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Opening Bell 08.05.10

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Barclays Profit Growth Held Back by Investment Banking Revenue (Bloomberg)
The bank said first-half profit rose 29 percent as a drop in provisions for bad loans mitigated a decline in investment banking revenue. Net income rose to 2.43 billion pounds ($3.9 billion) from 1.89 billion pounds in the year-earlier period, the London-based bank said in a statement today. Earnings beat the 2.26 billion- pound median estimate of 10 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. “The second quarter was tough,” Diamond, 59, said on a conference call. “Clients were taking less risk in that period of May and June. We have clearly seen in the second half of July more activity in the market. I don’t want to predict how that all plays out for the second half, but it looks more positive.”

Goldman Sachs To Shift Principal Strategies Into A Fund (Bloomberg)
The team, which aims to complete the process by the end of the year, hasn’t set a target for the amount it wants to raise, the person said. Goldman Sachs Principal Strategies, the trading team led by Hong Kong-based Morgan Sze, 44, may be keen to raise money before competition emerges from proprietary- trading teams leaving other banks, analyst Brad Hintz said. “What you don’t want to be is the 50th prop desk being spun out,” Hintz, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. in New York, said in an interview. “I think what they’re saying is, ‘Get out while the getting’s good.’”

Buffett Gets In Bind Over Options
A new law requiring most derivatives users to post collateral on trades could diminish potential gains to the point where Buffett could lose interest in keeping his bet. Options prices have been rising amid concern that Buffett might buy back the options he sold, traders said.In the worst-case scenario, if markets tank and Buffett has to post collateral, he could face tens of billions of dollars if the underlying stock indexes went to zero.

New Law Fuels a Shake-Up at Morgan Stanley (WSJ)
In recent days, executives at the Wall Street firm and FrontPoint, which has $7 billion in assets, have been hashing out terms for a no-cash agreement that would bring Morgan Stanley's full ownership of FrontPoint—purchased at the height of the hedge-fund market—down to between 20% and 25%, said the people close to the matter. FrontPoint was profitable in 2007, but not in 2008, people familiar with the matter said. It went from $5.5 billion in assets when purchased in 2006 to $10 billion at its peak. FrontPoint executives offered about $150 million to buy back the firm from Morgan Stanley, said people familiar with the talks. That would have triggered a painful write-down, which Morgan Stanley wasn't willing to take. Morgan Stanley currently values FrontPoint at around $350 million, one person with knowledge of the matter said.

Brett Favre sent X-rated photos to Jenn Sterger (NYDN)
Deadspin editor-in-chief A.J. Daulerio reported Wednesday that model, actress and TV host Jenn Sterger told him that Favre had sent her inappropriate and explicit pictures of his himself. Daulerio said Sterger, 26, told him that she had received several friendly but strange voicemail messages early in the 2008 season. "But then, one night, Sterger received a picture on her phone which was so shocking that she just tossed it across the room. It was his d---. Brett Favre's d---."

Geithner Pushes Tax Boost For Wealthy (WSJ)
In a speech Wednesday in Washington, part of the administration's broader strategy to overcome Republican opposition on the issue, Mr. Geithner said that keeping current tax levels even on a short-term basis "would hurt economic recovery by undermining confidence that we are prepared to make a commitment today to bring down our future deficits." The government needs the revenue it would get from allowing tax rates for the wealthy to rise, he said.

Fortress Q2 Profit Rises 24% (Reuters)
FIG aid pretax distributable income rose 24 percent in the second quarter, helped by strong performance of its funds. The New York-based hedge fund and private equity firm said pretax distributable income, which excludes non-cash compensation charges and other costs, was $73 million, or 14 cents per share, up from $59 million, or 12 cents per share, a year earlier.