Opening Bell: 12.28.10

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Stranded Airport Travelers Face 'Long' Wait After Storm (Bloomberg)
Get comfortable because no one's going anywhere! "The time needed to accommodate affected passengers will depend on the length of the shutdowns, Ed Martelle said. “It’s a moving target. I don’t know how fast we can get them on planes.”

Out of Lehman's Ashes Wall Street Gets Most of What It Wants (Bloomberg)
“We continue to listen to the same people whose errors in judgment were central to the problem,” said John Reed, 71, a former co-chief executive officer of Citigroup Inc., who estimated only 25 percent of needed changes have been enacted. “I’m astounded because we basically dropped the world’s biggest economy because of an error in bank management.”

This Is A Picture Of 50 Cent Shoveling Snow (TwitPic)
He'll do the neighbors' driveways for $100 a pop.

M&A King Is...Not Yet Decided (WSJ)
Which is another way of saying Citi still has a shot.

BSE Hopes to Score With Shariah Index (IRT)
Get it while it's hot: "The Bombay Stock Exchange, Asia’s oldest trading floor, along with the Mumbai-based Taqwaa Advisory and Shariah Investment Solutions on Monday launched an index comprising shares, of India’s top 50 companies that meet the legal code of Islam. The BSE TASIS Shariah 50 index was formed using the guidelines of an Indian Shariah advisory board. The barometer consists of the 50 largest and most liquid Shariah-compliant stocks within the BSE 500 Index. The new index was last trading up 0.5% at 1,233.49 outpacing the benchmark Sensex’s 0.4% rise this morning. Islamic law doesn’t permit Muslims to invest in companies that derive significant benefits from interest, since usury is considered sinful in the Islamic faith, or from the sale of goods and services that are deemed sinful within the Islamic faith, like alcohol, tobacco and weapons. The index can be used for the construction of Shariah-compliant financial products, such as mutual funds."

Dog Rescued After Getting Head Stuck in Wall
(KLTA)
An 8-month old German shepherd puppy learned a hard lesson Monday about sticking his nose where it didn't belong when he got his head stuck in a hole in a wall. A friend of the dog's owner discovered the pup in distress Monday morning and when she was unable to free the dog herself, she called animal control officers for help. "My initial reaction was, 'Wow, how'd he get in there?'" Riverside County Animal Services Sgt. James Huffman said. "And why is there a hole that big in the wall?"

Amid Inquiries, Expert Networks Get a Cold Shoulder (Dealbook)
A fewpeople get arrested in connection with the government's massive insider trading probe and all of a sudden no one wants to sit with you.

Lives Of Energy Traders: High Stakes, High Cholesterol (WaPo)
McMeel worked for 13 years in the energy markets, and he revels in juicy descriptions and office anecdotes, which have the unmistakable feel of insider lore. He colorfully describes the denizens of this all-male world (one has "a skull the size of a pony keg") and their meals ("a haiku of fat."). But as on-point as these descriptions might be, the men and their meals begin to blur; when everyone is larger than life, no one is.

Chris Christie: Fat Chance
(NYP)
Chris Christie admitted yesterday that he doesn't make New Year's resolutions to lose weight anymore because he never sticks to them...Christie said that he has resolved to shed the extra baggage about 35 times in his life but has only had "varying degrees of success." Christie, who was nicknamed "Big Boy" by former President George W. Bush when he was the US attorney in Newark, tries to work out three times a week, a friend told The Post.

Holiday Sales Return To Pre-Recession Level (NYT)
High-fives all around.

GM Shares Rise After High Marks From Wall Street (Reuters)
Everyone wants a piece of this: "Barclays said GM is 'relatively attractive' for three reasons — strong positions in emerging markets China and Brazil; strong earnings in North America due to price discipline; and even a conservative estimate of its financial position suggest $42 per share price target. JPMorgan sees the 'potential for significant additional appreciations beyond year-end 2011.'"

China Property Market Limps Into New Year (Reuters)
"The first half of next year will be a hard time for the property sector," said Chen Dongqi, deputy chief of the Macroeconomic Research Institute under the National Development and Reform Commission, China's powerful economic planning agency. Property prices will fall in the first six months of 2011, though by less than 10 percent, said Liu Shiqing and Xu Shengli, analysts at Essence Securities in Beijing. "Under the impact of the macro policies, shares in developers face high risks in the next two quarters," they said in a note to clients.

