Opening Bell: 11.10.10

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GM Reports $2.16 Billion Profit Ahead of Share Sale (BW)
Earnings before interest and taxes rose to $2.28 billion from $2.03 billion during the previous three months of the year, the Detroit-based company said today in a statement. Revenue was $34.1 billion. Chief Executive Officer Dan Akerson, who took over from Ed Whitacre on Sept. 1, has said GM can make “significant” profit even amid a U.S. auto sales rate running about 30 percent slower than before the financial crisis.

Ireland's Fate Tied To Doomed Banks (WSJ)
With doubts swirling about the solvency of the Irish state in early September, Finance Minister Brian Lenihan summoned a dozen senior government and bank officials to a conference room nicknamed the "torture chamber," a nod to its history as a venue for painful meetings. For two years, Ireland had poured money on a raging banking crisis, to no avail. Each estimate of the rising price of rescuing Ireland's banks turned out too low. Mr. Lenihan needed to halt the drip-drip of bad news that was leading his country to ruin. "I want a final figure ASAP," he told the group. Two weeks later, the estimate came in: Up to €50 billion—nearly $50,000 for every household in the Emerald Isle. But now, investors are betting the bill could be higher still and could reignite Europe's sovereign-debt crisis...It wasn't supposed to be this way. In October 2008, Mr. Lenihan boasted that his government had devised "the cheapest bailout in the world so far." Ireland's financial regulator pronounced the banks "more than adequately capitalized."

Zoellick Sees 'Elephant,' Not Endorsing Gold Standard (CNBC)
What "the price of gold has been telling people is that there is a lack of confidence in some of the fundamentals growth policies," Robert Zoellick, president of the World Bank said. "The golden elephant in the room, whether people recognize it or not, is being used as an alternative monetary asset," he said.

Goldman Executive Fired Over Violations (FT)
Alexandre Harfouche, a London-based managing director and head of European block trading, was sacked for failing to make proper disclosures to the bank’s compliance department, according to people familiar with the matter. “Mr Harfouche no longer works for the firm, and I have no idea what his plans are,” a Goldman spokesman said, declining to comment further. Mr Harfouche could not be reached for comment. While Goldman did not specify the reasons for Mr Harfouche’s departure, people close to the situation stressed that no securities law had been violated and no client had been harmed by the events that led to his dismissal.

GeoSphere Capital Management: "Together with supply/demand factors globally, QE2 boosts the case for owning commodities and commodity-related equities." (PDF)
Third quarter letter.

Wall Street Collects $4 Billion From Taxpayers as Swaps Backfire (Bloomberg)
For more than a decade, banks and insurance companies convinced governments and nonprofits that financial engineering would lower interest rates on bonds sold for public projects such as roads, bridges and schools. That failed promise has cost more than $4 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, as hundreds of borrowers from the Bay Area Toll Authority in Oakland, California, to Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, quietly paid Wall Street to end agreements since 2008.

Goldman's O'Neill Says China, U.S. in `Grand Bargain' on Yuan (Bloomberg)
“People forget, but the currency has risen by 3 percent since the summer and has risen nearly 25 percent over five years,” said O’Neill, chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset, in an interview on Bloomberg Television. It’s not a “fluke” that China is given a bigger share at the Washington-based IMF, and “that’s part of the grand bargain,” he said.

Google To Give All Staff 10% Raise (WSJ)
The pay hike comes as Google ramps up its battle with competitors, especially neighboring Facebook Inc., in a fight to secure talented staff. Roughly 10% of Facebook's employees are Google veterans and other Silicon Valley companies have aggressively poached employees from the Internet giant.

Baupost Group To Return Cash (BI)
Seth Klarman's Baupost Group will return 5% of its capital to investors at the end of the year, says a source who has viewed a November 8th letter from Klarman to Baupost's investors. Baupost has generated an monstrous $6.5 billion in net investment profits from January 1, 2009 to September 2010 ("net" of an estimated $2 billion of performance and management fees). This growth has propelled the firm to an enormous $23 billion in assets. Klarman considers this size too large for the current market environment, in which he finds opportunities scarce.

