Opening Bell: 12.15.10

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Wilbur Ross: Ireland Will Overcome Problems In Two Years (CNBC)
Ireland passed a very tough budget, cutting the minimum wage, and it now has in place a bailout by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, showing the government’s determination to solve the problem the country faces, Ross said. “Ireland has a very specific problem, we think they’ll overcome it in a couple of years,” he added.

Dress To Impress, UBS Tells Staff (WSJ, Dealbreaker)
Yes, they did.

Fed Signals Stronger Economy Won't Slow $600 Billion Stimulus (Bloomberg)
The Federal Open Market Committee said yesterday after its final meeting of 2010 that growth is “insufficient to bring down unemployment” and inflation has “continued to trend lower.” U.S. central bankers affirmed a plan to buy $600 billion of bonds through June and renewed their pledge for an “extended period” of low interest rates.

Spain Rating Put On Review By Moody's (Bloomberg)
Spain’s credit rating may be cut from Aa1, Moody’s Investors Service said, as the government prepares its final bond sale of the year tomorrow amid concern it may follow Greece and Ireland in seeking a bailout. Spain has to raise 170 billion euros ($226 billion) next year, while refinancing needs for its regions total 30 billion euros and for banks around 90 billion euros, Moody’s estimates. “Spain’s substantial funding requirements, not only for the sovereign but also for the regional governments and the banks, make the country susceptible to further episodes of funding stress,” Kathrin Muehlbronner, an analyst at Moody’s, said in a report today.

Senate Sets Wednesday Vote On Tax Cuts (Reuters)
While the Senate neared a rare bipartisan vote on the bill to renew all Bush-era income tax breaks and add provisions to stimulate the economy, House Democrats mulled ways to pull back on some of the measure's tax breaks for the wealthy.

Tax Deal Shaping 2012 GOP Campaign (WSJ)
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney have both come out sharply against the measure, which President Barack Obama hammered out last week with Senate Republican leaders. Both cite the deal's price tag, with Mr. Romney saying it will heap billions more onto the nation's debt load. Supporting the package are former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, all of whom praise the deal as good for the economy and the only way to spare Americans the jolt of a sudden tax increase that otherwise would take effect on Jan. 1.

No Funeral, Just Cremation For Mark Madoff (NYP)
"He is going to be cremated at the family's wishes," the source said, hours after Mark's body was released by the Medical Examiner's Office to a Manhattan funeral home. "No services, no viewing. The family doesn't want a viewing."

Goldman Seeks New Top Asia Manager (FT)
GS is seeking an executive to run its day-to-day operations in Asia even as the bank struggles to find a new role in its New York headquarters for the region’s chairman, Michael Evans.

Icahn To Buy Dynegy For $665 Million (WSJ)
Dynegy Inc. said its board has agreed to be acquired by Icahn Enterprises LP for about $665 million and billions in assumed debt. Shares of the power producer climbed 2.2% to $5.57 premarket, above the $5.50-a-share offer price. The per-share bid from Icahn is 10% higher than an earlier bid by Blackstone Group LP that failed to win shareholder support amid intense opposition from investor Carl Icahn and hedge-fund operator Seneca Capital, another major holder.

Companies Assail Whistleblower Bounties (WSJ)
In a letter to the SEC, top legal officials at companies such as Delta Air Lines Inc., FedEx Corp., Gap Inc. and Pfizer Inc. told the agency that proposed rules for an enhanced whistleblower system required under the Dodd-Frank Act will undermine internal compliance programs already in place at companies. The proposed rules "disincent employees from looking for ways to improve or correct corporate behaviors, and incent them to find ways to profit from corporate wrongdoing," according to the letter, which is set to be released Wednesday. "Fraudulent misconduct, the bane of good compliance systems, then becomes the gold mine."

Jeffrey Gundlach: The US Can't Handle Rising Interest Rates (PC via BI)
“I don’t think the economy can take much of a rate rise above 3.5 percent….The economy, society and government are fueled by debt.”

