Opening Bell: 04.12.10

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UBS Posts Highest Quarterly Earnings in Almost Three Years on Debt Trading (Bloomberg)
UBS said pretax profit was at least 2.5 billion Swiss francs ($2.4 billion) in the first-quarter, the highest level since the second quarter of 2007.

NY State Sees "Deep Well" Of UBS Client Tax Cases (Reuters)
New York state could glean considerable sums from UBS clients who have evaded taxes by hiding money in offshore accounts once the federal government starts handing over its data to the states, a New York state tax official said. "That's really a deep well and I expect we'll be digging in that well for some time," William Comiskey, New York State Tax Department's Deputy Commissioner for enforcement, told Reuters.

BlueGold Beats Average Hedge Fund With 12.5% Return (BW)
BlueGold Capital Management LLP, the energy hedge fund manager overseeing $1.7 billion in assets, returned 12.5 percent to investors in March, more than four times the gain of the average hedge fund.

Light At The End Of The Bailout Tunnel (WSJ)
Great news, this thing is only costing $89 billion.

Soros Warns Europe Of Disintegration (FT)
“It is 50-50 whether the eurozone breaks up. The damage that break up would cause is so great, that I think that as people realise it, they will pull back from the brink,” Soros told the Financial Times in an interview. “But we are at the brink now...a solution has to be found in a matter of days.”

Executives Say Competition Drove Fannie To Brink (NYT)
In testimony before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, Robert J. Levin, Fannie’s former chief business officer, said that Fannie risked losing its “relevance” in the market if it didn’t ply in riskier mortgages.

Is Taiwan's male "Whitney Houston" the next Susan Boyle? (Reuters)
"Close your eyes and tell me -- have you forgotten you're listening to a reality show and started to think you're hearing "The Bodyguard"," wrote CNN's news blog editor Mallory Simon about Lin's performance.

Krugman: Georgia On My Mind (NYT)
As we look for ways to prevent future financial crises, many questions should be asked. Here’s one you may not have heard: What’s the matter with Georgia?

AIG, Goldman Unwind Soured Trades (WSJ)
AIGFP currently has roughly 14,400 outstanding derivative trades on interest rates, currencies, bonds and other instruments, down from as many as 44,000 at the unit before September 2008. The notional value of the remaining derivatives is about $770 billion, down from more than $2 trillion, said a person familiar with the matter.

Hire Me! James Lardizzone rose from mailroom to Merrill Lynch, but now is jobless (NYDN)
Who's going to give this guy a gig?

