Opening Bell: 12.06.10

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Inflation Risk Is Low, Fed Says (WSJ)
In a rare television interview, on CBS's "60 Minutes" news program, Mr. Bernanke warned that the economic recovery "may not be" self-sustaining. He said the chance of unemployment staying high for a protracted period was "the primary source of risk that we might have another slowdown in the economy." He also said "it's certainly possible" the Fed could expand a program to buy $600 billion in Treasury securities beyond the initial target it announced about a month ago. "It depends on the efficacy of the program. It depends on inflation. And finally it depends on how the economy looks," he said of the program aimed at lowering interest rates and stimulating growth.

Bank of America Says It Met Condition of TARP Exit (FT)
Bank of America has told US regulators that it has sold enough assets this year to meet the final condition that was set on its landmark plan to repay $45 billion in government bail-out funding...If BofA fails to satisfy the Federal Reserve Board, the lender will have to issue additional common shares, diluting its per-share earnings.

Bush Tax-Cut Deal With Jobless Aid Said to Be Near (NYT)
A day after the Senate rejected President Obama’s preferred tax plan, officials said the broad contours of a compromise were in focus. Rather than extending the tax rates only on income described by Democrats as middle class — up to $250,000 a year for couples and $200,000 for individuals — the deal would also keep the rates for higher earners, probably for two years. In return, Republicans said they would probably agree to extend jobless aid for the long-term unemployed.

Ireland Relies On 'Sugar Daddy' For Budget Support (Bloomberg)
The government will lay out details tomorrow of 6 billion euros ($7.9 billion) of spending cuts and tax increases. Cowen’s Fianna Fail party has a minority of seats in parliament and may need the backing of independents such as Healy-Rae and Michael Lowry. They have yet to declare support for the budget. “It is a real possibility that Ireland will not pass the proposed budget,” Mark Grant, managing director at Southwest Securities Inc. in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, said in a Nov. 30 e-mail. “Then another tailspin down for the euro and for European bank and sovereign debt is in the gun sights.”

Groupon Prankster Mason Not Joking in Spurning Google's $6 Billion Offer (Bloomberg)
Mason, Groupon’s chief executive officer, fretted that the sale would sap employee morale and alienate business clients, said two people with knowledge of the matter.

Assange: UFOs discussed in WikiLeaks files (FP)
Julian Assange: "Many weirdos email us about UFOs or how they discovered that they were the anti-christ whilst talking with their ex-wife at a garden party over a pot-plant. However, as yet they have not satisfied two of our publishing rules. 1) that the documents not be self-authored; 2) that they be original. However, it is worth noting that in yet-to-be-published parts of the cablegate archive there are indeed references to UFOs."

Ackman Will Back Borders Bid For Barnes And Noble (CNBC)
Ackman raised his stake in Borders Group to 37.3 percent and is prepared to finance an offer by Borders to buy Barnes & Noble, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission Monday. Ackman’s Pershing Square Capital Management's stake in the book retailer, as of Dec. 3, is up from the previously disclosed stake of 31.5 percent as of May 20.

Carlyle Closing In On 2010 IPO For Buy-Out Fund Capital (Bloomberg)
After participating in $16 billion of buyouts this year, more than any other private-equity firm, Carlyle plans to file IPO papers late in 2011, said people with knowledge of the matter. The stock sale may not occur until the following year

Madoff Trustee Goes After HSBC (WSJ)
In a statement, Mr. Picard said HSBC and a network of feeder funds in Europe, the Caribbean and Central America directed more than $8.9 billion in the fraudulent investment advisory business to Mr. Madoff's firm.

