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Opening Bell: 07.19.10

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Obama's Bull Market Intact as Midterm Gridlock Signals Gains (Bloomberg)
The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index has surged 48 percent on average starting in the second year of each U.S. presidential term, measured from its lowest level through the high the next year, according to data going back to 1928 compiled by Bloomberg. That compares with trough-to-peak gains of 38 percent in other years. “I envision a rally from before the midterm elections,” said Kenneth Fisher. “Markets love gridlock. What the market wants to see is no change: less legislation that engages in changes in taxes, spending, regulation or property rights.”

The Men Who Ended Goldman's War (NYT)
Some people close to Mr. Khuzami and Mr. Reisner joke that they are like Tweedledee and Tweedledum. When Mr. Khuzami travels, Mr. Reisner runs many of the enforcement unit’s daily operations.

Ireland's Credit Rating Cut on Weak Growth, Banks (Reuters)
"Today's downgrade is primarily driven by the Irish government's gradual but significant loss of financial strength, as reflected by its deteriorating debt affordability," Dietmar Hornung, a Moody's vice president and lead analyst for Ireland, said in a statement.

EU Says Stress Test Results To Be Bank-By-Bank (WSJ)
Greece's finance minister said Monday that the country's major banks are likely to pass the stress tests. "The Greek banks now have before them the famous stress tests," Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou said in a speech. "I am certain the banks will pass those stress tests."

Bankers Concerned Over Stress Tests (FT)
Board members at four of the continent’s biggest banks – in the UK, France and Germany – said on condition of anonymity that they had grave reservations about the way in which the exercise had been conducted and were worried the markets would misinterpret the outcome.

British financier Anthony Ward behind £658m cocoa trade (Telegraph)
Anthony Ward, 50, bought 241,000 tons of cocoa beans and now owns enough to manufacture 5.3 billion quarter-pound chocolate bars. Mr Ward, who is worth around £36 million, holds so much of the market he could force manufacturers to raise the price of Britain's favourite chocolate bars. The transaction, the largest single cocoa trade in 14 years, was carried out last Friday by Armajaro Holdings, a hedge fund co-founded by Mr Ward.

Hiring Improves in US Economy: NABE Survey (AP)
39 percent of those surveyed say they expect to hire more workers over the next six months — the most since January 2008. Manufacturers reported the strongest increase in demand and profitability. Finance, insurance and real estate sectors saw the slowest growth.

AIG Hiring of Tucker May Trigger Bid for Prudential Unit (Bloomberg)
AIA Group Ltd. today named Tucker, who headed Prudential for four years from 2005, as CEO and executive chairman, replacing Mark Wilson. After completing the firm’s planned initial public offering, Tucker may bid for Prudential Asia Corp., the unit he ran from 1993 to 2003, according to Panmure Gordon & Co.’s Barrie Cornes.