Related

Opening Bell: 01.15.13

Westminster Hits At Goldman Sachs Bonus Plan (FT) Goldman Sachs provoked a furious reaction in Westminster after it emerged that the U.S. investment bank was mulling a plan to delay its U.K. bonus payments to take advantage of the imminent cut to the top rate of tax. John Mann, a Labour member of the Treasury select committee, criticized an "opportunistic money grab" by banks at a time of intensifying public anger against the sector. Some 10 banks had previously considered delaying bonuses until the top rate falls from 50 to 45 pence - although most have since concluded that this would be damaging. Chris Leslie, shadow Treasury minister, said banks needed to think carefully about their reputations. Fitch Warns Of US Downgrade Over Debt Fight (CNBC) In a statement Fitch said the debt ceiling was "an ineffective and potentially dangerous mechanism for enforcing fiscal discipline. It does not prevent tax and spending decisions that will incur debt issuance in excess of the ceiling while the sanction of not raising the ceilingrisks a sovereign default and renders such a threat incredible." Fitch Upbeat On Ireland (Reuters) If [Ireland's] debts could be shared out among euro zone states through the region's bailout mechanisms there could be scope for Ireland's BBB-plus rating to rise into the single-A category, according to Fitch analyst Douglas Renwick. "If there is an element of risk sharing, say perhaps through the ESM (European Stability Mechanism) over a bit of time, it could rise back to the single-A (range)," Renwick said. JPMorgan Ordered To Fix Lapses (WSJ) US regulators hit JPMorgan with four formal enforcement actions targeting lapses in risk-management and money-laundering controls, including the first sanctions in response to the bank's multibillion-dollar 2012 trading debacle. One set of cease-and-desist orders from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve instructs the largest U.S. bank by assets to remedy the breakdowns that allowed a small group of London-based traders to rack up more than $6 billion in losses last year. Another requires the bank to beef up its antimoney-laundering procedures and mirrors an action taken last April when regulators ordered Citigroup to upgrade its transaction-monitoring procedures and enhance internal audit. None of the orders issued Monday require any fines or monetary penalties, but regulators left the door open to future action. Wells Fargo Bets On Charlotte Trading After BofA Flees (Bloomberg) \Wells Fargo is betting its securities business can thrive 600 miles from New York in the same city Bank of America's traders largely abandoned. The first of 900 Wells Fargo employees moved last month into a new space on two floors of a 48-story tower in Charlotte, North Carolina. From their windows they can see the complex a half-mile away where Bank of America built its own state-of-the- art facility less than a decade ago for about 550 traders and investment bankers. Most have since been fired or moved to New York. Police: Teacher offers sexual favors to officer to avoid DUI arrest (WPBF) According to the arrest report, an empty gallon jug of Carlo Rossi wine was found behind the driver's seat of Maloney's damaged van, which was parked on the side of the street when officers arrived. Police said Maloney refused to cooperate with officers during their DUI investigation. Police said she began yelling at them and made random vulgar statements. While she was on her way to the police station, Maloney allegedly told an officer, "How much do I need to pay you to just let me go? Don't you understand I am a school teacher?" She then offered to perform oral sex on the officer and let him fondle her breasts, the report stated. RBS Libor Fine May Hit $800M+ (Bloomberg) US and UK regulators could hit the Royal Bank of Scotland with as much as $804 million in fines next week to settle allegations traders tried to rig interest rates, two people with knowledge of the matter said. Investment banking chief John Hourican and Peter Nielsen, the head of markets, may also be asked to leave because they had responsibility for the parts of the company where the alleged wrongdoing occurred. The fine would be the second-largest levied by regulators in their investigation into allegations traders at the world’s biggest lenders manipulated submissions used to set the London interbank offered rate. UBS AG, Switzerland’s biggest lender, was fined $1.5 billion in December for rate-rigging, exceeding the 290 million pounds Barclays paid in June. Bob Khuzami, Master Blaster (NYP) Robert Khuzami yesterday took aim at a Columbia University professor who chided the SEC’s head of enforcement for not suing enough high-ranking individuals at large financial institutions, choosing instead to settle with those companies...Khuzami said in a blistering 1,500-word article in the National Law Journal that the SEC has charged a total of 102 individuals associated with the credit crisis, including high-level executives at Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Bear Stearns, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac...It’s the second time in as many weeks that Khuzami has called out his critics by name. Just before New Year’s Eve, the Brooklyn native blasted Simon Johnson, a professor at MIT Sloan School of Management, for a New York Times blog that said Khuzami’s hire was a “mistake” because of his former ties to Deutsche Bank. Khuzami shot back in the comment section of the blog — an unusual move for a public official. Wall Street Pay Gets Tougher Look (WSJ) Daniel Loeb, who runs hedge-fund firm Third Point LLC, has raised questions about whether compensation levels at Morgan Stanley are justified given the New York company's size and relative simplicity compared with larger bank. Hedge Funds' Manhattan Migration (WSJ) Of the new firms starting out in Manhattan, Greenwich or Stamford, about 86% picked the Big Apple, on average, from 2003 to 2008, according to eVestment, which tracks data on about 70% of U.S. hedge-fund firms. In 2009 and 2010, Manhattan was home to an average of 92% of the fund launches. Data for 2011 suggest the trend has continued. "There are blips in the data, but it's clear launches shifted toward New York after the crisis," says Peter Laurelli, eVestment's head of research. Detroit mafia boss says Jimmy Hoffa is buried in shallow grave north of Detroit (NYDN) Tony Zerilli, 85, says Hoffa was buried in a field outside Detroit, about 20 miles from the restaurant where he was last seen in July 1975. The aging Zerilli, who was in prison at the time of Hoffa’s disappearance, told TV news stations WNBC and WDIV that the plan was to move Hoffa’s body, but that never happened. “The master plan was, that I understood, was that they were going to put him in a shallow grave here. Then, they were going to take him from here to Rogers City upstate,” Zerilli said. “There was a hunting lodge and they were going to bury in a shallow grave then take him up there for final burial. Then, I understand, that it just fell through.” It was unclear why Zerilli chose to speak now about the 37-year-old mystery that has elicited dozens of false leads and conspiracy theories in the past. Zerilli said is to be ailing and penniless since his release from prison in 2008. WNBC reported he is promoting an upcoming book titled "Hoffa Found.” “All this speculation about where he is and he’s not,” Zerilli said. “They say he was in a meat grinder. It’s all baloney.”

