Opening Bell: 04.09.10

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Major Banks Mask Their Risk Levels (WSJ)
BREAKING: "You want your leverage to look better at quarter-end than it actually was during the quarter, to suggest that you're taking less risk," says William Tanona, a former Goldman analyst who now heads U.S. financials research at Collins Stewart, a U.K. investment bank.

Brown Pledges Extra Curbs On UK Bank Bonuses If Elected (Bloomberg)
Gird your loins, chippies: “We will not hesitate to give the FSA the powers to quash executive bonuses if we feel it is simply wrong for the financial system to encourage reckless and irresponsible behavior.”

Soros: Greece Needs Concessionary Rates from Germany (Reuters)
"I hope that Germany will realise that talking about lending at market rates is the wrong remedy. It would push Greece into the abyss," he said.

Former Fannie CEO Admits Failures (WSJ)
"I should be clear that this was a failure of leadership," Armando Falcon, the former head of the companies' regulatory agency, said in prepared testimony.

Woods Goes Low At Augusta (NYP)
As warmly received as Woods was by the spectators, and much as he smiled after making great shots and as well as he played, make no mistake, the specter of the sex scandal hovered — literally — over him at Augusta National. Two hired planes, about two hours apart, flew overhead tugging cynical signs with them. The first flew over the course around the time Woods teed off to begin his round at 1:42 p.m. and read: “TIGER: DID YOU MEAN BOOTYISM?”

RyanAir Introduces Toilet Tax On Flights (NYDN)
The airline is introducing a "toilet tax," which will force fliers to pay one euro to use the toilet. The toilets will be coin-operated, WalletPop UK reports. The airline is also reducing the number of toilets on its planes to a mere one.

Let Traders Call The Next Bubble (WaPo)
"If regulators are unlikely to preempt the next bubble, where does that leave financial reformers in Congress? There are plenty of useful things they can do, but the hedge fund/central bank contrast points to one in particular. Reform should harness the energies of private traders, since their roulette-like incentives encourage them to call bubbles early. Big financial institutions should be required to issue special bonds that convert to equity in a crisis, and traders should drive the value of these bonds according to the odds that a crisis will materialize. In time, signals from these canary-in-the-coal-mine securities could inform regulatory decisions. When the markets telegraph a rising risk of crisis, regulators may restrain lending. Faced with angry senators, they could cite the message from the canaries."

Wynn Resorts Bows Out of Philadelphia Casino Plan (AP)
"We are fascinated by the legalization of full gaming in Pennsylvania and stimulated by the opportunity that it presents for Wynn Resorts," CEO Steve Wynn said in a brief statement. "This particular project did not, in the end, present an opportunity that was appropriate for our company."

