Opening Bell

Opening Bell: 03.04.14

Singapore named the world’s most expensive city (BBC)
Singapore has topped 131 cities globally to become the world’s most expensive city to live in 2014, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). The city’s strong currency combined with the high cost of running a car and soaring utility bills contributed to Singapore topping the list. It is also the most expensive place in the world to buy clothes. Singapore replaces Tokyo, which topped the list in 2013. Other cities making up the top five most expensive cities to live in are Paris, Oslo, Zurich and Sydney, with Tokyo falling to sixth place…However, not all Asian cities are tough on the wallet. India’s major cities – including Mumbai and New Delhi – were found to be among the least expensive in the world.

Japan finance minister: Gathering facts on bitcoin, unsure whether crime involved (Reuters)
Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso said on Tuesday that the government is still trying to figure out what has led to the collapse of the Tokyo-based bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox and is not sure whether crime is involved. “We still have not had a clear grasp of the situation,” Aso said in response to a reporter’s question after a cabinet meeting. “(We) don’t know if it was a crime or just a bankruptcy.” Mt. Gox, once the world’s biggest bitcoin exchange, filed for bankruptcy protection in Japan on Friday, saying it may have lost nearly half a billion dollars worth of the virtual currency due to hacking into its faulty computer system.

Mt Gox collapse could help Bitcoin, says US regulator (Telegraph)
“It’s on the one hand a setback, on the other hand it will cause further improvements in this industry and some more regulatory involvement,” Benjamin Lawsky, superintendent of New York’s Department of Financial Services, told Reuters. “It’s part of [a] shaking out,” he said on the sidelines of a banking conference in the US.

Citigroup: U.S. Sought Information From Mexico Unit (WSJ)
The New York bank said Monday it received subpoenas from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and U.S. prosecutors, three days after the bank disclosed it had found allegedly fraudulent billings at its Mexico unit that cost it up to $400 million. A regulatory filing Monday disclosed that Citigroup and related parties—including the U.S. unit of its Mexico business, Banco Nacional de Mexico, or Banamex—have received grand-jury subpoenas issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts tied to anti-money-laundering requirements. Meanwhile, Citigroup’s exposure to Russia and Ukraine came under the spotlight. The instability in the region hammered stocks and bank stocks in particular. Of major U.S. banks, Citigroup shares fell the most Monday, losing 2.1% to $47.61. So far this year, they are down 8.6%, also last among the big six U.S. banks.

Citigroup Joins JPMorgan in Seeing Trading-Revenue Drop (Bloomberg)
Citigroup finance chief John Gerspach said yesterday his firm expects trading revenue to drop by a “high mid-teens” percentage, less than a week after JPMorgan Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon said revenue from equities and fixed income was down about 15 percent. If trading at the nine largest firms slumps that much, it would extend the slide from 2010’s first quarter to 36 percent. “It sounds like more bloodletting on Wall Street,” said Jeff Davis, a managing director for the financial-institutions group at advisory firm Mercer Capital in Nashville, Tennessee. “What we are seeing is a function of investors being scared of bonds because the math is bad. No one I talk to wants to take a chance adding bonds to the portfolio.”

Australia: Snake eats crocodile after battle (BBC)
The incident at Lake Moondarra, near Mount Isa (Australia), was captured on camera by local residents on Sunday. The 10-ft snake, thought to be a python, coiled itself around the crocodile and the two struggled in the water. The snake later brought the dead crocodile onto land and ate it. Tiffany Corlis, a local author, saw the fight and took these pictures, which have been widely used in the Australian media. “It was amazing,” she told the BBC. “We saw the snake fighting with the crocodile – it would roll the crocodile around to get a better grip, and coil its body around the crocodile’s legs to hold it tight.” “The fight began in the water – the crocodile was trying to hold its head out of the water at one time, and the snake was constricting it.” “After the crocodile had died, the snake uncoiled itself, came around to the front, and started to eat the crocodile, face-first,” she added. Ms Corlis said it appeared to take the snake around 15 minutes to eat the crocodile. The snake was “definitely very full,” when it finished, she said.

As Prime Russian Trading Partner, Germany Appears Crucial to Ending Crisis (NYT)
Whether it is importing fuel from Gazprom or selling Mercedes-Benz to billionaire oligarchs, trade with Russia has played an important role in Germany’s emergence as an economic superpower over the last decade. Germany is now heavily reliant on Russia for its energy needs, importing more natural gas from Russia than any other country in Europe. But Germany’s enhanced status on the world stage — combined with the end of the commodity boom and the onset of economic stagnation in Russia — has also shifted the balance of power. Some analysts argue that it is Russia that has the most to lose if economic sanctions are ever imposed. This dynamic could offer insight into the role that the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, will play in any negotiations with the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin.