Opening Bell: 10.31.12

Questions Cloud Market Reopening (WSJ) The New York Stock Exchange said Tuesday that it plans to open as usual at 9:30 a.m. and that its trading floor and headquarters in lower Manhattan were "fully operational" despite widespread blackouts and flooding in that part of the city. The Nasdaq Stock Market and other exchanges will open as well. Bond markets will follow suit. While investors and industry officials breathed a sigh of relief, critics argued that the storm exposed how ill-prepared exchanges and their Wall Street customers are for such an event. Regulators on Tuesday said they plan to probe whether more needs to be done to get exchanges and the trading community ready for such disasters. After Hurricane, Wall Street Back To Work (Dealbook) On Tuesday, the scene around Wall Street was desolate. While the New York Exchange’s building appeared to be unscathed, many other offices in the vicinity were flooded. After an underground parking garage two blocks from the exchange was inundated with water, several cars floated to street level. Two Citigroup buildings were without power. The bank told employees in a memo on Tuesday that one of the buildings, 111 Wall Street, sustained “severe flooding and will be out of commission for several weeks.” Some JPMorgan Chase employees outside New York City were working in central New Jersey. At the bank’s main trading floor in Midtown Manhattan, employees, many in jeans, shirts and rain boots, booked hotels for the night and discussed strategy. The bank, which sustained minimal damages at a building downtown, expected to resume normal operations in Midtown. Credit Suisse also planned to open for business on Wednesday, with its main offices by Madison Square Park running on backup power. In downtown New York, Goldman Sachs was one of the few buildings with power. The firm has a generator in the event of outages, allowing its trading floors to continue to run. On Tuesday, televisions sets and lights inside the building were on, although few employees were there...In a memo to staff, Goldman announced its headquarters would be open on Wednesday. The firm also booked hotels in various locations to make sure employees could get to work. Deutsche Bank Rides Debt-Market Wave (WSJ) Deutsche Bank reported a surge in investment-banking revenues in the third quarter as a rebound in client activity fueled the best quarter ever for its fixed-income division. Deutsche Bank, Europe's largest lender by assets, reported group revenues of €8.7 billion ($11.5 billion), up 19% from the third quarter last year. The result was better than analysts expected, but the bank's legal problems and restructuring efforts nearly flattened net income. At €747 million, the total was up 3% from €725 million a year earlier. The bank's revenue increase was driven in part by bond-buying initiatives announced by the U.S. Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank in recent months. The moves have fueled a resurgence in client activity, including in fixed-income trading—an area where UBS AG and other competitors have announced significant cut backs, allowing Deutsche Bank to gain market share. UBS Moves Quickly On Job Cuts, Revamp (WSJ) Scores of traders at UBS were locked out of the Swiss bank's London offices Tuesday as the institution moved quickly to implement the first of thousands of job cuts in a strategic restructuring. The revamp effectively brings an end to UBS's attempts over the past two decades to build a world-class investment bank, which brought the institution to the brink of collapse in 2008 when it incurred more than $50 billion in losses from the fixed-income business that it is now exiting. Instead, UBS's strategy will center on its private bank, the world's second-largest in assets after Bank of America and a mainstay of the group's earnings. UBS confirmed Tuesday that it will cut risk-weighted assets by around 100 billion Swiss francs ($107 billion) by the end of 2017, eliminate about 10,000 jobs across the bank and reorganize its investment bank to deliver more products and services to ultra-wealthy clients at the private bank. The bank also said Tuesday that charges related to the moves, which come in response to a tougher regulatory and economic climate, helped push it into the red in the third quarter. UBS Chief Executive Sergio Ermotti said that London would bear the brunt of the cuts as the bank attempts to exit almost completely from fixed-income activities and move back to its wealth-management roots. Storm Cripples US East Coast, Death and Damage Toll Climb (CNBC) The U.S. death toll climbed to 50, according to The Associated Press, with many of the victims killed by falling trees. Damage estimates reached into the tens of billions, while the storm disrupted campaigning and early voting ahead of the November 6 presidential election. More than 8.2 million households were without power in 17 states as far west as Michigan. Nearly 2 million of those were in New York, where large swaths of lower Manhattan lost electricity and entire streets ended up under water. New York Subway System Faces Weeks to Recover From Storm (Bloomberg) If you laid the New York City subway system in a line, it would stretch from New York to Detroit. Now imagine inspecting every inch of that track. That’s the job ahead for Metropolitan Transit Administration officials, who must examine 600 miles of track and the electrical systems with it before they can fully reopen the largest U.S. transit system, which took a direct hit