Opening Bell: 12.16.10

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Jobless Claims In US Unexpectedly Fell To 420,000 Last Week (Bloomberg)
Applications for jobless insurance payments decreased by 3,000 to 420,000, the lowest in three weeks, Labor Department figures showed today...Fewer firings signal employers may be gearing up to add to their payrolls and help reduce a jobless rate hovering near a 26-year high. While the economy is gaining momentum heading into 2011, Federal Reserve policy makers said this week it isn’t strong enough to reduce unemployment.

Goldman’s Sze raises money for hedge fund (FT)
Morgan Sze, the global head of Goldman Sachs’ biggest proprietary trading desk and one of the bank’s most highly paid employees, has begun raising money for what is expected to be the largest hedge fund launch since the financial crisis began. Mr Sze’s new hedge fund – eagerly anticipated by many in the industry – is to be called Azentus Capital and will based in Hong Kong. Marketers for the flagship fund expect it to start trading with between $1bn and $1.5bn, people familiar with the launch told the Financial Times.

NYT reporter says U.S. also faces 'lost decade' (JT)
There is likely to be another financial crisis like the Lehman shock in the future, Andrew Ross Sorkin said. "I don't want to write a sequel, but I think there will be one. "The saddest reality of doing all these interviews was that I don't think there was remorse," Sorkin said. "A lot of them now call themselves survivors, like cancer survivors or something. But it's such a misplaced idea."

Obama ‘Optimistic’ CEO Talk Will Foster Cooperation (Bloomberg)
“Things were said on both sides that shouldn’t have been and did not further the opportunity to work together,” Cote said as he arrived at Blair House this morning. “This is our chance to do that. I give the president a lot of credit for being the man big enough to say, ‘Let’s restart, let’s work on how do we create a more vibrant economy.’”

Julian Assange Freed On Bail (Guardian)
Justice Duncan Ouseley agreed with a decision by the City of Westminister earlier in the week to release Assange on strict conditions: £200,000 cash deposit, with a further £40,000 guaranteed in two sureties of £20,000 and strict conditions on his movement.

Facebook 2010 Sales Likely To Reach $2 Billion (Bloomberg)
Sales will more than double from 2009, said the people, who declined to be identified because the privately held company doesn’t disclose revenue. Facebook had $700 million to $800 million in sales last year, and the 2010 figure was previously expected to be closer to $1.5 billion, according to two other people familiar with the matter earlier this year.

UAE hotel boasts 'most expensive Christmas tree ever' (BBC)
While the tree alone is worth a mere $10,000, the jewellery adds more than $11m to the value, said the hotel's general manager Hans Olbertz.

Goldman Sachs Won't Face Negligence Suit By Madoff Investor (Bloomberg)
Jerome Goodman, who invested in Madoff’s fund through a company that Goldman bought, can’t pursue a claim that the bank owed him a duty to give reasonable financial advice and failed to warn that he put too much money in the scheme, U.S. District Judge Freda Wolfson ruled Dec. 14 in Trenton, New Jersey.

Foreclosures Show Biggest 5-Year Drop As Process Slows (CNBC)
Foreclosures fell 21 percent in November from the previous month and 14.4 percent from the year before, according to foreclosure tracking web site RealtyTrac.

Banks Falling Short Of Basel Requirements (WSJ)
In a survey published alongside the official texts of its new rules on capital and liquidity standards, the BIS concluded that "Group 1" banks across the world—that is those with over €3 billion in capital—would need a total of €177 billion in additional common equity just to meet the new absolute minimum ratio of 4.5% of risk-weighted assets. This figure rises to €577 billion when the need for a "capital conservation buffer" of another 2.5%—another mandatory part of the new rules—is taken into account.

Spain Pays High Yield To Sell Bonds (WSJ)
The debt agency offered a lower-than-usual €2 billion to €3 billion of the two bonds, 4.85% October 2020 and 4.65% July 2025, a move aimed at limiting the negative impact stemming from higher funding costs and adjusting to lower liquidity towards the year-end. Spain will have one more auction next Tuesday, offering three- and six-month Treasury bills—debt representing the shortest end of the yield curve.

Wall Street Blame Rift May Blunt Impact of U.S. Crisis Panel (Bloomberg)
Democrats and Republicans on the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, struggling for months to find consensus behind the scenes, haven’t even been able to agree on whether to include the phrases “Wall Street” and “shadow banking” in the final report. The report is now scheduled to be published in January and is likely to include dissents, FCIC members said yesterday.