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Opening Bell: 03.01.13

Congress Leaders To Meet With Obama As Budget Cuts Begin (Bloomberg) Democrats and Republicans are in a standoff over how to replace the cuts totaling $1.2 trillion over nine years, $85 billion of which would occur in the remaining seven months of this fiscal year. Republicans reject Democrats’ call for higher taxes on top earners to replace part of the spending reductions. “Middle-class families can’t keep paying the price for dysfunction in Washington,” Obama said in a statement yesterday. The president has until 11:59 p.m. to issue the order officially putting the cuts into effect. “How much more money do we want to steal from the American people to fund more government?” Boehner said at a news conference in Washington yesterday. “I’m for no more.” The White House meeting follows the Senate’s rejection yesterday of a pair of partisan proposals to replace the spending reductions. No additional congressional action is planned before the start of the cuts, to be split between defense and non-defense spending. Fiscal Pain to Be Parceled Out Unevenly (WSJ) Economies in and around the nation's capital are likely to feel the most pain. Federal spending accounts for about a fifth of the economic output of Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia, according to the Pew Center on the States. Other areas likely to be hit hard are Hawaii and Alaska, which have a heavy military presence, and states such as New Mexico, Kentucky and Alabama, which have major defense operations or substantial military contracting. Struggling Groupon Ousts Its Quirky CEO (WSJ) Mr. Mason didn't return calls for comment. In a memo to employees that was by turns tongue-in-cheek and rueful, he said, "After four and a half intense and wonderful years as CEO of Groupon, I've decided that I'd like to spend more time with my family. Just kidding—I was fired today." 'Girls' Gone Under (NYP) “Girls Gone Wild” founder Joe Francis has put his video empire into bankruptcy in a bid to wiggle out of some $16 million in debt — most of it owed to casino magnate Steve Wynn. Wynn’s camp claims Francis owes closer to $30 million, including $2 million for unpaid gambling debts and $7.5 million in defamation damages. Wynn first hauled Francis to court to get him to pay the $2 million debt he racked up during a 2007 gambling binge. He sued again for defamation after Francis blabbed to gossip site TMZ that Wynn threatened to kill him and bury him in the desert. Wynn won two defamation awards for $7.5 million and $20 million, although the latter wasn’t listed in the Chapter 11 filing. Michael Weaver, a spokesman for Wynn Las Vegas, said the judgments are against Francis “personally” and not the company. “Consequently, these recent bankruptcy filings by the GGW companies will not slow our efforts to collect on our judgments against Mr. Francis,” he said. New York Investigating Bank of America for Mortgages (Reuters) Bank of America said in a securities filing on Thursday that the New York State Attorney General was investigating the bank over its purchase, securitization and underwriting of home loans. SEC Scrutinizing Chesapeake Energy (WSJ) The SEC notified Chesapeake in December that it was stepping up an informal inquiry into Aubrey McClendon's ability to invest in wells that the company drills, the company disclosed in a regulatory filing. The agency has issued subpoenas for information and testimony to Chesapeake, the country's second-largest natural-gas producer. Mornings Not For Erin Burnett, Demanding Sizable Buyout (NYP) Erin Burnett made her morning-show debut yesterday on CNN with Chris Cuomo for Pope Benedict XVI’s last day on the job. But it doesn’t mean she’s going to end up there permanently, sources tell The Post’s Michael Shain. It seems Burnett is digging in her high heels and refusing the new morning assignment. She