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Opening Bell: 05.21.12

JPMorgan CIO Risk Chief Said To Have Trading-Loss History (Bloomberg) Irvin Goldman, who oversaw risks in the JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) unit that suffered more than $2 billion in trading losses, was fired by another Wall Street firm in 2007 for money-losing bets that prompted a regulatory sanction at the firm, Cantor Fitzgerald LP, three people with direct knowledge of the matter said. JPMorgan appointed Goldman in February as the top risk official in its chief investment office while the unit was managing trades that later spiraled into what Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon called “egregious,” self-inflicted mistakes. The bank knew when it picked Goldman that his earlier work at Cantor led regulators to penalize that company, according to a person briefed on the situation. Risk Manager's Past Scrutinized (WSJ) Mr. Goldman joined J.P. Morgan's CIO in January 2008 as a trader. The bank placed him on leave in September 2008 after it learned that NYSE Arca had opened a regulatory inquiry tied to his trading activities at Cantor Fitzgerald, people familiar with the matter said. After J.P. Morgan placed him on leave, Mr. Goldman founded a consulting firm based in New York called IJG Advisors LLC. He rejoined J.P. Morgan in September 2010 in the Chief Investment Office, this time focusing on strategy. Current J.P. Morgan Chase Chief Risk Officer John Hogan chose Mr. Goldman to serve as CRO of the office, a position that had been filled by Peter Weiland, who remains with J.P. Morgan's CIO. Mr. Hogan wasn't aware of the Cantor Fitzgerald incident or the earlier trading losses at J.P. Morgan Chase, said a person close to the bank. Eurobonds To Be Discussed At EU Summit (Reuters) Merkel has said she is not opposed to jointly underwritten euro area bonds per se, but believes it can only be discussed once the conditions are right, including much closer economic integration and coordination across the euro zone, including on fiscal matters. That remains a long way off. Will Greece Be Able to Print Drachma in a Rush? (Reuters) If or when policymakers finally decide Greece should leave the euro, the exit could happen so quickly that "new drachma" currency notes might not be printed in time. "It would be chaos," says Marios Efthymiopoulos, a visiting scholar at Johns Hopkins University Center for Advanced International Studies and president of Thessaloniki-based think tank Global Strategy. "The banks would collapse and you would have to nationalize them. You wouldn't be able to pay anyone except in coupons. There is only one (currency) printing press in Greece. It is in the museum in Athens and it doesn't work any more." Ryanair CEO: ‘No’ Campaigners in Irish Vote Are Crazy (CNBC) “I think Ireland will vote yes in the referendum and Ireland should vote yes. We have no alternative. People who are borrowing $15 billion a year to keep the lights turned on don’t have the wherewithal to vote no to the people that are lending them the money. There is no argument for voting no,” Michael O'Leary, CEO of budget airline Ryanair said. He described “no” campaigners as a “bunch of idiots and lunatics.” Barclays To Sell Entire BlackRock Stake (WSJ) Barclays said BlackRock agreed to repurchase $1 billion worth of the 19.6% stake that the bank holds in the asset-management company. The remainder of the stake will then be listed on a stock exchange. The decision to sell comes as the bank faces pressure from investors to boost its return on equity and prepares to mitigate the effects of regulation that will force the lender to hold a bigger capital buffer. Mark Zuckerberg Gets Married (AP) The couple met at Harvard and have been together for more than nine years, a guest who insisted on anonymity said. The ceremony took place in Zuckerberg's backyard before fewer than 100 guests, including Facebook's chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg. The guests all thought they were coming to celebrate Chan's graduation but were told after they arrived that the event was in fact a wedding. "Everybody was shocked," the guest said. The two had been planning the marriage for months but were waiting until Chan had graduated from medical school to hold the wedding. The timing wasn't tied to the IPO, since the date the company planned to go public was a "moving target," the guest said. Zuckerberg designed the ring featuring "a very simple ruby." Hedge Funds Rebuild Euro Bear Bets On Greek Exit Banks Weigh (Bloomberg) Hedge funds and other large speculators, which pared trades that would profit from a drop in the euro to the lowest levels since November, rebuilt them to a record high last week, figures released May 18 by the Washington-based Commodity Futures Trading Commission showed. The premium for options that grant the right to sell the euro has more than doubled since March. Nasdaq CEO Blames Software Design For Delayed Facebook Trading (Bloomberg) Nasdaq OMX Group, under scrutiny after shares of Facebook Inc. were plagued by delays and mishandled orders on its first day of trading, blamed “poor design” in the software it uses for driving auctions in initial public offerings. Fed Proves More Bullish Than Wall Street Forecasting U.S. Growth (Bloomberg) Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Pierpont Securities LLC, has derided the Federal Reserve for downplaying improvement in the U.S. economy. Yet his 2.6 percent forecast for growth this year is below the midpoint in the central bank’s projection of 2.4 percent to 2.9 percent...“I’ve been banging my head against the wall,” said Stanley in Stamford, Connecticut, a former researcher at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, who had predicted an interest- rate increase as early as last year and now says the Fed probably will tighten in the middle of next year. “They’re willing to let things run for longer and let inflation accelerate more than historically.” Judge mulls suit vs. woman sending messages to driving boyfriend (NYP) In a case believed to be the first of its kind in the country, a New Jersey college student could be held liable this week for texting her boyfriend — knowing he was behind the wheel — and allegedly causing him to crash into a couple riding a motorcycle. “She texts. Instantly, he texts back, and, bang, the accident occurs,” said Skippy Weinstein, attorney for motorcycle enthusiasts David and Linda Kubert, both 59, who lost their left legs in the horrific 2009 accident in Mine Hill. It’s now up to a Superior Court judge in Morristown, NJ, to decide whether Shannon Colonna can be added to the suit against driver Kyle Best.

