Opening Bell: 02.16.11

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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.

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