has a clause in her contract that requires CNN to air her show in prime time. If new boss Jeff Zucker wants her to get up at 4 a.m., Erin is demanding a sizable chunk of cash — more than her $2.5 million salary — to buy her out of the prime-time clause. Insiders say Zucker believes she should be grateful she’s being offered a marquee job and he has started to look elsewhere for an anchor to partner with Cuomo. Burnett is telling her staff she doesn’t want to go to the morning. “What she means is she doesn’t want to go at the old price,” sniffed a source. Druckenmiller Sees Storm Worse Than ’08 as Retirees Steal (Bloomberg) Druckenmiller, 59, said the mushrooming costs of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, with unfunded liabilities as high as $211 trillion, will bankrupt the nation’s youth and pose a much greater danger than the country’s $16 trillion of debt currently being debated in Congress. “While everybody is focusing on the here and now, there’s a much, much bigger storm that’s about to hit,” Druckenmiller said in an hour-long interview with Stephanie Ruhle on Bloomberg Television’s Market Makers. “I am not against seniors. What I am against is current seniors stealing from future seniors.” Druckenmiller said unsustainable spending will eventually result in a crisis worse than the financial meltdown of 2008, when $29 trillion was erased from global equity markets. What’s particularly troubling, he said, is that government expenditures related to programs for the elderly rocketed in the past two decades, even before the first baby boomers, those born in 1946, started turning 65. Lloyds CEO Links Bonus To Stake Sale (WSJ) Chief Executive António Horta-Osório said he is "very confident" U.K. taxpayers will get their money back, referring to the stake of about 40% the government took in the bank following a series of bailouts at the height of the crisis. He requested that his £1.49 million ($2.26 million) bonus only be paid if the government sells at least a third of its holdings in Lloyds at a share price above 61 pence. The average buy-in price for the U.K. government was 63.1 pence, according to U.K. Financial Investments, a body that manages the government's stake in Lloyds. Unemployment Worsens In Euro Zone (WSJ) Eurostat, the European Union's statistics agency, said 11.9% of the euro zone's workforce was unemployed in January, the highest percentage for the 17 countries that make up the currency bloc since records began in 1995. The figure is higher than the jobless rate of 11.8% in December. Wilbur Ross: Italy Has Choice Of 'Two Clowns' (CNBC) ...in the wake of the unresolved Italian election, the WL Ross chairman said he's worried the next leader of the economically-troubled nation is a choice of two clowns — former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and comedian Beppe Grillo. "One, an acknowledged clown, and one may be inadvertent clown. And until that gets resolved, there's a great danger that the nice reforms that Mr. Monti put in will just get rolled back." Truck crashes on I-80 in Reno, spilling Heinz ketchup 'everywhere' (RGJ) A tractor trailer carrying thousands of bottles of Heinz ketchup crashed on Interstate 80 near the Robb Drive overpass this afternoon, spilling its red contents onto the freeway and snarling traffic in the process. “I have red everywhere on the highway,” said Sgt. Janay Sherven with the Nevada Highway Patrol. “No bodies, no people, just ketchup.” There were no injuries in the accident, which happened when the driver of the semi-truck likely overcorrected to avoid another car while traveling eastbound, she said. The truck hit the center median and then knocked over a light pole that slashed open the left side of the trailer. As a result, thousands of bottles and cans of ketchup were splattered onto the road like a bad horror movie. ‘“The scene looks pretty bad as far as color goes,” Sherven said.

