Opening Bell: 10.04.10

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UBS, Credit Suisse Face Tough New Capital Rules (WSJ)
At the heart of the proposals, which apply only to UBS and Credit Suisse, are stiffer capital requirements backed by new and as-yet untested bank-issued securities, as well as organizational measures to maintain essential services in payment transactions, the deposit business and lending business in the event of a crisis. Credit Suisse said Monday it is confident it can meet the higher capital requirement by 2019, while UBS maintained it is well-positioned to meet the measures within the defined timeframe. Unlike Credit Suisse, UBS will be forced to halt dividend payments for several years, in favor of using profits to bolster its capital.

Meriwether hopes to make it third time lucky (FN)
Meriwether, the man who was at the helm of the best-known hedge fund meltdown in history – LTCM – has launched his third hedge fund venture, JM Advisors. Reports circulated last October that Meriwether was planning a comeback with a US-based outfit, but he has now gone ahead and launched two funds. Both follow a global macro hedge fund strategy, according to documents filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. One is targeting offshore investors and the other, US investors. The decision to use this strategy marks a departure for Meriwether. His two previous hedge fund management firms – LTCM and JWM Partners – followed relative value arbitrage, borrowing large sums to make money from small anomalies in the fixed-income markets.

Goldman Opens Wallets Early (WSJ)
The bank has taken the unusual step of granting about 100 partners based in London a midyear bonus in stock, said a person familiar with the matter. Partners in London have been frustrated by their compensation, which Goldman Sachs capped in 2009 at £1 million in response to the U.K. government's demands, said the person. A number of them left the firm over the course of the past year, said this person.

Paulson And Bulls Bounce Back (WSJ)
Mr. Paulson, who racked up losses during the first eight months of the year and was criticized for an upbeat view on markets, enjoyed gains of about 12.5% in his biggest fund in September, according to an investor. The gains would have been even greater had Mr. Paulson not pared some positions earlier this summer, because of "uncertainty regarding the economic outlook," he told his investors.

Abby Joseph Cohen: Stocks Still Look Good, But Growth Will Be Slow (CNBC)
"We think think the probability of a double-dip has done down significantly. You can never rule anything out," she said. "I think we've all learned to be very humble as economic forecasters in recent years, but we think the deceleration is related to a few factors."

Wall Street Sees World Economy Decoupling From US (Bloomberg)
Goldman Sachs predicts worldwide growth will slow 0.2 percentage point to 4.6 percent in 2011, even as expansion in the U.S. falls to 1.8 percent from 2.6 percent.

Impalement Artist Takes a Stab at the 'Wheel of Death' (WSJ)
In this stunt, assistant Melissa-Anne Ainley will not only be covered up, but also strapped to an upright wheel that spins. The Great Throwdini will then fling blade after blade around her unseen, rotating body. The wheel dare has been performed only a handful of times. "It is insanity," says Carl Geddes, organizer of San Diego Chuckers, one of the longest-running knife-throwing competitions in the U.S.

AQR's New Risk Parity Play (CNBC)
Cliff Asness says he wants you to call him a "fat geek." Also, he's starting a new mutual fund.

Illiterate clown triumphs in election (Reuters)
Francisco Everardo Oliveira Silva, better known by his clown name Tiririca, received more than 1.3 million votes in Sao Paulo state in Brazil's presidential and congressional elections. That was more than double the votes of the second-placed candidate in Brazil's most populous state. Tiririca caught the attention of disillusioned voters by asking for their support with the humorous slogan: "It can't get any worse" and a promise to do nothing more in Congress than report back to them on how politicians spend their time. "What does a congressman do? The truth is I don't know, but vote for me and I'll tell you," the 45-year-old said in his campaign advertisements. The clown, whose stage name means "grumpy," usually appears in public wearing a blond wig, a red hat and a garish outfit. He survived a last-minute attempt by public prosecutors to bar him from running because of evidence that he is illiterate.

