Opening Bell: 12.19.13

Traders Seek Edge With High-Tech Snooping (WSJ)
A helicopter lifted off recently from an airfield in this remote oil town, scudded low across the flat industrial landscape and trained a heat-sensitive camera at the huge storage tanks below. Its mission: Gather intelligence for Wall Street. The grainy, infrared reconnaissance images betrayed how much oil was in each tank. That gave Genscape Inc., the company that conducts the flights, a remarkably accurate preview of a market-moving U.S. government report on oil supplies. Traders, hungry to get a jump on the official data, are willing to pay a hefty price for that intelligence. Genscape is at the vanguard of a growing industry that employs sophisticated surveillance and data-crunching technology to supply traders with nonpublic information about topics including oil supplies, electric-power production, retail traffic and crop yields. The techniques, which are perfectly legal, represent the latest advance in the longtime Wall Street practice of searching for every possible trading advantage. But the high cost of much of the new information—Genscape’s oil-supply report costs $90,000 a year—means that some forms of trading are becoming even more the province of firms with substantial resources.

Warren Buffett made $37M a day this year (NYP)
Billionaire investor Warren Buffett saw his net worth soar by an eye-popping $37 million a day this year, according to a survey out Wednesday. The Berkshire Hathaway boss benefitted from a bull market that saw shares of his conglomerate jump by more than 25 percent in 2013, boosting his net worth by $12.7 billion to $59.1 billion, according to the survey by Wealth-X. That works out to a $37 million-a-day bump in Buffett’s wealth — or an eye-popping $1.5 million an hour. While Buffet had an outstanding year, the jump in his net worth only got him to second place on the list of the world’s Top 10 richest people. Microsoft founder and Buffett bridge partner Bill Gates retained the title of world’s wealthiest person with a total net worth of $72.6 billion, up from $61.1 billion last year.

Yellen’s To-Do List Shortens at Fed (WSJ)
Now that the Fed has begun to wind down its bond-buying program, it will fall to Ms. Yellen to decide if economic conditions warrant continuing to pare the purchases or not. She will also have to decide whether and how to tweak the Fed’s promises to keep interest rates near zero for a long time if the economy fails to recover as the Fed now forecasts. And she will also have to decide how to respond if inflation remains stubbornly below the Fed’s 2% target.

Facebook, Zuckerberg, banks must face IPO lawsuit: judge (Reuters)
Facebook Inc, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg and dozens of banks must face a lawsuit accusing the social media company of misleading investors about its health before its $16 billion initial public offering, a federal judge said. In a decision made public on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet in Manhattan said investors could pursue claims that Facebook should have prior to its May 2012 IPO disclosed internal projections on how increased mobile usage and product decisions might reduce future revenue. “The company’s purported risk warnings misleadingly represented that this revenue cut was merely possible when, in fact, it had already materialized,” Sweet wrote in his 83-page decision. “Plaintiffs have sufficiently pleaded material misrepresentation(s) that could have and did mislead investors regarding the company’s future and current revenues.”

Steinberg conviction may ease Preet Bharara’s way to more (NYP)
Bharara has been circling Cohen and SAC for years, persuading six former SAC employees to plead guilty and wresting a plea from the firm. But Steinberg’s was the first SAC case to go to trial, and the jury conviction could help the government as it moves forward. First, Steinberg’s conviction could put pressure on another SAC money manager, Mathew Martoma, who has so far declined to cooperate with the government. The feds claim Martoma placed a 20-minute call to Cohen after receiving inside information that resulted in a $276 million profit at SAC. Martoma’s case goes to trial in less than three weeks, and the facts are widely believed to be more straightforward than the confusing circumstances surrounding Steinberg’s crimes. Unlike Martoma, who is alleged to have received illicit information from a doctor with knowledge of drug trials, Steinberg had five degrees of separation from the source of the illegal information he was convicted on.