Behind the Preplanned Oscar Selfie: Samsung’s Ad Strategy (WSJ)
Samsung Electronics spent an estimated $20 million on ads to run during breaks in the Academy Awards broadcast on Sunday night. But Samsung may have got more promotional mileage from Oscars host Ellen DeGeneres during the show itself. Ms. DeGeneres toyed with a white Samsung phone during the broadcast, including when she handed a Galaxy Note 3 to actor Bradley Cooper so he could take a “selfie” photo of himself and other stars including Brad Pitt, Meryl Streep, Kevin Spacey and Jennifer Lawrence surrounding the host…the Samsung stunt didn’t come off without a hitch: many people were quick to note on Twitter that the Oscar host was also tweeting during the evening with rival Apple’s iPhone. Samsung declined to comment about Ms. DeGeneres’ iPhone usage…Samsung wasn’t the only brand that got a big plug last night. Ms DeGeneres ordered pizza for some in the audience from Big Mamma’s and Pappa’s Pizzeria in Los Angeles. The boxes carried a Coca-Cola logo, which didn’t advertise during the program. Rival Pepsi was an Oscar advertiser. “Big Mama’s and Pappa’s Pizzeria getting a thank-you note tomorrow,” read a tweet sent out last night from Wendy Clark, Coca-Cola’s senior vice president of integrated marketing communications.

Fed Lifts Veil Slowly on Bank Oversight in Era of Transparency (Bloomberg)
With the scheduled publication of annual stress-test findings in March, the Fed will for the first time describe how rising interest rates could affect the health of the nation’s biggest banks. Last year, the Fed didn’t disclose results of a similar test, even though the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Financial Research had flagged interest-rate risk as the one code-red concern in the financial system. Almost four years after the Dodd-Frank Act gave the Fed unprecedented authority over the banking industry, Democrats and Republicans alike in Congress are demanding more communication on financial risk.

JPMorgan pays $400 million to settle with Syncora over toxic loans (Reuters)
The figure was included in a financial statement for 2013 issued by Syncora Holdings Ltd on Friday. Syncora had announced an agreement on February 24 but had not revealed the amount. Brian Marchiony, a spokesman for JPMorgan, declined on Monday to comment on the Syncora settlement. Syncora brought several cases against JPMorgan to recover losses on securities created and sold by the former Bear Stearns and Co and its EMC Mortgage affiliate. JPMorgan bought Bear Stearns in 2008. The bond insurer claimed the bank misrepresented the quality of loans underlying the securities and that it was deceived into insuring them.

New Jersey honor student sues parents for school fees after they cut her off at age 18 (NYDN)
An 18-year-old New Jersey honor student and cheerleader has been tossed from her parents’ Lincoln Park home, but demands that her mother and father continue to pay her private high school and impending college costs — as well as her mounting lawyer fees, according to her lawsuit. Rachel Canning claims she’s been out of her parents’ home since her 18th birthday, Nov. 1, after her parents vowed to cut her off “from all support both financially and emotionally.” But Sean and Elizabeth Canning say their “spoiled” college-bound daughter doesn’t live by their house rules and left the home because she didn’t like the law of the land — overseen by her father, a former Lincoln Park police chief…Canning filed suit last week and is scheduled to appear with her attorney, Tanya Helfand, at 3 p.m. Tuesday in Morristown Family Court.

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37 Responses to “Opening Bell: 03.04.14”

  1. Guest says:

    Snake, so powerful.

  2. KingCo says:

    But Sean and Elizabeth Canning say their “spoiled” college-bound daughter doesn’t live by their house rules and left the home because she didn’t like the law of the land — overseen by her father, a former Lincoln Park police chief…

    Up next: an unsuccessful reality TV pilot followed by an ill-considered p0rn video.

  3. Guest says:

    Europe isn't going to stand up the Russia. They have too much money at stake. As usual, they are leaving it to the US to clean up their sh!t.

  4. London Banker says:

    "Rachel Canning, 18, claims her parents… stopped paying for her private high school, where she excelled as a cheerleader…"

    Excelled as a cheerleader?! That's a euphemism if I've ever heard one.

  5. Guest says:

    The Mt Gox guy will be kneeling 23 hours a day in a 10 sq ft box if he goes to Japanese prison. He should have picked a Scandi country to run his biz.

  6. Cassandra says:

    It's the end of the street as we know it. Decline in bond and equity trading– forex can't be doing that well either– what's left? Bitcoin derivative trading?

  7. Guest says:

    I'd take a bang sesh with Campisano and Canning any day…although her strong overbite leads me to believe there might be too much teeth involved.

    -Guy who'd still take the chance anyway

  8. __NJ__ says:

    More hookers!

  9. Guest says:

    The US and Europe should set up a ruble trading account for the MT Gox guy and let him have a go at the Micex. The Ukrainian crisis would end quickly.

  10. Guest says:

    Rachel Canning living at the home of the father of a highschool classmate. What could ever possibly go wrong?

    Living for free at the house of a classmate. About to turn eighteen. Hanging out topless on a hot summer night. Tight little panties that say Pink (inside). El Guesto entering through the front door with a camera. The female classmate joining with some melted butter and marshmallows…

  11. Honky says:

    Amazing Dealbreaker/Bonobos mash-up: