Opening Bell

Opening Bell: 12.03.13

SAC’s Cohen Didn’t Know About Source of Dirty Tips, Analyst Says (Bloomberg)
SAC Capital Advisors LP fund manager Michael Steinberg told the analyst who gave him inside tips on Dell Inc. that the fund’s founder, Steven A. Cohen, wasn’t aware they were obtained illegally. Steinberg concealed the true source of the tips, Jon Horvath, the former SAC analyst who worked for him, told jurors in the federal insider-trading trial in Manhattan. Horvath said Steinberg told him at SAC’s Sigma Capital Management offices in Midtown Manhattan that he had told Cohen that the trading recommendations were based on “industry contacts” and “supply chain checks.” “I was in Mike’s office and he said, ‘I just got off the phone with Steve and I was telling him about Dell,’” Horvath testified yesterday. “I kind of cringed, because I didn’t want to be part of this conversation. Mike said, ‘I told him you had a Dell supply-chain check.’”

Gross Says Central Bank Cash Influx Raises Global Assets’ Risk (Bloomberg)
“Investors are all playing the same dangerous game that depends on a near perpetual policy of cheap financing and artificially low interest rates in a desperate gamble to promote growth,” Gross wrote in his monthly investment outlook posted on Newport Beach, California-based Pimco’s website today. The Federal Reserve, Bank of Japan, European Central Bank and Bank of England “are setting the example for global markets, basically telling investors that they have no alternative than to invest in riskier assets or to lever high-quality assets.”

Brazil’s Economy Posts Worst Performance in Two Years (WSJ)
Brazil’s continued lackluster growth comes at a delicate time for President Dilma Rousseff, who faces questions about her handling of Latin America’s largest economy ahead of next year’s presidential election. The government had initially forecast robust growth of 4.5% in 2013 but has since drastically tempered those expectations. Ms. Rousseff’s challengers are expected to make slow growth a key part of the 2014 campaign.

Amazon Tests Drones for Same-Day Parcel Delivery, Bezos Says (Bloomberg)
Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos unveiled the plan on CBS’s “60 Minutes” news program in the U.S., showing interviewer Charlie Rose the flying machines that can serve as delivery vehicles. Bezos said the gadgets, called octocopters, can carry as much as 5 pounds within a 10-mile radius of an Amazon fulfillment center. Amazon may start using the drones, which can make a delivery within 30 minutes, within five years pending Federal Aviation Administration approval, Bezos said. “It will work, and it will happen, and it’s gonna be a lot of fun,” he said in the “60 Minutes” interview broadcast yesterday.

Pope Francis worked as nightclub bouncer (NYP)
Before Pope Francis became God’s enforcer, he moonlighted as a nightclub bouncer. His Holiness told parishioners recently that he held a variety of odd jobs before embracing the call of the priesthood. As a college student in Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, as he was known then, swept floors, ran tests in a chemical lab and even worked as bouncer to make extra cash, he said. The pontiff detailed his roundabout path to the priesthood during a visit to a church near Rome, after a parishioner asked him to pray for a relative who was seeking to be a Franciscan friar. Read more »

Opening Bell: 12.02.13

Diverse Menu of Bonds Is Served Up to Investors (WSJ)
With corporate-debt issuance racing toward a record, some large companies are rolling out unusual offerings in a bid to serve the bond market’s every nook and cranny. Recent weeks have brought a $500 million “green bond” from Bank of America Corp., which has pledged to use the proceeds to finance renewable-energy and energy-efficiency projects, and a $1 billion Goldman Sachs Group bond that offers variable interest rates for 10 years, much longer than normal. The sales underscore the robust appetite for debt issued by well-known, highly rated issuers and come at a time when low interest rates have put a premium on income-generating assets and a roaring stock-market rally has prompted some more-conservative investors to diversify.

Bull Market Shows No Sign of Death With Yellen Support (Bloomberg)
“The weakness in jobs is continuing fodder for the Fed to fulfill its most recent and steadfast comments about the support of the economy,” Holland, who oversees more than $4 billion in New York, said in a Nov. 26 phone interview. “Until the labor market gets better, the two parts of dual mandate have to be served,” he said.