Father films young son as he’s forced to run alongside car for ‘football training’ (NYDN)
A controversial video has surfaced showing a father forcing his young son to run alongside his car for “football training” while using expletives to encourage him go faster. The tiny tot, appearing only 5-years old, does his best to stay up to the vehicle’s speed while running in Crocks, but as the video shows, it’s not good enough. “We’re going eight miles per hour. Come on. Pick that s–t up,” the unidentified father calls. “This is how we train for football,” he says. “Daddy drives while you run. Get your little a– in shape.” Once outside their destination the boy momentarily stops and complains about his hip hurting. “I don’t want to hear about no excuses,” the father replies. Following his father’s orders, the boy starts running again as the man’s honking vehicle trails him up a driveway from just feet behind.

Budget Deal Easing $63 Billion in Cuts Advances in Senate (Bloomberg)
The U.S. Senate cleared and sent to President Barack Obama the first bipartisan budget produced by a divided Congress in 27 years, resolving for now spending issues that had helped spur a government shutdown in October. The $1.01 trillion budget deal passed 64-36 today eases $63 billion in automatic spending cuts, raises user fees and lowers the U.S. deficit over 10 years. The plan keeps in place about half of the reductions known as sequestration for next year, and about three-quarters of the planned cuts for 2015. Nine Republicans joined all Democrats to back the measure. Neither party liked the cuts.

BlueCrest Capital Poised for Rough Close to 2013 (WSJ)
…2013 is turning into the worst ever for the firm, which has offices in London, Geneva, New York and other cities. Ms. Braga’s fund, which manages about $16 billion, is down about 10%, through early December, amid a paucity of clear trends for the fund to wager on. Though rival funds with similar strategies also are meeting problems, the BlueCrest fund has done worse that many competitors. Meanwhile, Mr. Platt’s BlueCrest Capital International fund, which also manages about $16 billion, is flat on the year, even as the average hedge fund was up over 11% this year through November, according to the Hennessee Group LLC.

Fidelity Plants Flag In Hedge-Fund Turf (WSJ)
Fidelity Investments launched two “event-driven” mutual funds, the latest foray by the firm into a sector traditionally dominated by hedge funds. The launch on Wednesday of the Fidelity Event Driven Opportunities Fund and Fidelity Advisor Event Driven Opportunities Fund comes as alternative funds continue to pull in a record amount of investor cash. This year through November, alternative funds have taken in $88.55 billion, according to research firm Morningstar Inc., up from $18.34 billion in all of last year.

‘Soccer mom madam’ blasts turncoat ex-partner (NYP)
“You broke my heart, Jaynie!” soccer mom-madam Anna Gristina told her former junior partner in flesh, Jaynie Mae Baker, channeling her inner Don Corleone as the younger madam sashayed out of court on black stiletto boots with a no-jail sentence for promoting prostitution…Baker had signed a cooperation agreement with the DA’s office in August 2012, even though the stand-up Gristina had gone to jail to protect Baker and their high-profile johns. Over the course of several proffer sessions, Baker gave prosecutors a detailed account of business at Gristina’s pricey escort service, which catered to millionaires and power brokers on both coasts, according to still-sealed documents. Integral to the agreement that concluded Monday with Baker’s wrist-slap sentencing was Baker’s promise to testify against Gristina had the case gone to trial. “My family was vilified in a public witch hunt while Miss Baker played private footsy with [Manhattan DA] Cy Vance,” Gristina railed to reporters as Baker slinked out of the courthouse. “Forgive me if I say the public has good reason to feel screwed by Mr. Vance,” Gristina added…Gristina and Baker were arrested after they unwittingly booked a $2,000 threesome with a brunette and a blonde for an undercover in July, 2012. The two women frolicked on a bed in Gristina’s East 78th Street brothel while the undercover watched — and taped the encounter…“Right from the beginning, Miss Baker conducted herself with dignity, with class” her lawyer, Robert Gottlieb, told reporters after court. “I think everyone should take anything that Miss Gristina says with a heavy dose of a grain of salt,” he added.

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Comments (25)

  1. Posted by Disgruntled guest | December 19, 2013 at 8:05 AM

    8:05??? WTF is this crap.

  2. Posted by London Banker | December 19, 2013 at 8:59 AM

    Asking people to Tweet re. your RNS, got to be a new low

  3. Posted by Guest | December 19, 2013 at 9:24 AM

    Are you blind?