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Opening Bell: 04.09.12

JPMorgan Trader Iksil Fuels Prop-Trading Debate With Bets (Bloomberg) Iksil’s influence in the market has spurred some counterparts to dub him Voldemort, after the Harry Potter villain. He works in London in the bank’s chief investment office, which has assembled traders from across Wall Street to its staff of 400 who help oversee $350 billion in investments. While the firm describes the unit’s main task as hedging risks and investing excess cash, four hedge-fund managers and dealers say the trades are big enough to move indexes and resemble proprietary bets...The trades, first reported by Bloomberg News April 5, stirred debate among U.S. policy makers over the Easter-holiday weekend as they wrangle over this year’s implementation of the so-called Volcker rule, the portion of the Dodd-Frank Act that sets limits on risk-taking by banks with government backing. Taking Measure Of Citigroup And Bank Of America (NYT) Bank of America shares are up 66 percent this year, while Citigroup has risen 33 percent, amid the broader rebound in financial stocks. After staying out of the spotlight and earning $21 billion over the last two years, Citigroup’s potential problems are gaining attention again...At Barclays, the analyst Jason Goldberg said he was shocked when Citigroup did not get the go-ahead from the Fed, adding, “We had run mock stress tests with Citi passing by a fair amount.” Just as surprising, he added, has been Bank of America’s surge this year. Its performance has been a far cry from last year, when Bank of America’s stock, which closed at $9.23 on Thursday, was flirting with $5, and questions about whether it had enough capital were mounting. “If you asked me in January whether this thing would be up 66 percent, I’d have said you’re crazy,” Mr. Goldberg said, referring to Bank of America’s stock performance this year. A 'Fat Cat' With The President's Ear (WSJ) When President Barack Obama attacked "fat-cat bankers on Wall Street" in 2009, Robert Wolf had a ready response. "I said 'Mr. President, I know you think I'm overweight, but I can think of better names to call me,'" Mr. Wolf recalls. "He laughed." Humor and self-deprecation have served Mr. Wolf well in his often conflicting roles as presidential pal and Wall Street power broker. The 50-year-old president of UBS's UBS investment bank has remained a leading voice in the industry while also serving as Mr. Obama's chief Wall Street fundraiser and his current BFF (best friend in finance)...Mr. Wolf plays golf and basketball with the president and he is a frequent visitor to the White House. On vacation in Martha's Vineyard or at fundraising events, the two often bond over sports and their families, since they each have two school-age kids. As if to prove the president wrong about "fat cats," Mr. Wolf says he has lost 20 pounds in the past three months. Willing Banks Find Profits in Legal Trade With Iran (WSJ) As Western sanctions on Iran have grown tighter, some small banks have found a lucrative niche financing what remains of the legal trade with the Islamic Republic. Top-tier financial institutions including Société Générale SA GLE.FR -0.74% and Rabobank Group have stepped back from business with Iran in recent months, citing increased political risk and logistical hassles that attend even legal trade with the country. As a result, the remaining players are commanding higher fees and offering increasingly complicated services. Like Russia's First Czech-Russian Bank LLC and China's Bank of Kunlun Co. Ltd, they are typically small, obscure financial institutions often based in countries historically friendly to Iran. The firms and other intermediaries still brokering these trades are charging more than 6% per transaction for legitimate trade deals with Iran, on top of traditional banking fees, according to traders and bankers knowledgeable with the process. That is as much as triple the fees typically charged by Arab Gulf banks two years ago, before the United States and European Union significantly stiffened sanctions, according to Iranian businessmen. Easter Bunny Arrested (KTLA) An Easter Bunny was arrested this week after police found he was carrying around more than Easter eggs and candy. Joshua Lee Bolling, 24, was arrested and charged on Thursday with illegally possessing prescription narcotics. Police arrested Bolling after businesses at the Piedmont Mall in Danville, Virginia complained that the Easter Bunny was acting suspicious. "His suspicious behavior took place while he was on breaks and not during his contact with children," a police release said. UBS Faces Billionaire Olenicoff in Lawsuit Over His Tax Felony (Bloomberg) and billionaire Igor Olenicoff are scheduled to clash in court today over his claim that the bank bears blame for his failure to declare $200 million in offshore accounts on U.S. tax returns. Olenicoff, 69, a real-estate developer, pleaded guilty in 2007 to filing a false tax return, admitting he didn’t tell the Internal Revenue Service about his offshore accounts for seven years. He was sentenced to two years’ probation and ordered to pay $52 million in back taxes, fines and penalties. In 2008, he sued Zurich-based UBS, the largest Swiss bank, claiming it traded excessively in his accounts, engaged in racketeering and committed fraud by not telling him he owed U.S. taxes. He seeks as much as $1.7 billion in damages. Arguments on the bank’s motion to dismiss the case are set for today before U.S. District Judge Andrew Guilford in Santa Ana, California. Markets at the Start of a More Significant Downturn Says Marc Faber (CNBC) “The technical underpinnings of the market have been a disaster in the last couple of weeks,” Faber said on the sidelines of the Maybank Invest Asia conference. “The number of new highs have declined, the volume has been poor, insider sales just hit a record.” Faber said the weakness in economically sensitive stocks such as mining and industrial goods was particularly “disturbing.” Agencies At Odds Over New Ratings (FT) The latest example came this month when a near-$800 million bond deal backed by U.S. prime mortgages was sold to investors with triple-A ratings — provided by Standard & Poor’s and DBRS, a smaller competitor based in Canada — on some tranches. Fitch Ratings issued a statement saying it would not have rated the bonds triple A. It said it provided “feedback” on the transaction to the arranger, Credit Suisse, and “was ultimately not asked to rate the deal due to the agency’s more conservative credit stance”. Steven Vames, a Credit Suisse spokesman, said it was common for an issuer to engage multiple rating agencies to look at a deal and ultimately choose a subset of those agencies to rate it. In March, Moody’s said: “Some recent cases have come to market for which we believe increased risk has not been adequately mitigated for the level of ratings assigned by another agency.” In particular, Moody’s faulted ratings issued by S&P, Fitch and DBRS on asset-backed deals. For Big Companies, Life Is Good (WSJ) An analysis by The Wall Street Journal of corporate financial reports finds that cumulative sales, profits and employment last year among members of the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index exceeded the totals of 2007, before the recession and financial crisis. UK Cruise Retraces Titanic's Ill-Fated Voyage (Reuters) Descendants of some of the 1,500 people killed when the Titanic sank a century ago were among the passengers on a cruise ship that set off from Britain on Sunday to retrace the route of the liner's ill-fated voyage. Some donned period costume, including furs and feathered hats for women and suits and bowler hats for men, to board the MS Balmoral at Southampton on the southern English coast. The world's most famous maritime disaster has fascinated people ever since, explaining why passengers from 28 countries were prepared to pay up to 8,000 pounds ($13,000) each to be a passenger on the memorial cruise organized by a British travel firm. The Balmoral will follow in the wake of the Titanic, sailing near Cherbourg in France and then calling at Cobh inIreland before arriving at the spot where the Titanic went down...Passenger Jane Allen, whose great-uncle died on his honeymoon trip on the Titanic while her great-aunt survived, said she did not think it was "ghoulish or macabre" to go on the voyage.