No Penalties Planned in Swaps Probe (WSJ)
A four-year-old U.S. Justice Department civil probe into allegations that large banks and others conspired to thwart competition in the $24.3 trillion market for credit-default swaps is winding down and penalties aren’t planned, said people familiar with the matter.

Nobel Prize economist warns of U.S. stock market bubble (Reuters)
“I am not yet sounding the alarm. But in many countries stock exchanges are at a high level and prices have risen sharply in some property markets,” Shiller told Sunday’s Der Spiegel magazine. “That could end badly,” he said. “I am most worried about the boom in the U.S. stock market. Also because our economy is still weak and vulnerable,” he said, describing the financial and technology sectors as overvalued.

My life as a call girl in Love Guv ring (NYP)
Going full time as an escort with the Emperors Club was a life-enhancing experience. And the sex wasn’t as difficult as people might expect…the one I’ll always remember, my dream client, was a sexy French restaurateur. I knew who he was before we met in his room at the Hudson Hotel — I had Googled him, something I often did with clients. He greeted me at the door with a glass of wine and a gift bag from Victoria’s Secret, a kind gesture that wasn’t expected or required. I tried on the lingerie, and we took full advantage of the mirror against the wall. I didn’t expect I would ever be so turned on by a man who paid me to be with him, but this was a pleasant surprise. I insisted we fit a second round in before our time was up…Another client was an older man, probably 40 years my senior, with a thin upper lip that covered slightly yellowed teeth. And as Southern men are said to be, he was very much a gentleman. He knew me as Ashley because he had selected me from the higher-end “Icon Model” portfolio. He was the first of only two clients to meet Ashley. This meant he paid $5,400 for the two hours as opposed to the $3,000 I would have made as Raquel. Icon Models had interests like classical music and equestrian sports. They hunted pheasant, studied at Oxford, knew the difference between a watch and a timepiece and could participate in a debate over the superiority of Walker Black versus Laphroaig. They had pedigree, or at least the ability to appear like they did. They also had an expensive wardrobe, the ability to sit up straight, speak proper English and pretend for a couple of hours that they were genuinely interested in the hobbies and fineries of the ruling class. I wore my most elegant pieces: diamonds, Gucci dress, Prada heels, a golden silk pashmina and Agent Provocateur underneath. The only thing that wasn’t designer was my clutch, but it matched my shoes and was just big enough to fit a nice stack of cash. I sipped a martini, and he enjoyed a scotch on the rocks. He told me about his family. Unfortunately, his wife didn’t care to be affectionate with him anymore. It was not an unusual story, and I was happy to fill the void. He had children and grandchildren. We cuddled and caressed. He needed the affection. At the end, he told me that I was a wonderful companion and that he would love to meet again. Nobody had ever called me a wonderful companion. I put a lot of love into my visit with him, and I was touched by his compliment. Despite his age and looks, he was a great client. What I didn’t realize was that he would also be my last. The Emperors Club was busted; the FBI showed up at my door, and I had to hire an attorney. I signed a proffer agreement with the feds; they asked me to identify people in photos, but it was clear I had no information they didn’t already have from their surveillance.Read more »

Holiday Bell: 11.29.13

Citigroup Attempts to Sing Itself to Public Approval (WSJ)
The banking industry has spent countless hours and dollars trying to make up for the damage done by the financial crisis. Banks have run feel-good advertisements, waged aggressive lobbying campaigns, apologized to the public, tried to lend more, even sponsored public bike-rental programs in cities such as London and New York. Now Citigroup Inc. is trying to a new tactic: singing. On national TV. Citigroup’s London office recently opened up its Canary Wharf skyscraper to a BBC crew filming the popular TV series “The Choir.” The long-running British show—which is something of a cross between “Glee” and “The Office”—features teams of workers competing to be crowned workplace choir of the year. Bankers remain deeply reviled in the U.K., and Citigroup executives admit they are a bit nervous about whether they will be lampooned when their segment airs on BBC2 on Monday night. But they say it is a risk worth taking. “We ultimately won’t know how this will play out until it airs,” said James Bardrick, Citigroup’s co-head of European banking, who championed the project and is a tenor in the choir. “But if people get to see that we’re not a bunch of monsters hiding behind our screens and planning financial apocalypse, we’ll have done the industry a small service.”