Hot Trade In Private Shares Of Facebook (WSJ)
Facebook has accounted for 48% of private-company transactions on SecondMarket this year and 40% of those on SharesPost, the exchanges say.

The 2010 Blizzard In 40 Seconds (WSJ)

Relive it like it was two days ago.

Citi Investigating 'Suspicious Transactions' (TSC)
Citi "recently initiated an investigation into a set of suspicious transactions in its Gurgaon branch and immediately reported the matter to the regulatory and law enforcement authorities," the company said in a statement emailed to TheStreet. "Through Citibank's proactive steps and in close co-operation with the investigating authorities, the suspicious transactions have been isolated."

President Obama praises Michael Vick's turnaround in call to Eagles owner (NYDN)
"He said, 'So many people who serve time never get a fair second chance. He was ... passionate about it," Lurie told Sports Illustrated's Peter King. "He said it's never a level playing field for prisoners when they get out of jail. And he was happy that we did something on such a national stage that showed our faith in giving someone a second chance after such a major downfall.''

Programming Note: We’re on an abbreviated vacation-esque schedule ’til Monday (opening/closing wraps and limited updates whenever the urge to reach out and touch you moves us). We still want to hear from you, though, so if someone gets nailed for insider trading, Vikram announces he’s quitting to join Stomp in 2011, or anything else happens that you think might tickle our fancy, do not hesitate to let us know.

