Opening Bell: 05.25.10

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Jamie Dimon Broadly Optimistic On Reform (Reuters)
"We'll end up with something better than what we had before," he said last night at the Japan Society's Annual Dinner in New York, although he added that he is not expecting perfection. Paul Volcker introduced Dimon, 54, as a man "at the top of his game" and said under his leadership JPMorgan "maintained stability throughout the crisis." "I'm also proud to call myself a banker," Dimon said.

Senators Pick Financial Bill Conferees (WSJ)
U.S. Senate leaders are expected as soon as Tuesday to appoint seven Democrats and five Republicans. Senate Banking Chairman Christopher Dodd (D., Conn.) and Agriculture Chairman Blanche Lincoln (D., Ark.) are expected to play a key role for Democrats, while Sens. Richard Shelby of Alabama and Judd Gregg of New Hampshire are anticipated to be among those representing the GOP.

Germany Eyes Wider Short-Selling Ban (Reuters)
A leaked Finance Ministry document said planned measures aimed at stabilizing financial markets would include a "ban on naked short selling of shares, including derivatives referring thereto."

Four Regional Banks Make Initial Merger Pact in Spain (Reuters)
The agreement, which is being led by Caja de Ahorros de Mediterráneo and includes Cajastur, Caja de Extremadura and Caja Cantabria, aims to create a joint banking group to “strengthen solvency and assets of the participating banks,” the banks said in a statement.

Italian cabinet prepares austerity package (FT)
Italy’s cabinet is due to meet on Tuesday evening to approve an austerity package aimed at reducing the state budget deficit by €24bn over 2011 and 2012. Gianni Letta, cabinet under-secretary, warned that there would have to be “tough sacrifices” for Italy to avoid following Greece into crisis. The emergency budget measures aim to bring the deficit below 3 per cent of gross domestic product by 2012 from 5.3 per cent last year.

Geithner Confident About China’s Currency Reforms (CNBC)
“I think China’s economy looks very strong," Geithner said. "They’re very committed to reinforcing growth, strengthening domestic demand. That’s important for the US, China and the world.” Asked if he felt confident that China would revalue its currency, he said, “Absolutely. They’re going to look at what’s happening in the world. Their growth should come more from domestic demand, and raising incomes.”

BP hatches 'top kill' bid to plug oil leak (SMH)
The British oil firm's chief operating officer Doug Suttles said the already-delayed operation would now take place Wednesday. He told CNN that the bid, using robotic submarines on the seabed, had a six or seven out of 10 chance of working. If the "top kill" effort fails, relief wells to divert the flow and allow the leaking well to be sealed will not be ready until August at the earliest, meaning tens of millions more barrels of crude could stream into the Gulf.

Lohan's Ankle Bracelet Has Breathalyzer Technology (AP)
The bracelet uses the same technology as a Breathalyzer, but instead of checking the breath for alcohol, it samples the perspiration on the skin. After alcohol is consumed, it eventually enters the bloodstream and a small amount is expelled through the skin.

Private-equity bigs fume at lobbying reps (NYP)
Sources familiar with the matter said that several high-profile private-equity barons are fuming over the hit they'll sustain from legislation that sharply raises the tax they pay on carried interest and they are assigning some of the blame to the lobbying group they pay dearly to represent their interests. A Blackstone spokesman denied there was any dissatisfaction with the council, and a KKR spokesman said it was in 100 percent alignment with the lobbying group.

Pimco's Developing Markets Fund Lags Behind Peers, Beats Underlying Index (Bloomberg)
Pimco’s $2.9 billion Developing Local Markets Fund lost 1.9 percent this year, lagging behind 97 percent of U.S.-based funds invested in emerging-market debt, Bloomberg data show.

For sale: One brothel (Chron)
Harris County has a whorehouse for sale. Commissioners Court has on its hands the Velvet Touch, a business that operated on Highway 6 South, and will consider this morning how to dispose of it.