UBS Revamps Forex Unit (WSJ)
s shaking up its investment bank, and has removed a top foreign-exchange executive, amid a burgeoning investigation into potential manipulation of currency markets. The bank is rolling its foreign-exchange and precious-metals business into another unit, according to an internal memo reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. As part of the changes, Chris Vogelgesang is stepping down as global co-head of foreign exchange and precious metals.

London leads 11 percent jump in bankers earning 1 million euros (Reuters)
More than 3,500 bankers in Europe earned 1 million euros ($1.4 million) or more last year after a big jump across the continent and in Britain, which had 12 times as many high earners as any other country. Figures from the bloc’s banking regulator on Friday showed that London-based bankers would have easily bust the European Union bonus cap rule coming into effect next year. Bonuses for the highest earners were almost four times fixed pay.

Wal-Mart Steps Up Security as Fights Break Out Over TVs (Bloomberg)
Malls are beefing up patrols with off-duty cops. Chains including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. are using quota systems for popular doorbusters from iPads to jewelry. Yet all was not peaceful. In one incident, uploaded to YouTube, uniformed security officers handcuffed a female shopper at an unidentified Wal-Mart store after a tussle over a television. Bill Simon, chief executive officer of Wal-Mart’s U.S. division, was asked about the incident on a conference call today with reporters. “Any time you get more than 22 million people together you’re going to have some behavior you’re not proud of,” said Simon, who also said “the number of incidents” was down from last year and that it’s “hard to tell what happened in any individual incident.”

Violence flares as shoppers hunt Black Friday deals (CNBC)
After buying a big screen TV, a Las Vegas shopper was shot around 9:45 p.m. PST Thursday as he tried to take his purchase home, Lt. David Gordon of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department told NBC News. “As the victim was walking through his complex he was approached by a suspect who fired warning shots which caused the victim to release the television,” he said. As the thief tried to load it into a vehicle the victim approached him to try to get it back, Gordon added. “The suspect fired two more shots and the victim was struck in the leg,” he said. “He was not seriously injured.”

SAC tech analyst testifies: Give stock tips or lose job (NYP)
Former SAC Capital Advisors tech analyst Jon Horvath testified he was afraid he would lose his job if he didn’t come up with illicit stock tips for his boss, Michael Steinberg. “I thought my job was in danger. I thought he would fire me,” Horvath, the government’s star witness in the insider-trading case against Steinberg, told a Manhattan federal jury. Horvath, testifying Wednesday on the fifth day of the trial, said he received an ultimatum from the top SAC money manager after Horvath’s tech recommendations for Steinberg lost money in 2007. “What I need you to do is to go out and get me edgy, proprietary information that we can use to make money in their stocks,” Horvath testified that Steinberg told him after a bad losing streak.

Netherlands Loses Triple-A Rating (WSJ)
The Netherlands became the latest country to be stripped of its coveted triple-A credit rating Friday, after Standard & Poor’s downgraded the country to “AA+,” citing weakening growth prospects. S&P is the first rating firm to downgrade the Netherlands, saying the country’s growth prospects are “weaker than we had previously anticipated” and that the “real [gross domestic product] per capita trend growth rate is persistently lower than that of peers.”