by Hurricane Sandy. Seven subway tunnels under New York’s East River flooded, MTA officials said. Pumping them out could take days, and a 2011 state study said it could take three weeks after hurricane- driven flooding to get back to 90 percent of normal operations. That study forecast damages of $50 billion to $55 billion to transportation infrastructure including the subways. How CEOs Improvised In The Wake Of Sandy (WSJ) When the approach of Hurricane Sandy left Lands' End Chief Executive Edgar Huber stranded on a business trip, he retreated to an impromptu backup headquarters—in his mother-in-law's apartment complex...Foot Locker CEO Ken Hicks disregarded the shutdown of his New York headquarters on Monday and worked at his office until 3 p.m. Then he picked up the work again six blocks away at his home in Manhattan's Murray Hill neighborhood. When the power went out, he put on iTunes, lit a lantern and did paperwork for another 2½ hours. "You can be reasonably self-sufficient with a cellphone and a lantern," the CEO says. Celebrities React To Northeast Hurricane (NYDN) “WHY is everyone in SUCH a panic about hurricane (i’m calling Sally)...?” Lindsay Lohan tweeted Sunday night. “Stop projecting negativity! Think positive and pray for peace.” A Year Later, All Eyes Still On 'Edie' (WSJ) Who broke the law by raiding customer accounts at MF Global Holdings? Investigators seem no closer to the answer than they were when the New York brokerage firm filed for bankruptcy exactly a year ago Wednesday, owing thousands of farmers and ranchers, hedge funds and other investors an estimated $1.6 billion. Their money was supposed to be stashed safely at MF Global, but company officials used much of it for margin calls and other obligations. The last, best hope for a breakthrough in the probe is Edith O'Brien, the former assistant treasurer at MF Global. Working in the company's Chicago office, she was the go-to person for emergency money transfers as MF Global flailed for its life. MBA's Rethink Wall Street (WSJ) Many of the nation's top M.B.A. programs, including Harvard Business School and Stanford Graduate School of Business, reported declines in the share of students who took jobs in finance this year. And even those that posted some gains, such as University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, are still well below their prefinancial crisis levels...A Wall Street gig "isn't as prestigious as it used to be" because the future—promotion opportunities, salary gains, even basic job security— is so unclear, says Mark Brostoff, associate dean and director of the career center at the Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis. Though the share of Olin students going into finance increased to 22% of job seekers this year from 15% in 2011, many of those gains came at boutique and regional Midwestern financial firms rather than on Wall Street. One factor affecting student demand: Banks expect young staffers to pick up the slack left by masses of laid-off midlevel employees, without necessarily offering more generous pay packages in return for the long hours. At Harvard Business School, for example, students heading into investment banking—7% of job seekers who accepted jobs, down from 10% in 2011—reported median salaries and signing bonuses were flat with last year, at $100,000 and $40,000, respectively, while other guaranteed compensation fell to $8,750 from $40,000. Disney $4 Billion ‘Star Wars’ Deal Spotlights Content Bet (Bloomberg) Walt Disney agreed to buy George Lucas’s Lucasfilm Ltd. for $4.05 billion, pressing Chief Executive Officer Robert Iger’s $15 billion bet on creative franchises by adding “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones.” Lucas, 68, the sole owner, will get half in cash and the rest in stock, making him a major investor in the film, theme park and TV company, according to a statement yesterday from Burbank, California-based Disney. The first of a new trilogy of “Star Wars” films will be released in 2015, Disney said. France Can’t Compete With Rest of Europe: WTO Chief (CNBC) France is uncompetitive not only versus China, but against the rest of Europe, according to Pascal Lamy, director general of the World Trade Organization. “The competitiveness of France on foreign markets has been damaged for the last 10 years. This is nowhere more obvious than in Europe, where France has lost market share for the last 10 years,” said Lamy in an exclusive interview with CNBC in Paris. Cop Tasers 10 Year-Old For Refusing To Clean His Car (CN) A New Mexico policeman Tasered a 10-year-old child on a playground because the boy refused to clean his patrol car, the boy claims in court. Guardian ad litem Rachel Higgins sued the New Mexico Department of Public Safety and Motor Transportation Police Officer Chris Webb on behalf of the child, in Santa Fe County Court. Higgins claims Webb used his Taser on the boy, R.D., during a May 4 "career day" visit to Tularosa New Mexico Intermediate School. "Defendant Webb asked the boy, R.D., in a group of boys, who would like to clean his patrol unit," the complaint states. "A number of boys said that they would. R.D., joking, said that he did not want to clean the patrol unit. "Defendant Webb responded by pointing his Taser at R.D. and saying, 'Let me show you what happens to people who do not listen to the police.'" Webb then shot "two barbs into R.D.'s chest," the complaint states. "Both barbs penetrated the boy's shirt, causing the device to deliver 50,000 volts into the boy's body.

