Opening Bell: 02.16.11

Author:
Publish date:
Updated on

Goldman To Shut Down Global Macro Trading Desk (WSJ)
The trading desk, which made bets with Goldman's capital in foreign-exchange markets, interest-rate markets, stocks, commodities and other fixed-income markets, will close out its trades in coming days. Goldman decided to shut the unit to comply with the Volcker rule, a provision of the Dodd-Frank financial-overhaul law that is intended to curb the ability of banks to take risks with their own capital. Some members of Goldman's eight-person trading desk will leave the company, according to people familiar with the situation. Karl Devine, who ran the four-person staff in London, and others on his staff are in talks with London-based hedge funds, including Brevan Howard, said people familiar with the matter.

In Prison Interview, Bernie Madoff Says Banks 'Had' To Know (NYT)
“They had to know,” Mr. Madoff said. “But the attitude was sort of, ‘If you’re doing something wrong, we don’t want to know.’ ”

NYSE Takeover Faces Touchy Issues (WSJ)
"You keep saying it's an acquisition," Mr. Niederauer told reporters Tuesday. "It is a merger. … I don't know how many more times we can say that." A joint news release called the deal "a business combination agreement."

Borders Files For Bankruptcy (Bloomberg)
In its filing U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan, the company listed debt of $1.29 billion and assets of $1.28 billion.

Fairholme Will Move to Oust St. Joe Board (WSJ)
Fairholme Capital Management LLC will move to replace St. Joe's board by written consent of the majority of the company's shareholders, according to people familiar with the matter.

SocGen Net Quadruples on Russia, Investment Bank (Bloomberg)
Societe Generale rose as much as 4.2 percent after saying today that net income climbed to 874 million euros ($1.18 billion) from 221 million euros a year earlier, beating the 865 million-euro average estimate of 12 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

Anthem man, 84, talks about being stranded in desert for 5 days, drinking windshield wiper fluid (AZC)
He had only a small portion of pasta with him, which he did not eat because it made him thirsty. When his thirst got strong enough, he broke the top off of the windshield wiper fluid container and drank the liquid.

Michael Lewis: Why Things Fell Apart (Bloomberg)
Wall Street leaders now understand that they made a mistake, one born of their innocent and trusting nature. They trusted ordinary Americans to behave more responsibly than they themselves ever would, and these ordinary Americans betrayed their trust. Amazingly, these ordinary Americans don’t even appear to feel guilty for their actions. Like wild animals that have lost their fear of humans, they continue to wander down from the hills to rummage through our garbage cans for sustenance.

Banks Make Loans Straight To Public Borrowers (WSJ)
J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. is devoting billions of dollars to direct loans this year to both refinance deals and for new projects, according to a bank official. Last year, the bank made a few hundred million dollars of direct loans to municipalities. Now, the bank would consider making a single loan for hundreds of millions of dollars, the official said. It also is dispatching teams to explain the concept to wary public borrowers. "This used to be unheard of," says Eric Friedland, managing director of public finance at Fitch Ratings, noting that in the past, banks would occasionally loan a municipality less than $1 million to finance projects too small for a bond offering. For bigger loans, they would form a syndicate with other lenders.

Banks Demand Bigger Down Payments (WSJ)
The median down payment in nine major U.S. cities rose to 22% last year on properties purchased through conventional mortgages.

Merkel's Man Confirmed as New Bundesbank Chief (Reuters)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel confirmed on Wednesday the nomination of her top economic aide Jens Weidmann as Bundesbank chief and stressed his independence, saying he would defend Germany's "stability culture" at the European Central Bank.

Donald Trump Shows Interest In Ownership Of Mets (NYT)
Trump said Tuesday that he called Fred Wilpon, the Mets’ principal owner, about two weeks ago to arrange a face-to-face meeting to discuss the potential sale of the club. The meeting has not been held, said Trump, who made it clear that he would be interested only in buying a majority stake in the team.