Man fined for breaking bed, curtain rail and window sill having sex in his old flat (Mirror)
Adam Disney ‘got carried away’ during the impromptu bonk with his partner and trashed the home in the process. The bed collapsed as he had sex and the 28-year-old also damaged a window sill as he romped the night away. Puzzled neighbours heard noises coming from the flat in Wavertree, Liverpool, and wondered what was going on September 3. The home’s landlady spotted Disney, from Solihull, leaning out the window smoking a cigarette. Dan Lupton, defending at Liverpool Magistrates Court on Thursday said: “This is a curious case of the morning after the night before. “They had been drinking and the couple were passionate in their interest to have sexual relations. “On this occasion they were seeking to avail themselves rather quickly.” He added: “The closest place for them to seek refuge, in an effort to avoid offending public decency, was his former flat. “The window sill was loose and they hadn’t done a good job of securing the curtain rail. This was not a posh hotel room.” Once inside the flat Mr Lupton said the couple were “carried away with the intensity of physical relations” and in the course of events the bed collapsed and drapes were pulled down. He said the damage was not intentional but happened in the course of “sexual antics”. Disney was fined #100 after admitting criminal damage in the ‘shabby bedsit’ after a charge of burglary with intent to cause damage was downgraded. Read more »

Opening Bell: 11.26.13

Men’s Wearhouse Offers to Buy Jos. A. Bank (Bloomberg)
Men’s Wearhouse Inc., which less than two weeks ago let a takeover bid from Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc. expire without entering discussions, today offered to buy its smaller rival for about $1.54 billion. The proposal of $55 a share is 8.7 percent higher than Jos. A. Bank’s closing price yesterday and 32 percent higher than on Oct. 8, the day before it bid for Men’s Wearhouse. Jos. A. Bank rose above the offer price in New York trading. Men’s Wearhouse, taking the advice of its largest shareholder, Eminence Capital LLC, is turning the tables on Jos. A. Bank to expand its base of men’s clothing stores. The deal, which would create a company with about 1,700 stores, would add to earnings in the first year after closing, helped by as much as $150 million in annual savings in purchasing, customer service and marketing over three years, Men’s Wearhouse said today in a statement.

Departure Blurs Nasdaq Succession (WSJ)
Mr. Noll, 51 years old, said he would become chief executive of ConvergEx Group LLC, a broker for institutional traders and money managers. The move surprised many industry experts, most of whom had anticipated Mr. Noll would stay at Nasdaq until current Chief Executive Robert Greifeld retired. But Mr. Greifeld, 56, has shown no signs of leaving. His current contract, signed last year, lasts until 2017. Under direction from its board, Nasdaq had been working on an executive succession plan for two years, although no details have been made public.

Speed Traders Meet Nightmare on Elm Street With Nanex (Bloomberg)
The nemesis of Wall Street’s high-frequency traders operates out of an apartment-sized office above the Bliss Salon — manicure/pedicure $45 — on Elm Street in the Chicago suburb of Winnetka. Staring at four computer monitors,Eric Scott Hunsader, the founder of market-data provider Nanex LLC, looks for hints of illicit trading hidden in psychedelic images of triangles dancing with dots that represent quotes to buy and sell U.S. stocks broken down by the millisecond. Charts of trading produced by Hunsader’s eight-person firm have captivated everyone from regulators to art gallery owners. One stunt involved a computerized piano piece mimicking quotes for an exchange-traded fund. He infuriates some traders, who say Nanex draws unwarranted conclusions and spreads conspiracy theories. To Hunsader, the images created from market feeds are evidence of high-frequency trading firms exploiting market rules to turn a profit in a lawless environment. Though others in the industry see his reports and charts as propaganda, Nanex’s interpretations are helping to drive the public debate about the fundamental fairness of the modern stock market. “You ever see ‘Lord of the Flies’ or read that book?” he said, using the William Golding novel about boys stranded on an uninhabited island as a metaphor for the stock market. “When you don’t have a parent around, things fall apart.”

Banks To Sue Over New CFTC Rules (NYP)
JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and other financial firms — fuming over far-reaching new rules passed in the wake of the financial crisis — plan to haul the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to court. The banks, represented by industry lobbying groups, plan to sue the CFTC for violating rule-making procedures when it proposed new Dodd-Frank era regulations. A source familiar with the matter said that lawsuit, led by the International Swaps and Derivatives Association and the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, is “imminent.”