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Opening Bell: 05.08.12

When Facebook Met Wall Street (WSJ) On Monday, investors piled into the hotel to hear what Mr. Zuckerberg and his lieutenants had to say about the offering. At one point, the line, leading to a second-floor ballroom where the meeting was scheduled to be held at 11:45 a.m., stretched down to the first floor and spilled out of the hotel for nearly half a city block. At least one investor waiting in line said he didn't expect anything to be revealed that wasn't already in Facebook's securities filings. Rather, he was there to take in the show, and lunch (which was Cobb salad and grilled chicken). A 30-minute video about Facebook, which had been widely distributed before Monday, led the lunch, according to attendees. The next part of the presentation was briefly delayed by Mr. Zuckerberg's absence. The CEO was in the bathroom, explained Chief Financial Officer David Ebersman to attendees. (Mr. Ebersman wore a navy suit.) Yahoo CEO Apologizes in Memo, Board Meets (Reuters, earlier) Yahoo Inc's board convened on Monday afternoon to discuss the mounting upset surrounding Chief Executive Scott Thompson, who has apologized to employees after being accused last week by activist investor Daniel Loeb of padding his resume, a source with knowledge of the matter said..."I want you to know how deeply I regret how this issue has affected the company and all of you," Thompson wrote in his first extended memo to employees since the disclosures emerged on May 3. "We have all been working very hard to move the company forward and this has had the opposite effect. For that, I take full responsibility, and I want to apologize to you." Billion-Dollar Traders Quit Wall Street For Hedge Funds (Bloomberg) Wall Street’s biggest banks have lost almost two dozen of their most-profitable credit traders in the past 13 months as regulators limit the kind of risk-taking that amplified the housing crisis four years ago. As banks slash or defer pay and reduce the amount they’re willing to wager, the traders are seeing better opportunities at hedge funds and investment firms that seek to profit in markets lenders are retreating from. Wall Street Banks Depressed In Secular Shift (Bloomberg) To Kevin Conn, who has been analyzing bank stocks for 15 years, the investment climate for Wall Street’s biggest firms has entered the realm of science fiction. “It’s like that Ray Bradbury short story where it rains for months in a row,” said Conn, who works for Massachusetts Financial Services Co., referring to “The Long Rain,” published in 1950. “It’s one of these terrifically depressing short stories where the weather just never changes.” Spain To Spend Billions On Bank Rescue (FT) Spain is planning a state bail-out of Bankia, the country’s third biggest bank by assets, in a move likely to involve the injection of billions of euros of public money into the troubled lender. In an abrupt reversal of policy, the Spanish government, which had previously insisted that no additional state money would be needed to clean up the country’s banking sector, confirmed that an intervention was being prepared. OWS Mom Snubs Plea (NYP) Occupy Wall Street protester Stacey Hessler, 39, arrested in November for resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, yesterday refused an offer to have her charges dismissed and will instead face a trial...Hessler had originally planned to accept the judge’s offer of an adjournment contemplating dismissal, which erases the charge if the defendant stays out of trouble for six months, but later changed her mind, her attorney said. SEC Orders Probe Of Watchdog Office (WSJ) The Securities and Exchange Commission has ordered an independent inquiry into allegations of sexual misconduct by current and former staff working for its office of the inspector general, according to a person familiar with the matter. The complaint includes allegations that the misconduct compromised certain investigations of the SEC, according to the person familiar with the situation. Apollo's Profit More Than Doubles (WSJ) For the first quarter, Apollo reported a profit of $98 million, or 66 cents a share, up from a year-earlier profit of $38.2 million, or 33 cents a share. Economic net income rose to $1.10 from 99 cents a year earlier. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected 78 cents a share...Total revenue rose 12% to $776.7 million, far better than the $547 million expected by analysts. Bank of America Offers Principal Reductions to 200,000 Homeowners (CNBC) “If people get these things and toss them, they won’t be eligible,” says Ron Sturzenegger, the Bank of America executive charged with providing solutions to borrowers in need of mortgage assistance. But the offer is real, and eligible borrowers could get as much as $150,000 knocked off the balance of their mortgages. It is all part of the $25 billion settlement reached this year between federal and state agencies and the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers over fraudulent foreclosure document processing (so-called “robo-signing”). No Repeating Slowdown Seen by U.S. With Banks to Housing (Bloomberg) Rising auto sales, improving bank credit and stabilization of housing are among the signs the economy is more resilient now than it was around the same time in 2010 and 2011, according to Marisa Di Natale, an economist at Moody’s Analytics in West Chester, Pennsylvania. “From where we sit right now, we think the economy looks fundamentally stronger,” Di Natale said. “Surveys of business and consumer confidence are better, the labor market data looks a lot better than it did last year, even some of the housing data looks better.” Ex-Tyco CFO: Gimme the $ I didn’t steal! (Reuters) Former Tyco International Chief Financial Officer Mark Swartz, who is serving a prison sentence for looting the company, has sued for $60 million in retirement and other money he says he is owed. The lawsuit, which was made public yesterday, accuses Tyco of breach of contract and unjust enrichment for not paying him some $48 million from an executive retirement agreement, $9 million in reimbursement for New York taxes, and other money. Winner Of Mexican Presidential Debate? Julia Orayen (AP) Who won Mexico's presidential debate? According to the media and Twitter frenzy, at least, the victor wasn't any candidate but a curvaceous model in a tight gown who puzzled millions by appearing on stage for less than 30 seconds during the showdown. Julia Orayen has posed nude for Playboy and appeared barely dressed in other media, but she made her mark on Mexican minds Sunday night by carrying an urn filled with bits of paper determining the order that candidates would speak. She wore a tight, white dress with a wide, tear-drop cutout that revealed her ample decolletage. The image was splashed across newspaper front pages and websites by Monday. "The best was the girl in white with the cleavage at the beginning," tweeted former Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge Castaneda, who is also a New York University professor...Alfredo Figueroa, director of the Federal Electoral Institute responsible for organizing the debate, blamed the incident on a production associate hired by the institute to help with the debate. The institute later issued an apology to Mexican citizens and the candidates for the woman's dress.