Opening Bell: 12.20.12

Report Says Libor-Tied Losses at Fannie, Freddie May Top $3 Billion (WSJ) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac may have lost more than $3 billion as a result of banks' alleged manipulation of a key interest rate, according to an internal report by a federal watchdog sent to the mortgage companies' regulator and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. The unpublished report urges Fannie and Freddie to consider suing the banks involved in setting the London interbank offered rate, which would add to the mounting legal headaches financial firms such as UBS AG and Barclays face from cities, insurers, investors and lenders over claims tied to the benchmark rate. Libor Documents May Boost Civil Suits (WSJ) Analysts have published a range of estimates of the potential impact to the industry of lawsuits stemming from the manipulation—in some cases they reach into the tens of billions of dollars or more. It likely will be years before the extent of any liabilities becomes clear. For the lawsuits to succeed, plaintiffs must prove that banks successfully altered the interest-rate benchmarks and caused the plaintiffs to suffer a loss. Michael Hausfeld, chairman of Hausfeld LLP, a co-lead counsel on one of the lawsuits, said the UBS settlement was "extremely useful" for the litigation. The "extraordinary emails" published by the regulators exposed the "pervasiveness of the culture and the activity." UBS Trader Hayes Exposed at Core of Libor Investigation (Bloomberg) Tom Hayes, one of two former UBS AG traders charged by U.S. prosecutors, is portrayed by American regulators as the kingpin of a three-year campaign that succeeded in manipulating global interest rates. Hayes, 33, was charged with wire fraud and price-fixing, the Department of Justice said in a criminal complaint unsealed yesterday. The trader and Roger Darin, a former short-term interest-rates trader at UBS whose responsibilities included the firm’s yen Libor quotes, were also charged with conspiracy...Hayes colluded with brokers, counterparts at other firms and his colleagues to manipulate the rate, the Justice Department said. Between 2006 and 2009, a UBS trader made at least 800 requests to the firm’s yen Libor rate-setters, about 100 to traders at other banks, and 1,200 to interdealer brokers, according to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which didn’t identify Hayes by name. “Many UBS yen derivatives traders and managers were involved in the manipulative conduct and made requests to serve their own trading positions’ interests,” the CFTC said. “But the volume of unlawful requests submitted by one particular senior yen derivatives trader in Tokyo dwarfed them all.” IntercontinentalExchange Agrees to Acquire NYSE Euronext (Bloomberg) IntercontinentalExchange Inc., the 12-year-old energy and commodity futures bourse, agreed to acquire NYSE Euronext for cash and stock worth $8.2 billion, moving to take control of the world’s biggest equities market. ICE, based in Atlanta, will pay $33.12 a share for the owner of the New York Stock Exchange, 38 percent above yesterday’s closing price, according to a statement today. Both boards approved the proposal and the companies expect to complete the transaction in the second half of 2013. Last year, the U.S. Justice Department blocked a joint hostile bid by ICE and Nasdaq OMX Group for the New York-based company on concern the combination would dominate U.S. stock listings. Greece Faces 'Make or Break' Year (FT) We can make it next year if we can stick to the program agreed with the EU and IMF," finance minister Yannis Stournaras said in an interview with the Financial Times. However, "the break would be if the political system finds the situation too difficult to handle", he added, referring to the danger of social unrest about austerity that could force the two left-of-center parties to bring down the governing coalition. "What we have done so far is necessary but not sufficient to achieve a permanent solution for Greece," Mr Stournaras said. "The issue now is implementation." Boehner's 'Plan B' Gets Pushback (WSJ) The mood at the White House was gloomy, while on Capitol Hill it fluctuated. Few seemed confident the nation would avoid the tax increases and spending cuts known as the fiscal cliff, but others noted major Washington deals are usually reached only after several near-death experiences. Preparing for the World's End, Just in Case (WSJ) Tony Brown, a private investigator in Southern California, says he has spent nearly $60,000 preparing for Teotwawki — an acronym for "the end of the world as we know it"—or SHTF—when the "s--- hits the fan." Mr. Brown has purchased an ultralight plane and amassed three tons of food in his kitchen, about a third in freeze-dried meals. About a year ago, Mr. Brown started a