Eastwood daughter regrets drunken wedding (NYP)
A little more than a week ago, Clint Eastwood’s gorgeous daughter got hitched to Jonah Hill’s pit-stained brother in a drunken Las Vegas ceremony — and now she wants the courts to unmake her day. Francesca Eastwood, 20, stumbled down the aisle of Las Vegas’ Simple Wedding Chapel on Nov. 17 to wed “Shrek” look-alike Jordan Feldstein, 35, in a Christian ceremony held in front of an Elvis impersonator. “Francesca had immediate regrets,” TMZ reported Monday, adding that sources close to the couple said the wedding was “fueled by alcohol” and that she’s seeking an annulment. Eastwood is the daughter of the Oscar winner and actress Frances Fisher, 61, who played Kate Winslet’s mother in “Titanic.” The party-loving Francesca starred on the reality-TV show “Mrs. Eastwood & Company” with her stepmother and other family members in their fancy California home. Feldstein is a music manager who made his name launching the career of his childhood friend, superstar Adam Levine of Maroon 5. He also manages Robin Thicke of “Blurred Lines” fame. The quickie wedding must have been a big surprise to Francesca’s on-again, off-again boyfriend, celeb photographer Tyler Shields, who said in February, “I’m really into Francesca . . . We will definitely get married. I’ve been looking at rings and I plan to propose in an interesting way.” Read more »

Opening Bell: 11.25.13

Former Treasury chief nixed BlackRock offer (NYP)
Tim Geithner passed up a chance to work at mega-fund manager BlackRock, according to sources. Geithner, who has landed a plum private-equity gig with Warburg Pincus, opted against joining CEO Fink’s BlackRock — with $4 trillion in assets under management — because he wanted to have a more involved role with any company he ended up joining. “I don’t think [Geithner] wanted to be someone’s arm candy,” said one source familiar with the situation.
Sources said Geithner appreciated the fact that Warburg’s top officials consisted of “talented guys with no big egos.”

Swiss Reject High-Pay Initiative (WSJ)
Swiss voters overwhelmingly rejected an initiative that would have restricted executive salaries to 12 times that of the lowest-paid employee. Roughly 65% of Swiss voters Sunday opposed the 1:12 Initiative for Fair Pay, according to results from all of the country’s 26 cantons reported by Swiss television. Another 34% supported the proposal, which was named for the organizers’ belief that no one in a Swiss company should earn more in a month than someone else makes in a year. The rejection of the 1:12 initiative marks a move away from Swiss efforts to more tightly govern how companies compensate their employees that has been driven by a growing wealth gap between the country’s executive class and everyday workers.

Wall Street May Take Derivatives Regulator to Court (Bloomberg)
Wall Street banks reeling from a flurry of activity by departing U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Gary Gensler are considering taking the agency to court. Gensler has issued more than a dozen advisory opinions directed at reining in the largest financial firms and swap traders without votes by his fellow commissioners. He’s also insisting on tightening the Volcker rule ban on proprietary trading by banks, making last-minute demands that could derail a regulation that must be approved by five U.S. agencies. The financial industry’s trade groups have consulted with lawyers about how to block Gensler’s final moves, according to four people briefed on the matter. A lawsuit would probably be focused on CFTC guidance issued in July that described when the agency should defer its rules in favor of regulations by foreign derivatives overseers, the people said.

Private Equity Returns To Spain, Italy (WSJ)
Spain and Italy, two countries the private-equity industry had forgotten, could soon become a deal playground for European and U.S. buyout firms. At least 15 private-equity groups focused on the countries are looking to raise funds with a combined value of more than €4 billion ($5.4 billion), according to several people familiar with the matter and Preqin, a data provider. That is way more than the €1 billion raised since the start of 2010. The Spanish and Italian markets enjoyed popularity with private-equity firms between 2005 and 2008 but activity died down during the financial crisis. It has been further hit by the euro zone’s troubles.

