  14. Monkey says:

    I was pissed. I had wanted a REAL shearling coat.

    Well, that and a banana.

  15. AHHH - MY EYES!!! says:

    Happy Warby Monday everyone!

  16. VonSloneker says:

    Hijo le, put me out to pasture in Croatia…3 shows a night for 20 years. Those Croatian burros have it good.

    – Pedro El Burro, Matamorros

  17. Shecky Sotheby says:

    Stevie A. Cohen needs some time off and decides to sneak out and go bumming around Stamford for a while just to get away. While he's out walking around he passes a pawn shop and notices a mangy old tomcat drinking from an unusual small bowl. He looks at the bowl with growing interest and makes a call to an art expert in New York City. He describes the bowl, notes that he thinks it is Asian. As people walk by he tries to cover his mouth and speak quietly. Stevie hears fantastic news on the other end of the conversation. The bowl just might be an example of Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) bowl work!! It could be worth millions!! So, he goes into the pawn shop and speaks to the owner. "I noticed that poor old tomcat drinking water from that bowl outside…" Stevie begins. "You know, I need a an old cat around my place. Rat problems you know. So I was wondering if I could buy that cat from you?" Pawn shop owner says, "Sure…." Stevie hands him a "Benjamin". "I hope this will do…" says Stevie. Then Stevie says, "You know….that old cat sure likes drinking from that bowl outside. You mind if I take the bowl with me?"

    Pawn shop owner says, "Sorry mister. No sale. That's my "lucky bowl". I think it's what's helped me sell 48 cats in the last two weeks…"

  18. Guesteban says:

    My God! Novak is going to corner the entire Croatian donkey milk market!

  19. 2 cubes over says:

    Wasn't exactly sure which direction the donkey cheese article was going to… but pleasantly surprised it. I didn't throw up, just heaved a little.

  20. Im_a_Dude says:

    the print on this website got so small and hard to read. anyone know where i can get a decent pair of reading glasses?

  21. Guest says:

    There's a monkey on my house!


  22. VonSloneker says:

    Geez, all this fuss because I was craving some Swedish Fish?

    – Mojo JoJo

  23. Kat Williams says:

    Y'all need to stop probin' my sack!

  24. Todally says:

    Great job distracting from the glasses with the glasses.

  25. Guest says:

    Ya you can milk pretty much anything with nipples.

    – Novak Focker

  26. Bess says:

    Im in incognito mode.

  27. butthead says:

    uhhh huh huh

    u said bess' thingy

  28. guest says:

    Just curious, was the owner of that monkey wearing a yellow hat?