Opening Bell: 02.04.14

U.S. Banks Eased Lending Standards in Late 2013 (WSJ)
Banks generally eased their lending policies for commercial and industrial loans in the fourth quarter, citing increased competition and less uncertainty about the economy, according to the Fed’s quarterly survey of senior bank loan officers.

Anglo Irish executives blamed for Irish banking crisis go on trial (Guardian)
Three leading figures in the defunct and disgraced Anglo Irish Bank – Sean FitzPatrick, Pat Whelan and William McAteer – will each face 16 charges of unlawfully providing financial assistance to individuals for the purpose of buying shares in Anglo Irish Bank in 2008. All of the charges relate to transactions with 16 individuals who allegedly received financial assistance from the accused trio between 10 July and 17 July 2008. The three former bankers deny all the charges against them. Among the star witnesses expected to give evidence will be Ireland’s one-time richest man, Sean Quinn, who borrowed billions from the bank to fund a global property portfolio during the Celtic Tiger boom years. When property prices collapsed across the world, Quinn owed billions and had to file for bankruptcy.

Euro May Be Resurfacing as a Safe Haven (WSJ)
The chief driver of the change has been the euro zone’s large and growing current-account surplus—a broad measure of trade—analysts at BNP Paribas say. The surplus has several effects. For one, it means steady demand for euros: The euro zone is exporting more than it is importing. The current-account surplus in November widened to €23.5 billion, the highest ever. The ECB’s low interest rates also makes loans in euros attractive. Overseas borrowers can use them to fund riskier, high-yielding investments elsewhere, much as investors have long funded investments with ultracheap borrowing in Japanese yen.

With Fortune Falling, a 1 Percent Divorce (NYT)
It was into [740 Park] that Elizabeth and Kent Swig stepped during a season of high financial spirits. That the Swigs managed to scale such heights surprised no one: They were something of a royal couple in property circles. Their marriage, in 1987, had united two of America’s great real estate clans, the Macklowes of New York on her side, and the Swigs of San Francisco on his. By the time the couple arrived on Park Avenue, in 2002, Kent Swig, a charismatic dealmaker with a surfer-dude demeanor, was already starting to build a name for himself with equal parts debt and daring. As the onetime protégé of his father-in-law, Harry B. Macklowe, the powerful New York property developer, Mr. Swig was soon credited with helping transform the dull-as-bond-tables financial district into a fashionable residential address. In a business where there was always revolving credit and a bigger deal, the only way, it seemed, was up. At the peak, his properties were worth an easy $3 billion. Then Lehman Brothers went bust and the bottom fell out, and the Swigs’ life collapsed beneath them, in a 10-figure version of the great American housing crisis. Creditors called in loans. Mr. Swig had personally guaranteed an estimated $116 million of debts. Lawsuits flew. One business partner struck Mr. Swig with an ice bucket.

A Lonely Bet Against Portugal’s Debt (Dealbook)
…while he may not bring with him the buzz of billionaire hedge fund moguls like Daniel S. Loeb and William A. Ackman, David Salanic, the chief executive of Tortus Capital, has his own target — Portugal — and it is bigger in size than any of the major corporations that have come under attack by his larger peers. Putting it bluntly, he said he believed that the country, despite accolades for its economic reform efforts, would soon default on its private sector bonds — in the same way Greece did in 2012…His thesis is that Portugal, with one of the slowest growth rates of any country in Europe, is in no position to make good on its debt, which, at 128 percent of gross domestic product, is on the verge of passing Italy to become the second-largest in the euro zone after Greece. Moreover, Mr. Salanic said he believed that the country’s debt was understated and that if you added in debts guaranteed by the state, as well as other off-balance-sheet transactions that state-owned corporations have put in place with foreign banks, the true figure approaches 150 percent of economic output.