Opening Bell: 08.28.12

Greece Plans 'Special Economic Zones' to Boost Growth (Reuters) Greece plans to set up "special economic zones" to attract private investment and help lift its debt-laden economy out of depression, the government said on Tuesday. The zones would offer investors tax and administrative advantages. Athens is already in talks with the European Commission to get approval for the move, Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis told a news conference. "We believe these zones will boost the real economy by creating a special regime to attract investment and generate exports," Hatzidakis said. Spain's Catalonia to Ask for Aid From Madrid (WSJ) Catalonia, Spain's most indebted region, said Tuesday it will ask for €5.02 billion ($6.27 billion) in financial assistance from the Spanish government's liquidity program, as it struggles to pay for basic services such as hospitals, schools and care homes. Catalan government spokesman Francesc Homs said at a news conference that the government will ask for the funding to "face debts maturing in the coming months." ECB's Draghi Stuck At The Office, To Skip Jackson Hole Symposium (WSJ) "ECB President Mario Draghi had hoped to attend the annual economic symposium in Jackson Hole organized by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, but has decided not to go to Jackson Hole, due to the heavy workload foreseen in the next few days," an ECB spokesperson wrote in an email. Leonardo DiCaprio To Bare All In 'Wolf Of Wall Street' (NYDN) “There will be some pretty illicit sex scenes coming up,” said a set insider. “It involves four guys and two girls.” And there’ll even be a little guy-on-guy action in one of the orgies — but DiCaprio won’t be in those. Not that there would be anything wrong with that. Scorsese’s film follows the rise and eventual imprisonment of drugged-out real-life former stockbroker Jordan Belfort, who is now a motivational speaker and says he has been sober since his life imploded in the go-go late ’90s and he went to prison. The movie started shooting in the Financial District over the weekend and there’ll be more filming in midtown this week. Later this month, the action will move to a Hamptons estate. DiCaprio was spotted rehearsing at Bank of America with co-star Jonah Hill. Matthew McConaughey also stars, as Belfort’s mentor. “They were incognito and Leo didn’t take his sunglasses off the entire time,” said a Merrill Lynch source. There are some scenes you can bet will be shot strictly behind closed doors. “We have a scene in an office with a troupe of hookers during a coffee break,” the set insider told us. “They are in the process of casting a ton of beautiful models, who are willing to bare it all, to portray escorts and strippers,” our source said. “The girls have to be incredibly hot.” Connecticut Homes Biggest Losers As Wall Street Cuts (Bloomberg) Connecticut, for 25 years the state with the highest per capita income in the U.S., is now leading the nation in home-price declines as Wall Street trims jobs and bonuses that had driven multimillion-dollar property sales. Prices in the Fairfield County area, home of the banker bedroom communities of Greenwich and New Canaan, tumbled 12.9 percent in the second quarter from a year earlier, the biggest decline of the 147 U.S. metropolitan areas measured by the National Association of Realtors. Hero Reagan’s Compromise Would Collide With Tea Party Certitude (Bloomberg) Ronald Reagan remains the modern Republican Party’s most durable hero. His memory will be hailed as The Great Uncompromiser by those who insist the GOP must never flag in its support for smaller government, lower taxes and conservative social values. His record tells a different story. During Reagan’s eight years in the White House, the federal payroll grew by more than 300,000 workers. Although he was a net tax cutter who slashed individual income-tax rates, Reagan raised taxes about a dozen times. His rhetoric matched that of many of today’s most ardent Christian conservatives, yet he proved to be a reluctant warrior on abortion and other social issues. Perhaps most tellingly, he was willing to cut deals, working closely with Democratic leaders such as House Speaker Tip O’Neill of Massachusetts to overhaul Social Security and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dan Rostenkowski of Illinois to revamp the tax code. Ann Romney Takes Biggest Stage Yet To Humanize Husband (Bloomberg) Mitt Romney’s likability gap was evident in a Washington Post/ABC News poll released yesterday. The poll, taken Aug. 22-25, showed 27 percent of registered voters find Romney to be more friendly or likable among the two candidates, compared with 61 percent for the incumbent. Kidney for Ohio patient's transplant put in trash (AP) A nurse accidentally disposed of a kidney from a living donor this month at an Ohio hospital, and doctors tried unsuccessfully for at least two hours to resuscitate the organ in what medical experts describe as a rare accident, health officials said. "Human error rendered the kidney unusable," University of Toledo Medical Center spokesman Toby Klinger said Saturday, but he declined to give more details, citing the hospital's investigation into what happened and its respect for the privacy of the patients involved. But one of the doctors involved told Dr. David Grossman, a Toledo-Lucas County health commissioner, that a nurse disposed of the kidney improperly. Two nurses have been placed on paid administrative leave while the hospital reviews what happened, Klinger said.