Opening Bell: 12.05.12

Global Banking Under Siege as Nations Tighten Local Rules (Bloomberg) Regulators want to curtail risks exposed after global banks such as New York-based Citigroup, Edinburgh-based Royal Bank of Scotland and Zurich-based UBS took bailouts in the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression. Forcing lenders to dedicate capital and liquidity to multiple local subsidiaries, rather than a single parent, may undermine the business logic of a multinational structure. “Being big and spread out all over the world isn’t what it used to be,” said Mayra Rodriguez Valladares, managing principal at New York-based MRV Associates, which trains bank examiners and executives at financial firms. “You’ll see global banks jettison divisions abroad and at home.” Paulson Said to Blame Bet Against Europe for Most of Loss (Bloomberg) John Paulson, manager of $20 billion in hedge funds, told investors that the bulk of his losses this year came on bets that the European sovereign-debt crisis would worsen, according to a person familiar with the matter. Paulson, speaking to clients at his firm’s annual meeting yesterday in New York, said he has reduced those positions following European Central Bank President Mario Draghi’s comments in July that the ECB was committed to preserving the euro, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the meeting was private. Paulson said in a February letter to investors that the euro was “structurally flawed” and would eventually fall apart. In April, the founder of New York-based Paulson & Co. told clients he was wagering against European sovereign bonds and buying credit-default swaps on European debt, or protection against the chance of default. No Payback For Singer This Year (NYP) Paul Singer’s last-ditch attempt to get cash from Argentina this year has failed. A motion by Singer’s hedge fund, Elliott Management, requesting that the South American country put up a security deposit of $250 million by Dec. 10 was denied by a federal appeals court yesterday. “Since we will not have a big payment for ages (if ever), this looks like a huge blow to [Elliott’s] strategy,” said sovereign-debt expert Anna Gelpern. In Tax Fight, G.O.P. Seeks a Position to Fall Back On (NYT) Senator Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, who is retiring, joined a handful of other Republicans on Tuesday suggesting that Congress should pass the middle-class tax cut extensions now, then leave the fight over taxes and spending until later. Americans, she said, "should not even be questioning that we will ultimately raise taxes on low- to middle-income people." Congress could take that off the table "while you're grappling with tax cuts for the wealthy," she said. But any move toward compromise with Democrats on fiscal issues quickly comes under attack from conservatives as a surrender and unsettles the rank-and-file. It is a dynamic that has haunted Speaker John A. Boehner throughout the 112th Congress, as he has repeatedly been caught between the imperative to govern and the need to satisfy the restive right. Mr. Boehner, of Ohio, has drawn fire this week for removing a handful of House Republicans who have defied the leadership from their preferred committee seats, a step he took to enforce party discipline. Fed to launch fresh bond buying to help economy (Reuters) The Federal Reserve is set to announce a fresh round of Treasury bond purchases when it meets next week, avoiding monetary policy tightening to maintain support for the weak U.S. economy amid uncertainty over the looming year-end "fiscal cliff." Many economists think the U.S. central bank will announce monthly bond purchases of $45 billion after its policy gathering on December 11-12, signaling it will continue to pump money into the U.S. economy during 2013 in a bid to bring down unemployment. Merkel Wins Party Reelection, Eyes Third Term (Reuters) Merkel, at the height of her popularity, was returned unopposed as CDU chairwoman with 97.9 percent of votes from delegates who stood and applauded her for nearly eight minutes after she lauded Germany's economic resilience in the euro crisis and promised to fight for jobs and prosperity. McAfee Emerges From Hiding in Guatemala (FT) John McAfee, the antivirus software entrepreneur, has revealed that he has fled to Guatemala from Belize where