Opening Bell: 03.11.11

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Tsunami Slams Japan After Record Earthquake, Killing Hundreds (Bloomberg)
Japan was struck by its strongest earthquake on record, an 8.9-magnitude temblor that shook buildings across Tokyo and unleashed a seven-meter-high tsunami that killed hundreds as it engulfed towns on the northern coast. As many as 300 people were killed, a Japanese police official said. Many are missing after the quake and waves as high as 23 feet swept ashore, according to state broadcaster NHK, which showed footage of flood waters sweeping away buildings and vehicles. Airports were closed and bullet train services suspended, and an emergency evacuation order was issued for a nuclear power plant north of Tokyo.

BOJ Pledges Liquidity on Japan Quake as Toyota Shuts Plants (Bloomberg)
Japan’s central bank pledged to ensure financial stability after the strongest earthquake in at least a century forced Toyota Motor Corp. to shut some plants, knocked out oil refineries and sparked a plunge in stocks. “It’s early days,” Stephen Gallo, head of market analysis at Schneider Foreign Exchange in London, said in an e-mailed note. “But the horrific events in Japan bear very close watching from a financial perspective, given the bloated problems in Japan’s public sector.”

Japan Among Worst Record Ever Reported (Tribune)
The quake that hit Japan was a magnitude 8.9, the biggest earthquake to hit the country since officials began keeping records in the late 1800s, and one of the biggest ever recorded in the world, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The quake struck at a depth of six miles, about 80 miles off the eastern coast, the agency said. The area is 240 miles northeast of Tokyo.

Rajaratnam Jurors Told of Inside Tips by Ex-McKinsey Director (Bloomberg)
“I told him there were advanced discussions,” Anil Kumar told jurors on the first day of testimony in the case. “Mr. Rajaratnam kept asking me for that information and I felt that I owed him something given how much money he was paying me.”

Fed's Dudley Plays Down Inflation Risk From Oil (Reuters)
"While rising commodity prices may be giving some of you a bad headache, they are not likely to lead to a sustained rise in inflation to levels inconsistent with our dual mandate," Dudley told the Queens, New York chamber of commerce.

Fired Goldman Banker Seeking Deals Aided Massachusetts Campaign (Bloomberg)
Neil Morrison, a Goldman Sachs banker fired in December, began advising former Massachusetts Treasurer Tim Cahill’s gubernatorial campaign in 2009 even as he was seeking to underwrite state bonds, according to e-mails obtained through a public records request.

Asset Managers Take Up The Pen (WSJ)
The wave of regulation following the financial crisis is prompting some of the biggest players in the $25.6 trillion asset-management industry, normally silent on policy matters, to get more vocal. Since August 2009, senior executives of the New York asset-management company have sent nearly 60 letters to U.S. financial regulators and wrote 16 policy papers on topics ranging from derivatives oversight to mutual-fund fee disclosures.

Euro Zone Debt Crisis Intensifies Ahead of Summit (CNBC)
Leaders of the 17-nation currency area are expected to back a watered-down version of a German-French plan to boost economic competitiveness at Friday's Brussels summit but seem unlikely to resolve sharp differences over the size and scope of the euro zone's rescue fund. A German official said the question of raising the fund's lending capacity would not be decided on Friday but in a package at the end of March, and Berlin opposed giving it any direct or indirect role in buying troubled states' bonds.

Trading Dispute Splits BNY Mellon, Fund (WSJ)
A large Los Angeles County pension fund has stopped funneling some currency trades to Bank of New York Mellon Corp., protesting the way the bank profits from the transactions. The decision by the Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association is a rare example of a pension fund ceasing business with a custody bank. The dispute comes amid scrutiny by funds and investigators over currency-trade costs.

United Technologies CEO Says Obama Makes Business-Friendly Shift (Bloomberg)
Obama’s administration is showing a willingness to consider tax policies such as permanent credits for research and development, and “to look at deficit reduction,” Louis Chenevert said yesterday in an interview in New York. “I’m encouraged, actually, to see the renewed focus to support large businesses like ours,” he told reporters, noting that Hartford, Connecticut-based United Technologies has more than 75,000 employees in the U.S.

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