Opening Bell: 02.15.11

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Barclays Beat Earnings Expectations (MarketWatch)
The bank reported a net profit of 3.56 billion pounds ($5.7 billion) for 2010, beating earnings expectations as recently appointed Chief Executive Bob Diamond said the bank will step up its efforts to increase profitability. Profit rose 36% from the £2.63 billion reported in 2009, excluding a £6.77 billion one-off gain in the year-earlier period from the sale of the group’s asset management division. Including that year-earlier gain, profit fell 62%. The euro has started the week under a little pressure, but, with a data avalanche to come, it's not likely to remain in the unwelcome spotlight much longer. Pretax profit rose 32% to £6.07 billion and was ahead of the £5.78 billion consensus forecast of analysts.

Bernanke Would Defend Lehman Actions To His 'Deathbed' (Bloomberg)
“I will maintain to my deathbed, that we made every effort to save Lehman, but we were just unable to do so because of a lack of legal authority,” Bernanke said.

Wall Street Missed Out On Commodities Boom (WSJ)
At J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., which made an aggressive push into commodities during the past few years, revenue from the business shrank by 43% in 2010 compared with a year earlier, according to people with knowledge of the results. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said its commodities business suffered "significantly lower results." Swiss bank Credit Suisse Group AG, among the few to announce its commodities revenue, last week reported a 42% drop. The problem: The biggest banks in commodities by revenue, including Morgan Stanley and Barclays PLC, all are focused on the large and liquid energy markets of oil and natural gas. Both had a lackluster 2010. Price swings, which help Wall Street traders make money, were near record lows for oil and gas, while trading levels fell sharply.

Tiger Woods to Be Fined by European Golf Tour for Spitting on Dubai Course (Bloomberg)
“The Euro Tour is right -- it was inconsiderate to spit like that and I know better,” Woods said in the Twitter post, which was confirmed in an e-mail from his agent, Mark Steinberg. “Just wasn’t thinking and want to say I’m sorry.”

Einhorn Buys BP, Paulson Jumps Into Energy (Reuters)
Greenlight Capital Monday disclosed new stakes in half a dozen companies ranging from telephone company Sprint Nextel to energy company BP. Meanwhile, John Paulson jumped into shares of top energy producers in the fourth quarter, while holding steady with his big bets on gold and financial service firms.

Berkshire Hathaway Beefs Up In Wells Fargo (WSJ)
Berkshire's $52.6 billion U.S. equity portfolio now includes just 25 companies, the fewest in several years. At the end of the third quarter, Berkshire held $48.6 billion in stocks after exiting from investments in firms including CarMax Inc., Home Depot Inc. and NRG Energy Inc., stocks that were in Geico's accounts. The fourth-quarter increase in the size of the portfolio reflects substantial increases in the value of major holdings, including Wells Fargo & Co. and Coca-Cola Co.

'Jeopardy!' pits man against computer in Round 1 (AP)
In the "Jeopardy!" battle of man vs. machine, man and machine were neck-and-neck on Monday. Human player Brad Rutter and the supercomputer named Watson ended an initial round tied at $5,000. The other challenger, human Ken Jennings, was far behind with $2,000. Rutter (the show's all-time money-winner with $3.25 million) and Jennings (who has the longest winning streak at 74 games) are the most successful players in "Jeopardy!" history. Watson, named for IBM founder Thomas J. Watson, is powered by 10 racks of computer servers running the Linux operating system. "You are about to witness what may prove to be an historic competition," host Alex Trebek told viewers at the top of the show.

D.Boerse, NYSE near deal but dodging thorny issues (Reuters)
Deutsche Boerse and NYSE Euronext are expected to sidestep thorny political issues in announcing a deal later on Tuesday to create the world's largest exchange operator, as the wave of global stock exchange consolidation gathers pace.

Budget Battle Lines Drawn (WSJ)
If Congress accepted all the president's proposals—which is unlikely—and the economy recovered, the federal deficit would fall from 10.9% of GDP this year to 3%, Mr. Obama's goal, in 2017.

Goldman's Shumway Deal Shows Peril of Buying Hedge Fund Stakes (Bloomberg)
“Stakes in hedge funds are generally not good investments,” said Sussman. “They are particularly high-risk given the many moving parts, such as employee turnover, a decline in assets under management and decaying returns.”

Mayor's Unorthodox Style Of Drinking Gets Icy Reception (NYP)
Standing inside the just-expanded Brooklyn Brewery yesterday, the mayor revealed that his unorthodox approach to drinking beer requires ice. "I actually put ice in my beer," the mayor said. "Most people don't." Hearing a gasp from the crowd, he explained: "I know. I've always done it. I don't think it comes from Boston." Brewery President Steve Hindy was too polite to set the mayor straight on the correct way to savor his popular suds. But Julie Johnson, editor of All About Beer magazine, was more than willing to offer Bloomberg some drinking tips.

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