Police to bars: Please don’t serve Santa (DDN)
For many, spotting jolly old Saint Nick will on the street will bring a smile to the face and warm feelings of holiday cheer. But you might excuse the New York Police Department for having thoughts of dread instead. The arrival of SantaCon now signals the onslaught of thousands of drunken holiday revelers dressed up as Santa on the city’s streets, and at least one police officer has had enough. The New York Daily News reports that a lieutenant with NYPD’s Midtown North Precinct recently wrote to bar owners in the area asking them to ban participants of the 2013 SantaCon. The event was originally billed as a fund-raiser, but has since evolved into a massive bar hop. In a letter to about three dozen bars and clubs in the Midtown and Hell’s Kitchen neighborhoods Lt. John Cocchi warns of “thousands of intoxicated partygoers” roaming the streets while “urinating, littering, vomiting” and other naughty behavior. The event is set to begin on Dec. 14 and while many bar owners welcome the extra business, many of those who live in the area aren’t so enthusiastic about the festivities. Bob Miner, a member of a local block association is hoping the revelers will pass by his neighborhood, “What do you tell a 5-year-old when they see a Santa passed out on the street, or carried by his buddies, or vomiting or defecating in front of the house?” Read more »

Opening Bell: 11.22.13

SAC’s Steinberg went bad as income plunged: prosecutors (NYP)
As Steinberg’s total pay sank to that level in 2008 from about $5 million the prior year, the 41-year-old hedgie started using illegal insider tips to score some very profitable trades, a federal court jury was told Thursday. Steinberg used illegal tips on Dell in 2008, supplied by his analyst Jon Horvath, to score huge profits, the government has charged. SAC’s CFO Dan Berkowitz told the jury in Manhattan federal court that Steinberg’s total pay took a hit in 2008 as Wall Street reeled from the financial crash.

Draghi Makes Case For Low ECB Rates (WSJ)
European Central Bank President Mario Draghi reinforced his message to a German audience Friday that the central bank’s low interest rates help savers by supporting the economy, countering concerns that low rates depress savers’ returns. Mr. Draghi and the ECB have both faced some criticism in Germany, a country with an entrenched belief in sound money and a fear of inflation, since the ECB cut its main interest rate to a record low earlier this month. “It is important to understand that interest rates are low because the economy is weak. If we raised rates, we would further depress the economy, people would lose their jobs, and then their savings would be lower for longer,” Mr. Draghi said in a speech at the European Banking Congress here.

German Business Confidence Increases as Recovery on Track (Bloomberg)
German companies are becoming more optimistic as they invest to take advantage of domestic unemployment near a two-decade low and the end of the euro area’s longest-ever recession. Investor confidence rose to the highest level in four years in November and the Bundesbank said this week that the nation’s economy remains on a “solid growth path.”

IMF Urges Spanish Banks to Raise Capital (WSJ)
The International Monetary Fund recommended Friday that Spanish banks raise more capital and keep their dividend payments capped in 2014 to facilitate lending to an economy constrained by tight credit. A fragile economic environment and small buffers of excess capital underscore “the need for Spanish banks to continue efforts to maintain recently achieved capital levels in ways that do not rely excessively on credit contraction,” the IMF said in a report on the country’s progress in cleaning up its banking industry.

Professional chicken catcher fired over his attitude can’t get jobless aid, Pa. court says (PennLive)
Professional chicken catcher Joshua Spickler was fired in January over what his ex-employer said was a bad attitude. On Thursday, Commonwealth Court concluded that was enough to deny the Northumberland County man unemployment compensation benefits, too, on grounds that his supposed negativity constituted willful misconduct. The state court turned aside Spickler’s arguments that the evidence his attitude had declined to the point where it was negatively affecting co-workers at B&B Catching Services Inc. was nothing but hearsay. According to court filings, Spickler worked at B&B in Dornsife for nearly five years. His former employer claimed his attitude started going downhill after he and co-workers were told in May 2012 that their bonuses would be reduced because of a downturn in business. Spickler’s alleged poor attitude resulted first in his demotion from a crew chief post. His employers claimed he started refusing orders, cut up a company gas card and spoke ill of the firm to fellow employees. He was warned that he could be fired if he didn’t change his ways, B&B officials claimed. Read more »

Opening Bell: 11.21.13

Goldman Sachs burned by bad currency bets in third quarter (Reuters)
Goldman Sachs Group Inc lost more than $1 billion on currency trades during the third quarter, recent regulatory filings show, offering some insight into why the firm, considered one of Wall Street’s most savvy traders, reported its worst quarter in a key trading unit since the financial crisis. Foreign exchange was the only trading area that was a money loser, according to regulatory data. In the third quarter, Goldman reported its weakest revenue – $1.3 billion – in fixed-income, currency and commodities trading since the height of the financial crisis.