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Opening Bell: 04.03.12

CFTC Deals Out Royal Pain (WSJ) In a federal-court lawsuit filed Monday in New York, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission alleged a "wash trading scheme of massive proportion" by RBC, Canada's largest bank. From 2007 to 2010, officials at RBC coordinated with two subsidiaries on the purchase and sale of futures contracts that gave the right to sell stock later at certain prices, the CFTC alleged. The alleged scheme eliminated the possibility that RBC would suffer any losses on the investments, while locking in "lucrative" Canadian tax breaks on dividend payments, according to the lawsuit. U.S. Economy Enters Sweet Spot as China Slows (Bloomberg) An improving job market, rising stock prices and easier credit are combining to lift U.S. consumer confidence and spending, with optimism measured by the Bloomberg Comfort Index near a four-year high. Personal-consumption expenditures increased by the most in seven months in February, rising 0.8 percent, the Commerce Department said last week. “We’re entering a sweet spot for the economy,” said Allen Sinai, president of Decision Economics Inc. in New York. “We’re in a self-reinforcing cycle,” where faster employment growth leads to higher household income and increased consumer spending. China's Central Banker Sees Risk of Global Recession (WSJ) China's central bank Gov. Zhou Xiaochuan warned that the global economy hasn't yet escaped the financial crisis, while cautioning the U.S. to take "more responsibility" for its monetary easing. There are "new elements that could bring the global economy back into recession," the central bank chief said in a panel discussion Tuesday at the Boao Forum in the southern island province of Hainan, without elaborating on what the elements are. ‘Apple Fever’ to Push Stock to $1,001, Topeka Capital Says (Bloomberg) Apple, already the world’s most valuable company, will see its stock price reach $1,001 within 12 months, lifted by growth in China and the debut of a new television product, according to Topeka Capital Markets. The new target, issued yesterday by Topeka’s Brian White, is the highest among the 45 analysts tracked by Bloomberg and represents a 62 percent increase over the current price. The gains will be fueled by demand for the next iPhone, in addition to the expansion into China and the TV market, he said. SEC Probes Groupon (WSJ) The regulator's probe into the popular online-coupon company is at a preliminary stage and the SEC hasn't yet decided whether to launch a formal investigation into the matter, the person said. The SEC decision to examine the circumstances surrounding Groupon's surprise revision is the start-up's latest run-in with the regulator. Groupon twice revised its finances before its November IPO. An SEC spokesperson declined to comment, as did a spokesman for Groupon. JOBS Act Jeopardizes Safety Net for Investors (Dealbook) Andrew Ross Sorkin: "Maybe President Obama should have bought shares in Groupon’s I.P.O. If he had, he would understand what some Groupon investors may be feeling as he prepares this week to sign a new piece of legislation to help start-ups get financing. Had he purchased $10,000 worth of shares on the open market on the first day of public trading for Groupon, the online coupon company based in his hometown Chicago, he would have lost a good chunk of his investment, putting him in the red by almost $4,100 today. That means he would have lost about 41 percent of his investment in Groupon in just five months, while the Nasdaq rose some 16 percent." James Cameron Changes Stars In Titanic (CM) The director unveiled a 3D version of his multi-Oscar winning classic last month (Mar12) and he resisted the temptation to use its reworking as an excuse to cut scenes he's no longer happy with. But there was one shot Cameron felt obliged to alter, because a top stargazer informed him the astral pattern onscreen was incorrect for the night the liner sank in 1912. The scene involves Kate Winslet's character, Rose DeWitt Bukater, drifting on a piece of wood and gazing at the night sky as the disaster unfolds. Cameron tells British magazine Culture, "Oh, there is one shot that I fixed. It's because Neil deGrasse Tyson, who is one of the U.S.' leading astronomers, sent me quite a snarky email saying that, at that time of year, in that position in the Atlantic in 1912, when Rose is lying on the piece of driftwood and staring up at the stars, that is not the star field she would have seen, and with my reputation as a perfectionist, I should have known that and I should have put the right star field in. "So I said, 'All right, you son of a bitch, send me the right stars for the exact time, 4.20am on April 15, 1912, and I'll put it in the movie.' So that's the one shot that has been changed." JPMorgan’s Hannam Resigns After Market Abuse Fine (Reuters) JPMorgan Chase’s Ian Hannam, one of its most senior London-based bankers, has decided to resign after being fined by Britain's financial watchdog for market abuse, according to an internal memo the bank sent to staff. In a separate statement, Hannam said he would appeal the 450,000 pounds ($720,700) fine by the FSA. Judge OKs MF sale (Dow Jones) A judge approved a Jefferies Group affiliate’s purchase of MF Global Holdings Ltd.’s liquidating brokerage’s remaining gold, silver and other precious-metal assets. Judge Martin Glenn of the US Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan approved the sale, but much of yesterday’s time was taken up by issues regarding insurance meant to pay for former MF Global executives’ legal defenses. Jefferies is buying the remaining 106 warehouse certificates — not the actual gold and silver bars — of MF Global’s former commodities customers. Ann Romney Says Campaign Will ‘Unzip’ the Real Mitt (The Note) Ann Romney defended her husband’s sense of humor today during a radio interview, explaining that if people think the candidate seems too stiff at times as the host suggested, she thinks “we better unzip him and let the real Mitt Romney out.”