Opening Bell: 03.13.14

Goldman Sachs Sees Bitcoin Future in Payments Over Money (Bloomberg)
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. analysts see Bitcoin as an innovative payments technology while doubting that it will evolve into a true alternative currency, according to a research report released today. In the report, titled “All About Bitcoin,” the researchers write that they examined multiple views of the digital currency by people inside and outside of Goldman Sachs. “So where does that leave us? With the conclusion that Bitcoin likely can’t work as a currency, but some sense that the ledger-based technology that underlies it could hold promise,” the report said.

Ex-Banker’s Plea Deal Outlines Trail of a Tax-Evasion Scheme (WSJ)
Around 2001, Credit Suisse signed an agreement with the IRS in which it agreed to withhold taxes from accounts held by Americans and prohibit them from holding U.S. investments. Afterward, the bank’s compliance department told bankers, including Mr. Bachmann and his bosses, not to talk about U.S. securities with U.S. customers, according to the statement. But the bankers ignored it, according to the statement. After the session, Mr. Bachmann complained about the restrictions. An executive told him something to the effect of: “You know what we expect of you-don’t get caught,” the statement said.

Senate’s Fannie Mae Wind-Down Faces High Political Hurdles (Bloomberg)
Senate Banking Committee leaders said the proposal, which they plan to release later this week, would replace the two U.S.-owned mortgage financiers with government bond insurance that would kick in only after private capital suffered severe losses. It remains unclear whether the measure can gain the support it would need in the next four months, before lawmakers’ attention shifts to midterm elections. A Democratic Senate aide said leadership is currently unenthusiastic about legislation that would eliminate the companies. “It’s possible, but it’s certainly not probable,” said Mark Calabria, a former aide on the Senate banking panel who now directs financial regulation studies at the Cato Institute, a Washington-based research organization that supports free markets. “You’re looking at maybe a 10 percent chance of a bill getting to the president’s desk.”

Emotions Vented Online Are Contagious, Study Finds (WSJ)
First, the researchers found that a rainy day directly influenced the emotional tenor of a person’s Facebook posts. The effect was small but significant—the number of negative posts rose 1.16%, while the number of positive comments fell 1.19%. That, in turn, affected the Facebook status of one or two friends in other cities where it wasn’t raining. Each additional positive post resulted in a further 1.75 positive posts among friends; while each negative post yielded 1.29 more negative posts by friends, the researchers said. Posts were sorted by whether they contained positive or negative language, such as the word “sad” or “happy.” To strip out the effect of topic contagion, the researchers removed any status updates that were actually about the weather. “We wanted posts where it is raining on you and it is making you write negative posts that are not about the weather,” Dr. Fowler said. With about 1.2 billion active users, a volatile upbeat or downbeat mood could quickly spread through Facebook, Dr. Fowler said. “It is going to have implications for financial markets, which have bubbles and busts, and it has implications for political activity,” he said.

Coffee Cravers Ignoring Bean-Price Surge for Caffeine Fix (Bloomberg)
Doreen Cappelli is so hooked on her morning cappuccino that she says she’d pay a lot more to get it. “I don’t drink wine and alcohol,” Cappelli, 52, said after buying the $3.25 drink at Blue Bottle Coffee at San Francisco’s Ferry Building, in the shadow of the Bay Bridge. “Coffee is one of my pleasures in life. I would pay double.” While prices probably won’t go up that much just yet, pressure is growing on the $80 billion U.S. coffee industry as the cost of arabica beans used in high-end brews skyrockets. Futures in New York jumped 85 percent this year to $2.053 a pound. By May, they may reach $3, the highest since 2011, said Judy Ganes-Chase, an industry consultant in Panama City, Panama, who has been analyzing the market for three decades.

Police say Iowa man tried to trade sex for a boat trailer (WQAD)
Stan Syring, 37, of Clarence, met with an undercover Marion, Iowa Police officer who responded to his Craigslist ad Tuesday, March 4, 2014. The two met the following Monday, March 10, and agreed to an undisclosed sex act in exchange for Syring getting a boat trailer.

After Mexico fraud, Citi finds other three sets of suspect loans (Reuters)
Citigroup Inc, which recently discovered it made some $400 million in fraudulent loans to a company in Mexico, found three other sets of smaller loans that may be suspicious, the bank’s chief financial officer told a group of investors last week. The three sets of problem loans were for less than $10 million each, and the bank was reviewing its underwriting and monitoring processes, Sanford C Bernstein analysts who attended last week’s presentation wrote in a report dated Wednesday. “Management is confident that this is an isolated issue,” according to the report, which was based on CFO John Gerspach’s remarks on March 5 to a small investor conference hosted by the brokerage in Boston.

Bank of England’s Mark Carney and Other Central Bankers Face Tough Decisions About Raising Interest Rates (WSJ)
“Everyone wants to know exactly when you’re going to do something,” said Mr. Carney, a 48-year-old Canadian, in a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal. “We can’t tell them something we don’t know ourselves.” What he can say, he added, is “we’re not going to raise interest rates until the economy can really sustain it.”

Billionaire selling 63rd Street pad — Rolls-Royce included (NYP)
Fertilizer czar and Carpathian billionaire Alexander Rovt, estimated by Forbes to be worth $1.1 billion, is putting his townhouse at 232 E. 63rd St., built in 1925, on the market for $25 million today. Rovt’s Phantom Rolls-Royce, kept at the mansion, is included in the purchase price.