website to recruit a community of preppers to plan for a cataclysm. In the first several months, he said he received few inquiries. But by the summer, traffic to the site soared and applications have come rolling in since. He recently capped the group at 175 members—all are responsible for their own one-year supply of food—though he is still seeking a doctor, meteorologist and ham-radio operator. Mr. Brown has contingency plans for four doomsday scenarios he deems most likely—a supervolcano, solar flare, major earthquake or hyper inflation—and a large underground bunker in case of a nuclear attack. He doesn't believe the world will end on Dec. 21, "but, just in case, I want to have everything ready by then," he said. US Economy Grew 3.1%; Jobless Claims Rise (Reuters) Weekly jobless claims rose to 361,000 in the latest week. Claims has been expected to rise to 357,000, from 343,000 the prior week. BofA’s Moynihan Said to Kill Proposal to Cut Pay for Brokers (Bloomberg) Bank of America Corp. Chief Executive Officer Brian T. Moynihan blocked a proposal to cut the main component of most brokers’ pay for 2013, said a person with direct knowledge of the matter. The plan would have reduced the so-called grid payout for Merrill Lynch financial advisers by two percentage points, the person said, requesting anonymity because it wasn’t made public. The changes, which would have affected advisers generating less than $1 million in commissions, were seen as a way to cushion the costs of new bonuses, the person said. In $18 Million Theft, Victim Was a Canadian Maple Syrup Cartel (NYT) It was an inside job of sorts. Thieves with access to a warehouse and a careful plan loaded up trucks and, over time, made off with $18 million of a valuable commodity. The question is what was more unusual: that the commodity in question was maple syrup, or that it came from something called the global strategic maple syrup reserve, run by what amounts to a Canadian cartel. On Tuesday, the police in Quebec arrested three men in connection with the theft from the warehouse, which is southwest of Quebec City. The authorities are searching for five others suspected of being involved, and law enforcement agencies in other parts of Canada and the United States are trying to recover some of the stolen syrup. Both the size and the international scope of the theft underscore Quebec’s outsize position in the maple syrup industry. Depending on the year, the province can produce more than three-quarters of the world’s supply. And its marketing organization appears to have taken some tips from the producers of another valuable liquid commodity when it comes to exploiting market dominance. “It’s like OPEC,” said Simon Trépanier, acting general manager of the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers. “We’re not producing all the maple syrup in the world. But by producing 70 to 78 percent, we have the ability to adjust the quantity that is in the marketplace.” NYers who believe in Mayan apocalypse search for sex before the world ends (NYP) While some people around the world are arming themselves and digging into bunkers, many New Yorkers are simply hoping for a hot time. “I will be looking for an end-of-the-world hook-up,” Dennis Cintron, 29, a Lower East Side bartender, told The Post. “If you’re going to go out, go out with a bang.” Cintron said he’ll buy new clothes and get a haircut for the big day because he wants some “companionship” to ring in the rapture. Sara Saperstein, 26, of Bushwick is also hoping for one last romp. “It’s like New Year’s. I want to go out on a wild note!” Saperstein said. She won’t have trouble finding a spot for that. More than a dozen bars and clubs in New York City are throwing end-of-days bashes, including a comedy show at the Bell House in Gowanus and an “End of the Funking World Party” at B.B. King Blues Club in Midtown. Other singles posted ads on Craigslist.org and OKCupid.com, seeking apocalypse-themed dates, “casual encounters” and even “end of the world sex.” “If you’ve got no plans for the apocalypse, let’s get together,” wrote a 30-year-old single guy from Midtown. He added, “Send me how you’d like to spend your last hours on earth — and a photo.”

Opening Bell: 02.22.12

Fitch Downgrades Greece (WSJ) Fitch Ratings downgraded Greece's credit rating to C from triple-C Wednesday after confirmation of the country's second bailout package, which includes a debt exchange that will force bondholders to take a loss on their holdings of Greek debt. "The rating action is in line with Fitch's statement on 6 June 2011, which outlined its rating approach to a sovereign-debt exchange," the ratings company said. Fitch said it will lower its rating on the country's sovereign bonds to "restricted default" upon the completion of the debt exchange aimed at reducing the country's debt burden.