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Opening Bell: 12.23.10

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Morgan Stanley Overtakes JPMorgan For Equity Sales (Bloomberg)
The 75-year-old securities firm’s global market share rose to 10.4 percent in 2010 on $72.7 billion of initial public offerings, additional sales and convertible bond issues, its first top ranking in six years, according to preliminary data compiled by Bloomberg. JPMorgan was second with $59.7 billion, while Goldman Sachs Group Inc. dropped to third after its share of U.S. equity underwriting slumped to the lowest level since at least 1998, the data show. While banks vie for first place in the so-called league tables betting it may lead to more business, Morgan Stanley’s ranking came at a price. It was paid an average 2.3 percent fee, the lowest of the top 10 banks, after underwriting state-backed sales of General Motors Co., Citigroup Inc., Agricultural Bank of China Ltd. and Petroleo Brasileiro SA.

Fitch Downgrades Hungary to BBB-, Outlook Negative (Reuters)
"The reversal of pension reforms and lack of a coherent medium-term fiscal strategy undermines confidence in the long-term sustainability of the public finances," Fitch said in a statement.

The Gift Of Guns, Courtesy Of Cerberus (Dealbook)
For employees of AlixPartners, finding a last-minute holiday gift may have gotten a little easier. Thanks to some holiday generosity from a client, Cerberus Capital Management’s Remington Arms, staff members at the consultancy can choose from an array of rifles and shotguns — with a 33 percent discount. An attached flier noted that the offer applied to about 91 bolt-action rifles, repeating shotguns and .22 caliber rimfire rifles. Free shipping? Naturally — but, as Mr. Schwarzendahl says, employees still have to pay the federal transfer fee that some dealers charge. The program began on Dec. 8 and runs through Jan. 19.

Tax Cutters Set Up Tomorrow's Fiscal Crisis (Bloomberg)
Simon Johnson: "The U.S. is steadily losing its global economic and financial predominance. To be sure, we offer the largest amount of government debt on the market, but investors have plenty of choices around the world, both in terms of debt and other assets. The idea that our Treasury market will be buoyed by captive investors, whether the Chinese central bank or anyone else, is quaint and at odds with today’s reality."

Wall Street poised for earnings hit (FT)
Concern over earnings in fixed income, currency and commodity (FICC) trading has led several analysts to cut their fourth-quarter profit forecasts for Goldman and Morgan Stanley, due to report results next month. “We believe that credit trading businesses across the Street, particularly those with...exposure to European credit markets, may have seen notably poorer results during the fourth quarter,” wrote Roger Freeman at Barclays Capital this week.

ECB's Kranjec Says Euro Will Survive Despite Problems (Reuters)
"I am sure that the euro will survive ...that is in the interest of the European Union and all euro zone members," Kranjec, who is also the governor of the Slovenian central bank, said in a midnight debate on TV Slovenia. "I see no danger for existence of the euro although there are problems there, but they are being solved," he said.

Ex-UBS Banker Admits To Coded Fraud (Reuters)
Igor Poteroba was charged in Manhattan federal court in March, when US prosecutors said he used coded e-mail messages referring to securities and money as "frequent flier miles" and "potatoes" in a conspiracy with two traders. At a plea proceeding this week before Judge Paul Crotty, Poteroba, 37, of Darien, Conn., agreed to forfeit $465,000 under an agreement with US prosecutors, according to the court record.

Public Nudity On The Rise In Strait-laced Singapore (Reuters)
Strait-laced Singapore, where chewing-gum sales are restricted and graffiti artists can be caned and jailed, is heading for a record year of public nudity. Police received 105 reports of indecent exposure in the city state of 5 million in the first six months of 2010, or at least one every other day, and the numbers had been on the rise since 2007, police said on Wednesday. The state-run Straits Times newspaper said police received two reports of public nudity last week, one on Sunday when a man in his 20s went naked to buy a coffee at a McDonald's restaurant and the other on Thursday when a man in his 40s sat naked on a pavement in a suburb.

Auditors' Role In Crisis Gets Look (WSJ)
Accounting firms were at the center of the last financial crisis, when companies such as Enron Corp. and WorldCom Inc. collapsed amid scandals. New accounting rules focused on the abuses of the time, but touched on some of the issues in the Ernst/Lehman case, including the relationship between companies and their auditors, the processes companies have in place to prevent fraud or errors in their financial statements, and the way companies value their assets.

'Grotesque' Basel Rules May Kill Danish Bonds (Bloomberg)
Denmark’s lenders, which hold more than half the country’s $490 billion of mortgage bonds, would be forced to sell off holdings to comply with Basel’s 40 percent cap on using the securities as liquid assets, Arnth Jensen said. Basel says the ratio will ensure banks have more liquid assets to guard against financial stress and doesn’t limit sovereign-debt holdings. The rule represents a “grotesque notion -- it shows the committee doesn’t really understand the Danish mortgage-bond market,” Arnth Jensen said.

Harbinger Sued On Swaps (NYP)
The lawsuit filed in Delaware state court on Tuesday, claims Falcone's Harbinger Capital Partners improperly grabbed a 93.3 percent stake in Harbinger Group, Falcone's holding company, which trades on the NYSE. Alan Kahn, an investor in the holding company, said the complicated transaction came at a time when the holding company's stock was trading at a 25 percent discount to its liquid assets, thus only benefiting Falcone and his hedge fund.

Actor Adam Pascal On Spiderman Musical: 'It's Infuriating' (Speakeasy)
Pascal, a 40-year-old performer who made his Broadway debut in “Rent,” described falling from a lift during a climactic moment in the pop-rock musical “Aida.” In the scene, the actors were lifted above the stage in a box designed as a tomb. The equipment broke and the actor, with costar Heather Headley, dropped to the stage. Mr. Pascal recalls being wheeled out of the Cadillac Palace Theatre on a stretcher and taken to a hospital with minor injuries. After news broke this week that Christopher Tierney, a 31-year-old primary stunt double for the role of Spider-Man/Peter Parker, sustained injuries to his ribs after falling more than 20 feet from a platform during Monday night’s performance of “Spider-Man,” Pascal turned to his Facebook page to rant against that musical’s director, Julie Taymor of “Lion King” fame. “They should put Julie Taymor in Jail for assault!” he wrote.