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Opening Bell: 04.13.12

JPMorgan Profit Slips (WSJ) J.P. Morgan reported a profit of $5.38 billion, down from $5.56 billion a year earlier. On a per-share basis, earnings were $1.31, up from $1.28 as the share count outstanding declined. The latest quarter included a net 8-cent per-share loss tied to litigation expenses and changes in the value of the bank's debt. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected a per-share profit of $1.18, excluding debt-related charges. Revenue rose 6.3% to $27.42 billion. Analysts were looking for $24.68 billion. Wells Fargo reports higher first-quarter profit (Reuters) Wells Fargo, the nation's fourth-biggest U.S. bank, said net income was $4.25 billion, or 75 cents a share, in the quarter, compared with $3.76 billion, or 67 cents, a share in the same period a year earlier. The average estimate from analysts was 73 cents per share. JPMorgan Said to Transform Treasury to Prop Trading (Bloomberg) Achilles Macris, hired in 2006 as the CIO’s top executive in London, led an expansion into corporate and mortgage-debt investments with a mandate to generate profits for the New York- based bank, three of the former employees said. Dimon, 56, closely supervised the shift from the CIO’s previous focus on protecting JPMorgan from risks inherent in its banking business, such as interest-rate and currency movements, they said. Some of Macris’s bets are now so large that JPMorgan probably can’t unwind them without losing money or roiling financial markets, the former executives said, based on knowledge gleaned from people inside the bank and dealers at other firms. Bank Bonus That Tops Salary May Be Banned by EU Lawmakers (Bloomberg) Governments and lawmakers in the 27-nation EU are considering rules for lenders that would go far beyond international agreements approved by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision. Denmark, which holds the rotating presidency of the EU, has proposed empowering nations to set surcharges of up to 3 percent across their banking systems. Karas yesterday suggested adding language to the legislation that would ban banker bonuses that exceed fixed pay, following calls from other lawmakers to rein in excessive compensation. IMF Lifts Growth Forecast, Cautiously (WSJ) Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, said the world economy is marked by "a high degree of instability" even though prospects for global growth are better than they were a few months ago. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Ms. Lagarde said the IMF, which marked down its 2012 forecast for global growth in January to 3.3%, has now marked it up to reflect improving conditions in the world economy. But she said the new forecast, to be released next week, remains more pessimistic than the one it made last September, which predicted 4% growth. Europe remains the biggest single risk to the global economy, the former French finance minister said. Hedge Fund Driver Guns DownArmed Robber (NYP) A retired NYPD lieutenant blew away a drugstore bandit yesterday as the suspect tried to gun down three police officers during a foot pursuit, sources said. Thomas Barnes, Barnes — a driver for hedge fund manager Philippe Laffont, was filling his tank at the BP station on East 119th Street and First Avenue at around 11 a.m. when he saw gunman Rudolph Wyatt running from the store, and sprang into action. He crouched behind his hedge-fund boss’ Mercedes SUV and squeezed off three shots, killing Wyatt, 23. The trigger-happy thug — wanted on warrants for two other shootings — lay dead in a pool of blood on the sidewalk wearing a black stocking mask with a wad of stolen cash spilling out of his pocket, witnesses said. “Part of the back of his head was missing. He had a large head wound and there was tons of blood,” said witness John Brecevich, 59, owner of the Original Patsy’s restaurant nearby. “It was a scene straight out of NYPD Blue.” Trustees Aim For MF Execs (NYP) The trustee tasked with clawing back money for burned customers of MF Global is training his sights on the brokerage firm’s executives — a list that likely includes former CEO Jon Corzine. In a statement yesterday, trustee James Giddens said he is considering pursuing claims against “certain responsible individuals” who worked for MF at the time customers’ trading accounts were improperly tapped. Kent Jarrell, a spokesman for Giddens, declined to name names but said the trustee is considering civil suits against “officers, directors or other employees” of both the brokerage firm and the holding company. Fed Officials Differ on Need to Keep Rates Low to 2014 (Bloomberg) William C. Dudley, president of the New York Fed, and Vice Chairman Janet Yellen said the 2014 time-frame is needed to lower unemployment from 8.2 percent. Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota said rising inflation may prompt an interest-rate increase as early as this year, while Philadelphia’s Charles Plosser said policy should hinge on economic performance, not a calendar commitment. Newark Mayor Cory Booker: Race into home fire was a "come to Jesus moment" (CBS) Booker arrived home last night to discover his next-door neighbor's house on fire, and rescued a young woman trapped upstairs by carrying here through the flames, suffering second-degree burns in the process. The mayor's security team discovered the fire and pounded on the door to alert residents, when an elderly woman said that her daughter was trapped upstairs. At first, Newark Police Detective Alex Rodriguez would not let Booker into the burning house. "He basically told me, 'This woman is going to die if we don't help her,' and what can I say to that?," Rodriguez said. "I let him go and without thinking twice, he just ran into the flames and rescued this young lady." Booker said that as he jumped through the kitchen on the second floor, "I actually wasn't thinking. When I got there and couldn't find her in all the smoke, looked behind me and saw the kitchen really erupting with flames all over the ceiling, that's when I had very clear thoughts that I'm not going to get out of this place alive and got ... very religious. He admitted he was "not gentle" with her - "I just sort of threw her over my shoulder and dragged her through the kitchen."