Opening Bell: 08.20.10

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Wild Trading In Metals Puts Fund Manager In Cross-Hairs (WSJ)
Christopher Pia was the quintessential hedge-fund success story: a hard-charger from a working-class New York City neighborhood whose trading prowess earned him a top job at fund giant Moore Capital Management. He bought a sprawling house in Armonk, N.Y., and tooled around town in an orange Lamborghini. Mr. Pia liked to tell colleagues about his modest upbringing, and that he is a devout Catholic. He complained about hedge-fund managers he considered elitist. On the trading floor, he often twirled a string of rosary beads. Callers to his cellphone heard the Batman theme song.

How To Tell When Your Boss Is Lying (The Economist)
Deceptive bosses, it transpires, tend to make more references to general knowledge (“as you know…”), and refer less to shareholder value (perhaps to minimise the risk of a lawsuit, the authors hypothesise). They also use fewer “non-extreme positive emotion words”. That is, instead of describing something as “good”, they call it “fantastic”. The aim is to “sound more persuasive” while talking horsefeathers. When they are lying, bosses avoid the word “I”, opting instead for the third person. They use fewer “hesitation words”, such as “um” and “er”, suggesting that they may have been coached in their deception. As with Mr Skilling’s “asshole”, more frequent use of swear words indicates deception.

Fund Manager Finds Plenty Of Virtue In Sin Stocks (WaPo)
Vice is the only fund explicitly focusing on sin stocks. Its portfolio of about 30 stocks is divided almost equally among cigarettes, alcohol, gaming and casinos, and defense - industries that typically hold up well in tough times. Although such a small portfolio can lead to volatility, the Vice Fund offsets that risk by emphasizing steady dividend-paying stocks.

Shrinking Quant Funds Struggle To Revive Boom (CNBC)
The combined assets of quantitative funds specializing in United States stocks have plunged to $467 billion, from $1.2 trillion in 2007, a 61 percent decline, according to eVestment Alliance, a research firm. That drop reflects both bad investments and withdrawals by clients.

Toilet-Paper Scandal in India 'Shames' Commonwealth Games Host (Bloomberg)
Allegations of corruption and mismanagement are overtaking a tournament that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said would “signal to the world that India is rapidly marching ahead with confidence.” The Economic Times newspaper, citing internal documents, said organizers bought $80 rolls of toilet paper, $61 soap dispensers and $125 first-aid kits.

Ackman's StuyTown bid on hold (NYP)
A New York state Supreme Court judge has set a Sept. 2 hearing between an Ackman-led real-estate venture and lenders who hold a $3 billion first mortgage on the property, represented by special servicer CW Capital. Pershing Square and Winthrop Realty Trust, his par , his partner in the real estate venture, had planned to gain control of the property by foreclosing on an entity that is responsible for the first mortgage on Aug. 25. Lenders sued to stop him on Wednesday, demanding that they be paid $3.66 billion, including interest, owed them before Ackman be allowed to follow through on his plan.

New Front Opens In Vendor Wars (WSJ)
Rule No. 1 in the rough-and-tumble business of gourmet-food trucks is to avoid parking on the same block as your brethren. Violate the unwritten code and things could get ugly. That's what happened Tuesday in Midtown, when the Rickshaw Dumpling Truck saddled up for business near the Frites 'N' Meats truck. Vadim Ponorovsky, the owner of Frites 'N' Meats, expected that the dumpling truck would leave. After all, the highly coveted block on 48th Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues is his regular spot Tuesdays. He called Kenny Lao, owner of the dumpling truck. But Mr. Lao's truck never left. What happened next is contested. The New York Police Department was summoned (by whom remains unclear). And both trucks were kicked out of the space. Then the Twitter and blog wars began. "Getting kicked out of spot due to Rickshaw Dumpling Truck deciding to park also. Not sure if well be back here. Boycott Rickshaw Dumpling!" someone from Frites 'N' Meats wrote on its Twitter account moments after the incident. "Its not a war. But if it were, asking whod win, is like asking whod win in a Mike Tyson (us) vs. snot nosed 3rd grader (Rickshaw)."

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By Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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