Opening Bell: 01.03.11

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Facing WikiLeaks Threat, Bank Of America Plays Defense (NYT)
In addition to the internal team drawn from departments like finance, technology, legal and communications, the bank has brought in Booz Allen Hamilton, the consulting firm, to help manage the review. It has also sought advice from several top law firms about legal problems that could arise from a disclosure, including the bank’s potential liability if private information was disclosed about clients.

Bank Of America Settles Mortgage Dispute (MarketWatch)
Bank of America said Monday it’s reached a settlement with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac of outstanding repurchase claims arising from certain home loans sold to them by Countrywide Financial Corp...As a result of the settlement, Bank of America said its home loans and insurance business is expected to record a $2 billion, non-cash goodwill impairment that the company can’t deduct for tax purposes.

White House: US Debt Limit Fight Would Be 'Catastrophic' (Reuters)
"This is not a game. You know, the debt ceiling ... is not something to toy with," Austan Goolsbee told the ABC News program "This Week." "If we hit the debt ceiling, that's ... essentially defaulting on our obligations, which is totally unprecedented in American history." "The impact on the economy would be catastrophic. I mean, that would be a worse financial economic crisis than anything we saw in 2008," he said.

Goldman Invests In Facebook At $50 Billion Valuation (NYT)
Under the terms of the deal, Goldman has invested $450 million, and Digital Sky Technologies, a Russian investment firm that has already sunk about half a billion dollars into Facebook, invested $50 million, people involved in the talks said.

Investments Boost For Paulson And Co (FT)
Paulson’s flagship $9bn Advantage Plus Fund, which in September was down 11 per cent for the year, has staged the most dramatic recovery. According to an investor, the fund was up 10.2 per cent for the month as of December 10. It is now up 14.3 per cent for the year. The fund is understood to have continued its strong performance this week. The Advantage Plus Fund trades around corporate events, such as mergers and acquisitions or bankruptcies. The firm’s Credit Opportunities Fund is up 4 per cent so far this month, bringing its performance to 16.5 per cent for the year so far. Mr Paulson’s Recovery Fund, which is focused on the US economy and its prospects, also returned 10.2 per cent over the first 10 days of December. The Recovery Fund is now up 19.4 per cent so far this year.

More Than 1,000 Dead Birds Drop From The Sky (AP)
Environmental service workers finished picking up the carcasses on Sunday of about 2,000 red-winged blackbirds that fell dead from the sky in a central Arkansas town Sunday.

Bet Again On AIG? Count Me In (Politico)
Op-ed: "I lost $2.5 million on American International Group stock in 2008. But I still want to be among the first to purchase new company shares in the next few weeks. That’s when the Treasury is aiming to sell at least $15 billion of its AIG holdings at the beginning of a series of stock offerings. Am I crazy? I don’t think so."

Obama Studies Regan Years For Guidance On Pushing Agenda (Bloomberg)
Before leaving for a year-end vacation, Obama sought advice from Reagan chief of staff Ken Duberstein and David Gergen, an image adviser to both Reagan and Clinton, said an Obama aide. On his Hawaii trip, Obama brought along journalist Lou Cannon’s Reagan biography, “The Role of a Lifetime,” a selection his press secretary announced over Twitter.

Woman Sues Chase, Claims She Was Fired For Blogging (NYP)
Business analyst Marilyn Tagocon, 50, was canned after telling her bosses about her spare-time blogging and self-publishing of historical fiction, a lawsuit alleges. When a coworker told her the company's code of conduct restricted employees from posting personal political speech, Tagocon went to the Human Resources Department to make sure she wasn't doing anything wrong.

Man, 110, Ready To Wed Wife Number 6 (Herald)
"It doesn't matter who she is, as long as she can cook for me," Sanah Ahmad said.

Hero Group Executive Held In Citi Fraud Case
(WSJ)
A senior Hero Group executive has been arrested for allegedly receiving a part of more than 3 billion rupees ($67 million) believed to have been misappropriated at a Citigroup Inc. bank branch on the outskirts of New Delhi, a police officer said Monday. The executive, Sanjay Gupta, allegedly got about 200 million rupees, said Assistant Commissioner of Police Dalbir Singh.

Singapore Avoids Recession (Reuters)
The economy grew 14.7 percent in 2010 to become one of Asia's fastest growing economy, rebounding from a contraction in the previous year. It grew at a pace of 12.5 percent in the fourth quarter from a year earlier. The government expects 2011 economic growth to be in the region of 4-6 percent, a projection first made in November.

Investors' Forecast: Sunny With A Chance Of Overheating (WSJ)
"The big risk we run is that the economy recovers and the Fed is slow to raise rates," said Ed Peters, co-director of global macro strategies at First Quadrant LP, an investment-management firm.

iPhone Alarm Glitch Leaves Some Asleep (WSJ)
"Dreaded iPhone alarm problem," wrote someone who identified himself as a pastor. "I guess [I] didn't need to be on time for church?"