Police: Man bites off brother’s ear at Super Bowl party (USAT)
A man here is accused of pulling a Mike Tyson, biting off part of his brother’s right ear following a Super Bowl party. Sean Fallon-Nebbia, 27, was charged with first-degree assault, a felony, after he and his brother fought at the tail end of a Super Bowl party in Fallon-Nebbia’s apartment, just before midnight Sunday, according to Rochester City Court documents. He is also accused of punching his brother, Frank Fallon-Nebbia, in the face several times, rendering him unconscious when emergency responders arrived…Court papers allege that the brothers drank more than a bottle of whiskey together at the Super Bowl party and were roughhousing after the game when the incident occurred. A doctor who treated the injured brother told police that the ear was permanently disfigured, court documents show. Another resident of the apartment told police that the brothers were drunk, were “play wrestling,” and latched onto one another before they “turned violent and aggressive.”

Government likely to exhaust debt-ceiling options soon, Lew warns (WaPo)
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew urged Congress on Monday to act quickly to raise the federal debt limit, saying he will run short of cash to pay the nation’s bills by the end of the month without additional borrowing authority. Enforcement of the debt limit is suspended, but it will come back into force Friday under the terms of a deal lawmakers struck in the fall. That leaves Lew bumping up against the limit in tax-filing season, he said Monday, when he will have far less flexibility to juggle the books and ward off disaster. “Unlike other recent periods when we have had to use extraordinary measures to continue financing the government, this time these measures will give us only a brief span of time,” Lew said in a speech at the Bipartisan Policy Center. “Given these realities, it is imperative that Congress move right away to increase our borrowing authority.”

Buffett, Bezos, Brin: Top Execs Ride 2013 Rally (WSJ)
Warren Buffett, Jeffrey Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg and a handful of other top executives notched multibillion-dollar paper gains from their companies’ shares in 2013, highlighting the outsize winnings some corporate insiders made during last year’s rally. Mr. Buffett’s holdings of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. appreciated by $12.7 billion last year. Amazon.com Inc. shares held by Mr. Bezos jumped by $12 billion in 2013, while the value of Mr. Zuckerberg’s stake in Facebook Inc surged by $12 billion.

Insider case to jury as Martoma awaits fate (NYP)
In closing arguments Monday, prosecutors reminded the 12-person jury of the evidence they heard over the four-week trial — including testimony that Martoma got illegal tips from a drug-trial insider a week before the public did and then called his boss, SAC founder Steve Cohen. With the hot news in hand, Cohen sold out of a $700 million position in Wyeth and Elan shares — and then shorted the two stocks, it is alleged.

The Story Behind ‘Milk Road,’ The Bitcoin Cookie Stand (Forbes)
When her 8-year-old’s elementary school class was studying the concept of money last year, Holly sent the teacher a note advising her to include virtual currencies in the lesson. The teacher never responded to the email. Holly decided she would teach the kids herself, with a real world lesson. When they decided to take their Christmas gift cookie stand to the farmer’s market to sell cookies, Holly set up a Bitcoin wallet for them and printed out the QR code so they might get a chance to see what a Bitcoin transaction is like. “Noe Valley is a neighborhood where lots of Facebook and Google people live so I thought they might know about Bitcoin and want to use it,” she says.

23 comments (hidden to protect delicate sensibilities)
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Comments (23)

  1. Posted by Shazar's FUPA | February 4, 2014 at 9:51 AM

    I smell therefore I am.

  2. Posted by ThatsVVacc | February 4, 2014 at 9:51 AM

    I feel like Dogecoin would have been the more appropriate virtual currency for teaching a 5-year old…

  3. Posted by Guest | February 4, 2014 at 10:02 AM

    My new address is 275 Muscle Milk Road…it's exclusive so don't even try ….

    -Gaspacino

  4. Posted by Guest | February 4, 2014 at 10:04 AM

    " One business partner struck Mr. Swig with an ice bucket."

    No point in even reading past this line.