Related

Opening Bell: 03.26.12

Ex-Goldman Worker Said to Seek Book Deal (NYT) Greg Smith has met with publishers this week, including imprints at several prominent houses. According to several people who were present, Mr. Smith described his book as a coming-of-age story, the tale of someone who came into the business with good intentions and sky-high ideals that were ultimately pierced by Goldman’s obsessive focus on making money. It would also be a story of the history of Goldman Sachs and the perceived change in the culture of the firm that left Mr. Smith, a native of South Africa who lived in London, disillusioned and eager to leave after spending nearly 12 years there. JPMorgan Wins Case Against Trader Over Decimal Point Dispute (Bloomberg) JPMorgan doesn’t have to pay a trader 580,000 pounds ($921,000) after a missing decimal point in an employment contract led him to believe his salary would be 10 times what was offered, a London court ruled. Kai Herbert, a Switzerland-based currency trader, sued JPMorgan for lost earnings claiming he signed a contract to relocate to Johannesburg for a salary of 24 million rand ($3.1 million). JPMorgan said there was a typographical error and the figure should have been 2.4 million rand. “Herbert took the commercial risk of accepting the offer, knowing full well that the figure was an error,” Judge Henry Globe said in today’s judgment. E-Mail to Corzine Said Transfer Was Not Customer Money (Dealbook) But the e-mail, a copy of which was reviewed by The New York Times, did not capture the full story behind the wire, which turned out to contain customer money. MF Global employees in Chicago had first transferred $200 million from a customer account to the firm’s house account, people briefed on the matter said. Once it was in the firm’s coffers, the people said, Chicago employees then promptly transferred $175 million of the money to the MF Global account at JPMorgan in London — the account that was overdrawn...The e-mail suggests that Mr. Corzine, a former governor of New Jersey, was unaware that the money had been transferred from a customer account. Germany Backs Boost To Bailout Fund (WSJ) Germany has been staunchly opposed to raising the planned €500 billion ($664 billion) ceiling on the ESM, but has left the question of the EFSF open until now. It was widely believed that the EFSF would be retired as soon as the ESM is launched and that the EFSF loans already awarded would be assumed by the ESM, reducing its future lending capacity. But now Berlin is suggesting allowing the EFSF to run longer and by doing so ensure that the ESM can use its full lending capacity, effectively boosting the firewall to about €700 billion. "We are saying that the ESM should permanently have €500 billion," Ms. Merkel told a news conference in Berlin on Monday. BATS Faced Revolt Over IPO (WSJ) "The fact that our own stock was out there to be traded for the first time, and we showed systems problems, eroded customer confidence," Joe Ratterman, BATS's chief executive, said Sunday in an interview. "Of course investors are going to say, 'Hey, wait a second.'" Some traders and investors considered the offering pricey. At $16 a share, BATS would have traded at about 10 times analysts' 2013 earnings estimates. That is roughly on par with New York Stock Exchange owner NYSE Euronext and a premium to the Nasdaq OMX Group Inc., which trades at 8.6 times 2013 estimates. Even before the glitches appeared, the offering was off to a rocky start. When trading in BATS shares opened at 10:45 a.m., they were down 75 cents, to $15.25. From there, things only got worse. Hedge Funds Capitulating Buy Most Stocks Since 2010 (Bloomberg) A gauge of hedge-fund bullishness measuring the proportion of bets that shares will rise climbed to 48.6 last week from 42 at the end of November 2011, the biggest increase since April 2010, according to data compiled by the International Strategy & Investment Group. The Bloomberg aggregate hedge fund index gained 1.4 percent last month, lagging behind the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index by 2.65 percentage points. Banks Set to Cut $1 Trillion From Balance Sheets (FT) Investment banks are to shrink their balance sheets by another $1 trillion or up to 7 percent globally within the next two years, says a report that foresees a shake-up of market share in the industry. Higher funding costs and increased regulatory pressure to bolster capital will force wholesale banks also to cut 15 percent, or up to $0.9 trillion, of assets that are weighted by risk, a joint report by Morgan Stanley and consultants Oliver Wyman predicts. In addition, banks are expected take out $10 billion to $12 billion in costs by reducing pay, firing employees and paring back investments in areas that are no longer considered core. Larry Summers: Strong Recovery A "Substantial Possibility" (FT) According to Summers, the biggest risk to the recovery in the next few years is that policy will move away too quickly from its emphasis on boosting demand. "A lurch back this year towards the kind of policies that are appropriate in normal times would be quite premature," he added. Bernanke Notes Labor Market Concerns (WSJ) "Further significant improvements in the unemployment rate will likely require a more-rapid expansion of production and demand from consumers and businesses, a process that can be supported by continued accommodative policies," Mr. Bernanke said in prepared remarks to the annual conference of the National Association for Business Economics. Bad fliers get boot – & bill (NYP) Fed up with disruptive fliers, the Port Authority plans to go after them for the money they cost their airline and the PA. “We’re going to use every lever at our disposal,” said PA chief Pat Foye. “These delays cost thousands of dollars — maybe tens of thousands — each. One Alec Baldwin incident can delay a whole airport for a day with cascading delays.” (Baldwin, the “30 Rock” star, made international headlines in December when he got booted by American Airlines at LAX after refusing to turn off his phone.) The PA is going to “aggressively’’ remind passengers to keep cool and listen to instructions from airline crews — even if they think they’re stupid, Foye said.