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Opening Bell: 04.13.12

JPMorgan Profit Slips (WSJ) J.P. Morgan reported a profit of $5.38 billion, down from $5.56 billion a year earlier. On a per-share basis, earnings were $1.31, up from $1.28 as the share count outstanding declined. The latest quarter included a net 8-cent per-share loss tied to litigation expenses and changes in the value of the bank's debt. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected a per-share profit of $1.18, excluding debt-related charges. Revenue rose 6.3% to $27.42 billion. Analysts were looking for $24.68 billion. Wells Fargo reports higher first-quarter profit (Reuters) Wells Fargo, the nation's fourth-biggest U.S. bank, said net income was $4.25 billion, or 75 cents a share, in the quarter, compared with $3.76 billion, or 67 cents, a share in the same period a year earlier. The average estimate from analysts was 73 cents per share. JPMorgan Said to Transform Treasury to Prop Trading (Bloomberg) Achilles Macris, hired in 2006 as the CIO’s top executive in London, led an expansion into corporate and mortgage-debt investments with a mandate to generate profits for the New York- based bank, three of the former employees said. Dimon, 56, closely supervised the shift from the CIO’s previous focus on protecting JPMorgan from risks inherent in its banking business, such as interest-rate and currency movements, they said. Some of Macris’s bets are now so large that JPMorgan probably can’t unwind them without losing money or roiling financial markets, the former executives said, based on knowledge gleaned from people inside the bank and dealers at other firms. Bank Bonus That Tops Salary May Be Banned by EU Lawmakers (Bloomberg) Governments and lawmakers in the 27-nation EU are considering rules for lenders that would go far beyond international agreements approved by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision. Denmark, which holds the rotating presidency of the EU, has proposed empowering nations to set surcharges of up to 3 percent across their banking systems. Karas yesterday suggested adding language to the legislation that would ban banker bonuses that exceed fixed pay, following calls from other lawmakers to rein in excessive compensation. IMF Lifts Growth Forecast, Cautiously (WSJ) Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, said the world economy is marked by "a high degree of instability" even though prospects for global growth are better than they were a few months ago. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Ms. Lagarde said the IMF, which marked down its 2012 forecast for global growth in January to 3.3%, has now marked it up to reflect improving conditions in the world economy. But she said the new forecast, to be released next week, remains more pessimistic than the one it made last September, which predicted 4% growth. Europe remains the biggest single risk to the global economy, the former French finance minister said. Hedge Fund Driver Guns DownArmed Robber (NYP) A retired NYPD lieutenant blew away a drugstore bandit yesterday as the suspect tried to gun down three police officers during a foot pursuit, sources said. Thomas Barnes, Barnes — a driver for hedge fund manager Philippe Laffont, was filling his tank at the BP station on East 119th Street and First Avenue at around 11 a.m. when he saw gunman Rudolph Wyatt running from the store, and sprang into action. He crouched behind his hedge-fund boss’ Mercedes SUV and squeezed off three shots, killing Wyatt, 23. The trigger-happy thug — wanted on warrants for two other shootings — lay dead in a pool of blood on the sidewalk wearing a black stocking mask with a wad of stolen cash spilling out of his pocket, witnesses said. “Part of the back of his head was missing. He had a large head wound and there was tons of blood,” said witness John Brecevich, 59, owner of the Original Patsy’s restaurant nearby. “It was a scene straight out of NYPD Blue.” Trustees Aim For MF Execs (NYP) The trustee tasked with clawing back money for burned customers of MF Global is training his sights on the brokerage firm’s executives — a list that likely includes former CEO Jon Corzine. In a statement yesterday, trustee James Giddens said he is considering pursuing claims against “certain responsible individuals” who worked for MF at the time customers’ trading accounts were improperly tapped. Kent Jarrell, a spokesman for Giddens, declined to name names but said the trustee is considering civil suits against “officers, directors or other employees” of both the brokerage firm and the holding company. Fed Officials Differ on Need to Keep Rates Low to 2014 (Bloomberg) William C. Dudley, president of the New York Fed, and Vice Chairman Janet Yellen said the 2014 time-frame is needed to lower unemployment from 8.2 percent. Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota said rising inflation may prompt an interest-rate increase as early as this year, while Philadelphia’s Charles Plosser said policy should hinge on economic performance, not a calendar commitment. Newark Mayor Cory Booker: Race into home fire was a "come to Jesus moment" (CBS) Booker arrived home last night to discover his next-door neighbor's house on fire, and rescued a young woman trapped upstairs by carrying here through the flames, suffering second-degree burns in the process. The mayor's security team discovered the fire and pounded on the door to alert residents, when an elderly woman said that her daughter was trapped upstairs. At first, Newark Police Detective Alex Rodriguez would not let Booker into the burning house. "He basically told me, 'This woman is going to die if we don't help her,' and what can I say to that?," Rodriguez said. "I let him go and without thinking twice, he just ran into the flames and rescued this young lady." Booker said that as he jumped through the kitchen on the second floor, "I actually wasn't thinking. When I got there and couldn't find her in all the smoke, looked behind me and saw the kitchen really erupting with flames all over the ceiling, that's when I had very clear thoughts that I'm not going to get out of this place alive and got ... very religious. He admitted he was "not gentle" with her - "I just sort of threw her over my shoulder and dragged her through the kitchen."