Inside-Trading Probe of Height Securities Over Decision on Medicare Payments Hits Wall in Capital (WSJ)
Investigators are hitting a wall in an insider-trading probe of how a government funding decision made its way to investors before it was officially released, according to people familiar with the probe. The Securities and Exchange Commission and Federal Bureau of Investigation have been examining whether anyone in government illegally passed along information April 1 about a pending decision on Medicare payments, according to officials involved in the probe. A report from a Washington policy-research firm, Height Securities, correctly called the decision just before it was announced, which sent health-care stocks soaring. The incident has put the spotlight on the burgeoning business known as political intelligence, where lobbyists, policy experts and former government officials gather insights on policy changes that they then sell to investors. But investigators are struggling over how to distinguish between illegal insider tips and accurate predictions based on research and analysis, the people familiar with the probe say.

Fed Casts About for Endgame on Easy-Money Policy (WSJ)
Central-bank officials have been debating for months when to start paring the $85 billion-a-month bond-purchase program. They were surprised during the summer when their discussions and public pronouncements on the potential timing rocked markets, pushing interest rates higher and stock prices down. Minutes of the Oct. 29-30 policy meeting, released Wednesday, showed officials continued to look toward ending the bond-buying program “in coming months.” But they spent hours game-planning how to handle unexpected developments and tailoring a message to the public to soften the impact of the program’s end.

SAC exec used stolen info to make ‘lots of money,’ jury told (NYP)
SAC Capital Advisors ex-money manager Michael Steinberg used stolen business information to make money — “lots of money” — for himself and his company, a Manhattan federal court jury was told Wednesday. When Steinberg “traded on that illegal information, he broke the law,” prosecutor Antonia Apps said in her opening statement. The 41-year-old Steinberg, charged with conspiracy and securities fraud, is the seventh SAC executive to face charges in US Attorney Preet Bharara’s massive multiyear crackdown on insider trading. The high-stakes criminal case, which finished jury selection Wednesday morning, opened in the afternoon before a packed courtroom…The government’s key witness will be Jon Horvath, an SAC tech research analyst who reported to Steinberg. Horvath pleaded guilty last year to similar charges regarding trading in tech stocks Dell and Nvdia. Horvath was pressured into the criminal activity after some of his recommendations failed in 2007 and he was at risk of losing his job, according to the government. “Steinberg told him he needed to get edgy proprietary information,” Apps told the jury. Horvath will testify that he called Steinberg, who was vacationing in Mexico, with an illegal stock tip about Dell, and “one minute later” the accused started to sell Dell shares, making $1 million on the trade, Apps said. But Steinberg’s lawyer, Barry Berke, said Horvath made up the story because “he was facing a very long jail sentence” and “chose self-interest over the truth.”

Mexico’s president denies meeting Bieber after pop star’s tweet (AP)
Mexico’s president has denied a tweet by Justin Bieber saying the singer met with the president and his family prior to a show. It was the latest sour note in Bieber’s controversy-filled Latin American tour. President Enrique Pena Nieto’s office put out a tweet late Monday that read “@Presidenciamx denies meeting between President @EPN with the singer @justinbieber.” That was a response to a tweet from Bieber’s official account saying “just met some amazing mexican beliebers and the presidente of mexico and his familia.” Apparently, Bieber was confused about whether the president was there or not. Early Tuesday, Bieber wrote in a tweet, “correction. I met the presidente’s family and all their friends in the private meet and greet with all their security. They were very nice.” Read more »