Related

Opening Bell: 04.09.12

JPMorgan Trader Iksil Fuels Prop-Trading Debate With Bets (Bloomberg) Iksil’s influence in the market has spurred some counterparts to dub him Voldemort, after the Harry Potter villain. He works in London in the bank’s chief investment office, which has assembled traders from across Wall Street to its staff of 400 who help oversee $350 billion in investments. While the firm describes the unit’s main task as hedging risks and investing excess cash, four hedge-fund managers and dealers say the trades are big enough to move indexes and resemble proprietary bets...The trades, first reported by Bloomberg News April 5, stirred debate among U.S. policy makers over the Easter-holiday weekend as they wrangle over this year’s implementation of the so-called Volcker rule, the portion of the Dodd-Frank Act that sets limits on risk-taking by banks with government backing. Taking Measure Of Citigroup And Bank Of America (NYT) Bank of America shares are up 66 percent this year, while Citigroup has risen 33 percent, amid the broader rebound in financial stocks. After staying out of the spotlight and earning $21 billion over the last two years, Citigroup’s potential problems are gaining attention again...At Barclays, the analyst Jason Goldberg said he was shocked when Citigroup did not get the go-ahead from the Fed, adding, “We had run mock stress tests with Citi passing by a fair amount.” Just as surprising, he added, has been Bank of America’s surge this year. Its performance has been a far cry from last year, when Bank of America’s stock, which closed at $9.23 on Thursday, was flirting with $5, and questions about whether it had enough capital were mounting. “If you asked me in January whether this thing would be up 66 percent, I’d have said you’re crazy,” Mr. Goldberg said, referring to Bank of America’s stock performance this year. A 'Fat Cat' With The President's Ear (WSJ) When President Barack Obama attacked "fat-cat bankers on Wall Street" in 2009, Robert Wolf had a ready response. "I said 'Mr. President, I know you think I'm overweight, but I can think of better names to call me,'" Mr. Wolf recalls. "He laughed." Humor and self-deprecation have served Mr. Wolf well in his often conflicting roles as presidential pal and Wall Street power broker. The 50-year-old president of UBS's UBS investment bank has remained a leading voice in the industry while also serving as Mr. Obama's chief Wall Street fundraiser and his current BFF (best friend in finance)...Mr. Wolf plays golf and basketball with the president and he is a frequent visitor to the White House. On vacation in Martha's Vineyard or at fundraising events, the two often bond over sports and their families, since they each have two school-age kids. As if to prove the president wrong about "fat cats," Mr. Wolf says he has lost 20 pounds in the past three months. Willing Banks Find Profits in Legal Trade With Iran (WSJ) As Western sanctions on Iran have grown tighter, some small banks have found a lucrative niche financing what remains of the legal trade with the Islamic Republic. Top-tier financial institutions including Société Générale SA GLE.FR -0.74% and Rabobank Group have stepped back from business with Iran in recent months, citing increased political risk and logistical hassles that attend even legal trade with the country. As a result, the remaining players are commanding higher fees and offering increasingly complicated services. Like Russia's First Czech-Russian Bank LLC and China's Bank of Kunlun Co. Ltd, they are typically small, obscure financial institutions often based in countries historically friendly to Iran. The firms and other intermediaries still brokering these trades are charging more than 6% per transaction for legitimate trade deals with Iran, on top of traditional banking fees, according to traders and bankers knowledgeable with the process. That is as much as triple the fees typically charged by Arab Gulf banks two years ago, before the United States and European Union significantly stiffened sanctions, according to Iranian businessmen. Easter Bunny Arrested (KTLA) An Easter Bunny was arrested this week after police found he was carrying around more than Easter eggs and candy. Joshua Lee Bolling, 24, was arrested and charged on Thursday with illegally possessing prescription narcotics. Police arrested Bolling after businesses at the Piedmont Mall in Danville, Virginia complained that the Easter Bunny was acting suspicious. "His suspicious behavior took place while he was on breaks and not during his contact with children," a police release said. UBS Faces Billionaire Olenicoff in Lawsuit Over His Tax Felony (Bloomberg) and billionaire Igor Olenicoff are scheduled to clash in court today over his claim that the bank bears blame for his failure to declare $200 million in offshore accounts on U.S. tax returns. Olenicoff, 69, a real-estate developer, pleaded guilty in 2007 to filing a false tax return, admitting he didn’t tell the Internal Revenue Service about his offshore accounts for seven years. He was sentenced to two years’ probation and ordered to pay $52 million in back taxes, fines and penalties. In 2008, he sued Zurich-based UBS, the largest Swiss bank, claiming it traded excessively in his accounts, engaged in racketeering and committed fraud by not telling him he owed U.S. taxes. He seeks as much as $1.7 billion in damages. Arguments on the bank’s motion to dismiss the case are set for today before U.S. District Judge Andrew Guilford in Santa Ana, California. Markets at the Start of a More Significant Downturn Says Marc Faber (CNBC) “The technical underpinnings of the market have been a disaster in the last couple of weeks,” Faber said on the sidelines of the Maybank Invest Asia conference. “The number of new highs have declined, the volume has been poor, insider sales just hit a record.” Faber said the weakness in economically sensitive stocks such as mining and industrial goods was particularly “disturbing.” Agencies At Odds Over New Ratings (FT) The latest example came this month when a near-$800 million bond deal backed by U.S. prime mortgages was sold to investors with triple-A ratings — provided by Standard & Poor’s and DBRS, a smaller competitor based in Canada — on some tranches. Fitch Ratings issued a statement saying it would not have rated the bonds triple A. It said it provided “feedback” on the transaction to the arranger, Credit Suisse, and “was ultimately not asked to rate the deal due to the agency’s more conservative credit stance”. Steven Vames, a Credit Suisse spokesman, said it was common for an issuer to engage multiple rating agencies to look at a deal and ultimately choose a subset of those agencies to rate it. In March, Moody’s said: “Some recent cases have come to market for which we believe increased risk has not been adequately mitigated for the level of ratings assigned by another agency.” In particular, Moody’s faulted ratings issued by S&P, Fitch and DBRS on asset-backed deals. For Big Companies, Life Is Good (WSJ) An analysis by The Wall Street Journal of corporate financial reports finds that cumulative sales, profits and employment last year among members of the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index exceeded the totals of 2007, before the recession and financial crisis. UK Cruise Retraces Titanic's Ill-Fated Voyage (Reuters) Descendants of some of the 1,500 people killed when the Titanic sank a century ago were among the passengers on a cruise ship that set off from Britain on Sunday to retrace the route of the liner's ill-fated voyage. Some donned period costume, including furs and feathered hats for women and suits and bowler hats for men, to board the MS Balmoral at Southampton on the southern English coast. The world's most famous maritime disaster has fascinated people ever since, explaining why passengers from 28 countries were prepared to pay up to 8,000 pounds ($13,000) each to be a passenger on the memorial cruise organized by a British travel firm. The Balmoral will follow in the wake of the Titanic, sailing near Cherbourg in France and then calling at Cobh inIreland before arriving at the spot where the Titanic went down...Passenger Jane Allen, whose great-uncle died on his honeymoon trip on the Titanic while her great-aunt survived, said she did not think it was "ghoulish or macabre" to go on the voyage.