  5. Posted by guest | February 4, 2014 at 10:11 AM

    It’s so cold outside I actually saw Bill de Blasio with his hands in his own pockets for a change.

    -740 Park Ave Pigeon

  6. Posted by Guest | February 4, 2014 at 10:17 AM

    "Word went out that the Swigs might face foreclosure."

    Wow, what a drama! I have to think that people would be interested in this, following the triumphs and disappointments as they unfold, and offering sympathy and support. They could start up their own blog – I wonder if iamfacingforeclosure.com is available?

  7. Posted by Guest Juror | February 4, 2014 at 10:35 AM

    Guilty. Neeeeeexxxxt!

  8. Posted by Guest | February 4, 2014 at 10:45 AM

    Seriously annoying mother and child in bitcoin cookie stand. I would complain to the school for allowing her to push bitcoins in class. What's next? The kid inviting Ty Beanie Baby guy in to class to discuss manipulating the market for little stuffed animals and tax evasion?

    Wrong on all levels.

  9. Posted by Butner/Lompoc Warden | February 4, 2014 at 10:48 AM

    Whoah. Indian wing here is almost full.

  10. Posted by Guest | February 4, 2014 at 10:54 AM

    One business partner struck Mr. Swig with an ice bucket.

    One business partner struck Mr. Swig with a Loro Piana cashmere jumper.

    One business partner struck Mr. Swig with a puff of smoke from his Cohiba

    One business partner struck Mr. Swig with a splash of 1962 Petrus from his wine glass.

    One business partner struck Mr. Swig with the back of his Richard Mille watch……

  11. Posted by Mr. Bouvier | February 4, 2014 at 11:14 AM

    I'm surprised, and don't really believe you are allowed to have a mortgage on a 740 park place.

  12. Posted by Otho | February 4, 2014 at 11:22 AM

    What the hell are you talking about. Worst comment since early October.

  13. Posted by Prince Alibaba | February 4, 2014 at 11:50 AM

    Would love to see the Winkle-Shreks standing behind a bitcoin lemonade stand

  14. Posted by Guest | February 4, 2014 at 12:07 PM

    Kent,

    Call me. I have some ideas on how to keep this in court for the next 20 years.

    Patty

  15. Posted by Guest | February 4, 2014 at 12:50 PM

    Not a doubt in my mind Harry Macklowe's private investigator's discovered Kent was cheating on his daughter.

  16. Posted by Rebecca M. | February 4, 2014 at 1:07 PM

    Your right, damnit! Now we're teaching our children evolution of money?!? Those fucking liberals forced us to teach human evolution, now money evolves. Next you're going to tell our kids, dogs can turn into coins!

  17. Posted by Rebecca M. | February 4, 2014 at 1:08 PM

    *You're

    -I would apologize, but what part of UM student do you not get?

  18. Posted by Puck It | February 4, 2014 at 1:28 PM

    Yes!

    — B Quick

    Yes!

    —Gov Christie

  19. Posted by guest | February 4, 2014 at 1:39 PM

    that was what I immediately thought.

  20. Posted by R. Kiyosaki | February 4, 2014 at 2:05 PM

    Wonder what Casey's up to these days…

  21. Posted by Guest | February 4, 2014 at 2:18 PM

    I though maybe he's just a delicate silver spoon brat who cracked when things got choppy and the old man didn't want his only daughter to be married to such a bitch-ass dude … but the level of disdain is so lofty, I'm thinking Kent was found to enjoy prostitutes. Prostitutes (and unprotected sex with the Mrs) will certainly get the in-laws attention.

  22. Posted by AAA | February 4, 2014 at 2:32 PM

    It's all shit. It's all shit.

  23. Posted by EuroGuest | February 4, 2014 at 2:47 PM

    "I'm thinking Kent was found to enjoy prostiutes."

    Well wtf do you want! Would you prefer him to do some prostitutes and not enjoy it? Jeez, Americans are so prude.