he is wanted for questioning in relation to a murder. Posting on his website on Tuesday, the US citizen and multimillionaire said: "I apologize for all of the misdirections over the past few days . . . I am in Guatemala." His emergence closes one chapter in a bizarre chain of events that started last month when police in Belize, where Mr McAfee has lived for the past four years, discovered the dead body of Gregory Faull, the owner of a house close to Mr McAfee's main property on the island of Ambergris Caye. Mr McAfee - who Belize considers "a person of interest" in the murder investigation - fled, going into hiding and insisting on his innocence. He said he ran from the police because he believed that the Belize authorities were out to kill him. In response, Dean Barrow, the prime minister, said: "I don't want to be unkind to the gentleman, but I believe he is extremely paranoid". Mr McAfee revealed his location on Tuesday after a hacker called Simple Nomad disclosed his whereabouts by analyzing a mobile-phone photograph taken of McAfee on Monday that was posted on the internet. In a second blog post late Tuesday titled "the new fight", Mr McAfee said he had asked Telsforo Guerra, a former attorney-general of Guatemala, to help uncover what he claims is deep-rooted corruption in Belize. Separately, he told Reuters that Mr Guerra was trying to help him obtain political asylum in Guatemala, even though Belizean authorities have not charged him. EU Banks To Repay Cheap Loans (WSJ) Nearly a year ago, hundreds of European banks borrowed a total of more than €1 trillion ($1.3 trillion) from the European Central Bank as it scrambled to defuse an escalating crisis. Today, in a sign of the industry's partial healing, some of Europe's biggest banks are preparing to repay those loans. The push to repay the loans, however, has generated concerns that banks are moving prematurely and could be vulnerable if the euro-zone crisis intensifies again. The ECB activated the emergency loan program—known as the long-term refinancing operation, or LTRO—late last year, doling out two batches of inexpensive loans that are good for three years. Banks are permitted to repay them starting next month. Euro Crisis Feeds Corruption as Greece Slides in Rankings (Bloomberg) The European debt crisis has given way to a new wave of corruption as some of the most hard-hit countries in the turmoil have tumbled in an annual graft ranking, watchdog group Transparency International said. Greece, in its fifth year of recession and crippled by rounds of austerity, fell to 94th place from 80th -- ranking it below Colombia and Liberia, according to the group’s Corruption Perceptions Index. Ireland, Austria, Malta and Italy were also among member states in the single currency to slide. Moynihan: No Stress (Bloomberg) Bank of America CEO Brian T. Moynihan said the firm has plenty of capital and he’s confident it will pass the next US stress tests. “The question will be what to ask for and when, because we’re not going to fail this,” Moynihan said yesterday at a New York investor conference sponsored by Goldman Sachs. Moynihan, 53, is renewing efforts to win approval to raise the company’s dividend or repurchase shares after the Federal Reserve blocked an earlier request. Fed Filcher Gets Timeout (NYP) Bo Zhang, a Chinese-citizen computer programmer who worked for a contractor at the New York Fed, was sentenced to six months of home confinement for stealing Treasury Department software. Snake on a plane forces emergency landing (CNN) ...the incident forced the pilot to make an emergency landing in the Egyptian resort town of Al Ghardaqa on the Red Sea, according to The Jordan Times. An Egypt Air official told the paper an investigation revealed that a 48-year-old passenger, who owns a reptile shop in Kuwait, had hidden the Egyptian cobra in a carry-on bag. The passenger was trying to control the snake after it bit his hand and started slithering under the seats. The Egyptian daily al-Masry al-Youm reported that the man refused medical treatment, claiming his wound was only superficial. The plane resumed its flight to Kuwait after local authorities confiscated the snake. Doctors told the passenger he should spend 24 hours in a hospital for observation, but the man refused, the Egyptian Air official said, according to The Jordan Times.