Opening Bell: 04.05.13

U.S. Economy Adds Just 88,000 Jobs (WSJ) U.S. employers added jobs at the slowest pace in nine months in March, suggesting weakening economic growth as higher taxes and government spending cuts start to have an impact. Employers added 88,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department said Friday. The unemployment rate, obtained by a separate survey of U.S. households, fell one-tenth of a percentage point to 7.6%, largely because of people dropping out of the work force. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires expected nonfarm payrolls to rise by 200,000. Obama Budget to Include Cuts to Programs in Hopes of Deal (NYT) In a significant shift in fiscal strategy, Mr. Obama on Wednesday will send a budget plan to Capitol Hill that departs from the usual presidential wish list that Republicans typically declare dead on arrival. Instead it will embody the final compromise offer that he made to Speaker John A. Boehner late last year, before Mr. Boehner abandoned negotiations in opposition to the president’s demand for higher taxes from wealthy individuals and some corporations. Congressional Republicans have dug in against any new tax revenues after higher taxes for the affluent were approved at the start of the year. Big inflows into bonds undercut the "Great Rotation" (Reuters) Big names like Pacific Investment Management Co (PIMCO), DoubleLine, Loomis Sayles and TCW have seen their main bond funds take in an aggregate total of roughly $5 billion during January and February. Vanguard's indexed Total Bond Market portfolios have received over $5.6 billion for the same period, according to the latest data provided by Morningstar. More broadly, while U.S. funds that invest in stocks have gained $78.88 billion in new cash so far this year amid the U.S. stock market's run-up, taxable bond mutual funds have garnered roughly the same - $76.41 billion, according to data from Thomson Reuters' Lipper service. Finding a Rate That’s Fairer Than Libor (NYT) Mr. Gensler would like to develop an alternative and points to two options. One would essentially be dependent on the Federal Reserve’s setting of the federal funds rate — the rate at which it will lend to banks. The other would be based on rates charged on secured loans. In each case these are real markets, at least in dollar-based transactions. He would like to phase in one of them as a replacement for Libor. Autonomy deal debacle takes toll at HP (FT) Hewlett-Packard’s chairman and its longest-serving directors resigned from their positions on Thursday in a delayed reaction to last year’s disastrous $8.8bn writedown relating to the company’s $11bn acquisition of Autonomy. Ray Lane will be succeeded as chairman temporarily by Ralph Whitworth until a permanent replacement is identified. Mr Whitworth, an activist investor who joined the board as an independent director in 2011, is HP’s fifth chairman in a decade. Argentina's Cristina Kirchner 'is an old hag' (Telegraph) Uruguay's President Jose Mujica has been left red-faced after apparently saying his Argentine counterpart Cristina Kirchner was "an old hag" in remarks picked up by an open microphone. ... "This old hag is worse than the cross-eyed man," Mujica was caught saying at the start of a news conference while speaking quietly with another official. El Observador newspaper, which posted the audio on its website, said Mujica was referencing the Kirchners and did not realise that the microphones were already on. Nestor Kirchner died suddenly of a heart attack in 2010 and had a lazy eye. Millionaires Got $80 Million in Jobless Aid in Recession (Bloomberg) The U.S. government paid almost $80 million in unemployment benefits during the worst of the economic downturn to households that made more than $1 million, including a record $29.9 million in 2010, tax records show. Almost 3,200 households -- about 20 percent of them from New York -- that reported adjusted gross income of more than $1 million received jobless-insurance payments averaging $12,600 in 2010, the latest year for which figures are available, according to IRS data compiled by Bloomberg. Those payments outpaced the total incomes for about 25 million U.S. households. Wells Hit on Pace of Mortgage Relief (WSJ) New York's top prosecutor is raising concerns about the pace of relief provided to the state's mortgage borrowers by Wells Fargo WFC -1.38% & Co. under a landmark $25 billion settlement, in the latest sign of dissatisfaction with the foreclosure-related legal remedies agreed to by banks and state and federal officials. "We are concerned that Wells Fargo is underperforming compared to other banks," said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. "By identifying this pattern early, there is still time to address this issue and increase activity so that Wells's customers will be afforded meaningful assistance to keep their homes." Stephen Friedman to Retire From Goldman Board (DealBook) A onetime leader of Goldman who worked at the firm for nearly 30 years, Mr. Friedman is stepping down on May 22, the day before Goldman’s annual shareholder meeting. He will be replaced by Adebayo O. Ogunlesi, a well-known figure on Wall Street who joined the board last fall. ... Upon stepping down from the helm of Goldman in 1994, Mr. Friedman dismissed rumors that he was in poor health. “Only on Wall Street,” he told The New York Times at the time, “do people think it bizarre that I don’t want to spend half of my day on the telephone and the other half on an airplane.” Historical Echoes: Central Bank and Paper Money Innovator Given Death Sentence for His Efforts (Liberty Street Economics) In 1668, but still: watch out Bernanke. University of Rhode Island campus gunman scare may have been sparked by 'Humans vs. Zombies' game A police probe revealed that there never was a gun or active shooter on the Kingston campus, and that no one was ever in danger. However, Nerf guns were uncovered during a room-by-room search of Chafee Hall, which is where the incident started. The toy guns, which blast out foam balls or darts, are used in a game called “Humans vs. Zombies,” campus police Major Stephen Baker told WPRI. On Thursday, a student group was in the middle of a week-long round of the game, which is an extreme version of tag popular on college campuses across the country.