  4. Posted by Guest | December 19, 2013 at 9:26 AM

    Ob was up at 7am, just like the time stamp says, just Luke it had everyday this week. But I do think your comment could've used just one more question mark.

  5. Posted by Disgruntled guest | December 19, 2013 at 9:31 AM

    Went blind from wanking to your mom's pic.

  6. Posted by segoviacobain | December 19, 2013 at 9:41 AM

    My dad was a different animal. Once, while swimming at the subdivision pool, my father noticed me looking at a comely lass across the water, sunning with her mother. Without a word, he got up, walked over there, and got the digits of both women. Now THAT'S parenting.

  7. Posted by Guest | December 19, 2013 at 9:50 AM

    Didn't some SAC employees just jump to BlueCrest? Seems like they are jumping from the Titanic to the Costa Concordia.

  8. Posted by HLF | December 19, 2013 at 9:56 AM

    Margin call Bill.

    Risk wants stops above 80 here…..

  9. Posted by Guest | December 19, 2013 at 10:13 AM

    Is that a red neck's version of a treadmill?

  10. Posted by Can't Win | December 19, 2013 at 10:17 AM

    I am sick and tired of talking to dudes on Craigslist who tell me they are indeed Bess and want to meet up, only for them to be trannys with 8 inch dongs.

  11. Posted by Hobbes | December 19, 2013 at 10:19 AM

    “Right from the beginning, Miss Baker conducted herself with dignity, with class”

    Saying a hooker conducted herself with dignity and class is like saying traders at SAC Capital only traded the cleanest inside information.

  12. Posted by Guest | December 19, 2013 at 10:24 AM

    My father was never like that, thank goodness. No, when he sat down to teach me all about spreadsheets, he was right there beside me with calculator and automatic pencil in hand, and we worked through my monthly projected income and expenses together. A childhood memory I will always treasure!

  13. Posted by guest | December 19, 2013 at 10:26 AM

    I haven't watched the training video but assume this is how Spike from Little Giants did it. Can't argue with results.

  14. Posted by ThatsVVacc | December 19, 2013 at 10:44 AM

    Bad comment and you should feel bad

  15. Posted by Alices Restaurant | December 19, 2013 at 10:59 AM

    “You broke my heart, Jaynie!” soccer mom-madam Anna Gristina told her former junior partner in flesh, Jaynie Mae Baker, channeling her inner Don Corleone.

    I know. I know. It's a story in the New York Post about hookers. If you're doing to cite a movie though, get the characters right.

  16. Posted by Guest | December 19, 2013 at 11:43 AM

    My first thought after reading that was: this man has a bright future ahead of him in divorce law.

  17. Posted by Nitpicker | December 19, 2013 at 11:47 AM

    Technically, when Michael said that he was the head of the family and, thus, was Don Corleone. (Please tell me you don't think there was a character named Donald Corleone.)

  18. Posted by Dickflicker | December 19, 2013 at 12:33 PM

    I have nothing to add, side from the fact I flick my dick

  19. Posted by Texashedge | December 19, 2013 at 1:03 PM

    He should figuratively kill himself!

  20. Posted by Elaine B. | December 19, 2013 at 1:07 PM

    No, you're thinking of the Gordon Lightfoot.

  21. Posted by Alices Restaurant | December 19, 2013 at 1:19 PM

    True. I didn't think Vito's name was Don, I just never thought of Michael as the Don. He was Michael.

    My bad. To paraphrase Slap Shot – I'll sit now and feel shame.

  22. Posted by Texashedge | December 19, 2013 at 1:22 PM

    "But the high cost of much of the new information—Genscape’s oil-supply report costs $90,000 a year—means that some forms of trading are becoming even more the province of firms with substantial resources."

    Well, you hate to see the mom and pop oil trading firms at an unfair disadvantage.

  23. Posted by segoviacobain | December 19, 2013 at 1:35 PM

    speaking of digits, I'd trade my UBS 401K for Jaynie Mae's number….

  24. Posted by Buy side | December 19, 2013 at 3:43 PM

    90k/year = high cost?

  25. Posted by Guest | December 19, 2013 at 4:08 PM

    That's like 3 associates!

    – UBS HR