Street May Be Denied ‘Volcker’ Victory (WSJ)
Bankers have been pressing regulators to grant some relief for activities in a $300 billion market for loans to U.S. companies, much as they did for Volcker-rule requirements affecting another type of complex debt instrument held by banks. Without such relief, they warn, the availability of corporate loans could be crimped because banks will have to either sell or restructure the instruments. The banks’ arguments have so far failed to convince regulators such relief is necessary, according to people familiar with regulators’ thinking.

Meet Jonathan, St Helena’s 182-year-old giant tortoise (BBC)
“He is virtually blind from cataracts, has no sense of smell – but his hearing is good,” Joe tells me. At 182, Jonathan may be the oldest living land creature. Jonathan is a rare Seychelles Giant. His lawn-fellows hail from the Aldabra Atoll in the Indian Ocean. Aldabra Giants number about 100,000, but only one small breeding population of Seychelles tortoises exists…Nobody knows why Jonathan ended up in St Helena. During the 17th Century ships could contain hundreds of easily-stacked tortoises, like a fast-food takeaway. In the Galapagos islands alone around 200,000 tortoises are thought to have been killed and eaten at this time. How did Jonathan avoid this fate? Maybe he became a curio for Hudson Janisch, governor in the 1880s. Thirty-three governors have come and gone since then, and nobody wants Jonathan to die on their watch. Mark Capes [current Governor of the British Overseas Territories in the South Atlantic] is certainly keen “that he should be treated with the respect, attention and care he surely deserves”…Jonathan loves having his neck stroked. His head extends out from his shell to a surprising length…Though giant tortoises like Jonathan can live up to 250 years, the community has already drafted a detailed plan for when he finally pops his shell – dubbed “Operation Go Slow”. It will ensure all runs smoothly when the inevitable happens, in fact his obituary has already been written. It has also been decided that stuffing Jonathan would be a rather morbid and outdated thing to do. Instead his shell will be preserved and will go on display in St Helena.

18 comments (hidden to protect delicate sensibilities)
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Comments (18)

  1. Posted by HotKarl | March 13, 2014 at 8:57 AM

    And I thought Lynn Tilton was the oldest livig land creature…

  2. Posted by RE: Iowan motorboat | March 13, 2014 at 9:57 AM

    "Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself" – Milton Friedman

  3. Posted by Guest | March 13, 2014 at 10:12 AM

    "Officer, total misunderstanding. I was just intending to demonstrate that I can in fact suck the chrome off a trailer hitch bumper."

  4. Posted by Looter Skibby | March 13, 2014 at 10:16 AM

    Quit defiling my ocelot!

  5. Posted by Guest | March 13, 2014 at 10:37 AM

    Jonathan Shazar?

  6. Posted by assaq | March 13, 2014 at 10:41 AM

    Hey libs? Still don't support 3 strikes laws? 60 + arrests, and who knows how many other crimes never caught for?

  7. Posted by Another Dumbass | March 13, 2014 at 10:54 AM

    Vastly interesting comment. Been on any pigeon shoots lately?

  8. Posted by Tort Life | March 13, 2014 at 11:01 AM

    C'mon he's been alive 182 years. They amnestied him on alot of the civil war stuff.

  9. Posted by Shecky Cohn | March 13, 2014 at 11:02 AM

    A Goldman Sachs trader walks into a Citi bank in New York City and asks for the loan officer. He says he's going to Europe on business for two weeks and needs to borrow $5,000. The bank officer says the bank will need some kind of security for the loan, so the Goldman Sachs trader hands over the keys to a new Rolls Royce. The car is parked on the street in front of the bank, he has the title and everything checks out. The bank agrees to accept the car as collateral for the loan. The bank's president and its officers all enjoy a good laugh at the Goldman Sachs trader for using a $500,000 Rolls as collateral against a $5,000 loan. An employee of the bank then proceeds to drive the Rolls into the bank's underground garage and parks it there.

    Two weeks later, the Goldman Sachs trader returns, repays the $5,000 and the interest, which comes to $15.41 with fees. The loan officer says, "Sir, we are very happy to have had your business, and this transaction has worked out very nicely, but we are a little puzzled. While you were away, we checked you out and found that you are a multimillionaire. What puzzles us is, why would you bother to borrow $5,000?" The Goldman Sachs trader replies…………………."Where else in New York City can I park my Rolls for two weeks for only $15.41 and expect it to be there when I return?"

  10. Posted by Laxbro | March 13, 2014 at 11:16 AM

    Getting a cappuccino at Blue Bottle is poor form.

    -Huge fan of their iced coffee

  11. Posted by Laxbro | March 13, 2014 at 11:28 AM

    "Where else in New York City can I park my Rolls for two weeks for only $15.41 and expect it to be there when I return?"

    Owning an UES co-op w/o a parking spot must be harsh…….

  12. Posted by Harlem Bruiser | March 13, 2014 at 11:44 AM

    My space is $5 a month. The car is guaranteed to be there*.

    *Not an actual guarantee.

  13. Posted by Guest | March 13, 2014 at 1:13 PM

    That is a really happy post! :->

  14. Posted by Guest | March 13, 2014 at 1:51 PM

    Happy cows make happy milk

  15. Posted by Guest | March 13, 2014 at 2:00 PM

    See, policing on the increase in Colorado. Good thing they are collecting more marijane tax money.
    http://gawker.com/watch-crystal-clear-footage-of-

    Watch Crystal Clear Footage of Insane Denver Area Carjacking

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