Opening Bell: 03.21.11

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Citi Plans Reverse Stock Split (WSJ)
The bank announced a 1-for-10 reverse stock split of its common shares effective after markets close on May 6. Separately, the banking giant said it plans to reinstate a quarterly dividend of a penny a share in the second quarter.

Buffett Won't Sell Japan Shares As Earthquake Becomes 'Opportunity' (Bloomberg)
“If I owned Japanese stocks, I would certainly not be selling them because of the events of the past 10 days or so,” said Buffett, speaking to reporters in the South Korean city of Daegu, where he arrived yesterday to attend a ceremony for a new factory being built by TaeguTec Ltd. “Something out of the blue like this, an extraordinary event, really creates a buying opportunity.”

Buffett: Berkshire Seeks More Deals (WSJ)
"We're looking at a number of big businesses in Korea, the U.S., the U.K. We hope to find good companies wherever they may be. Basically, it's the bigger, the better," he said at a press conference in South Korea.

Kan Sees ‘Light at the End of the Tunnel’ as Atomic Crisis Eases (Bloomberg)
In a flurry of announcements today, Kan said progress was being made in restoring power to reactors No. 1 and No. 2, while Tokyo Electric Power Co. said it had connected No. 3 and No 4. Minutes later, state broadcaster NHK said engineers were evacuated as gray smoke was seen billowing from reactor 3. “While we haven’t reached the point where we can say we’ve gotten out of this crisis situation, it can be said that we can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Prime Minister Naoto Kan said at the beginning of a meeting of his crisis response team at the prime minister’s office in Tokyo.

Swiss Re Estimates Japan Claims At $1.2 Billion (WSJ)
Swiss Re Monday said it expects claims costs of $1.2 billion from the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, but cautioned that its estimate is subject to a higher than usual degree of uncertainty and may need to be adjusted as the extent of the insured losses becomes clearer.

Hedge Funds Slash Bullish Commodity Bets Most In 8 Months (Bloomberg)
“The situation in Japan prompted a lot of investors to take profits after a fairly good run in commodities,” said Brian Hicks, who helps manage $3 billion at U.S. Global Investors in San Antonio. “This is a short-term headwind for further upside in commodities. We’re still going to see industrialization and urbanization in emerging markets.”

The Beefy Crunch Burrito Incident (SA)
The price of the Beefy Crunch Burrito had gone up from 99 cents to $1.49 and the man at the Rigsby Road Taco Bell drive-thru had just ordered seven. The fast food customer was so disgruntled by the price hike he shot an air gun at the manager, displayed a semiautomatic assault rifle and pistol while in the restaurant's parking lot, fled as police were called, exchanged gunfire with three officers who pulled him over, then barricaded himself in his hotel room — all over $3.50 plus additional tax.

Bankers See More Deals To Follow AT&T's Big Bid (WSJ)
Fears of global financial turmoil were put aside Sunday when AT&T Inc., the nation's second-largest wireless network operator, announced a $39 billion proposal to acquire the fourth-largest player T-Mobile USA Inc. If naturally optimistic bankers are to be believed, that trend is set to continue this year, with companies searching for growth through deals after the recession and the mergers-and-acquisitions market on its way to a healthy recovery.

Hedge Fund CAI Cuts Entire Exposure To Japan (Reuters)
Eddie Tam, whose CAI Global Fund returned 48 percent last year to become one of the top-10 multi-strategy hedge funds in the world, said he about 15 percent of his portfolio was parked in Japan before the country was hit by the massive earthquake.

Morgan Stanley Targets Mid-Market Private Equity To Boost Fees (Bloomberg)
The bank has advised on seven closed or pending deals this year from firms that manage funds of less than $5 billion, said Joe Purcell, managing director of the middle-market advisory group created last year. “It’s often considered lower profile than covering the largest sponsors, but middle-market private equity can be very profitable for us,” Purcell said in an interview this month.

Western Strike Hits Gaddafi Compound, Tripoli Says (Reuters)
Western forces launched a second wave of air strikes on Libya overnight and officials in Tripoli said a missile intended to kill Muammar Gaddafi had destroyed a building in his fortified compound. "It was a barbaric bombing," said government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim, showing pieces of shrapnel that he said came from the missile. "This contradicts American and Western (statements) ... that it is not their target to attack this place."

The World's Most Valuable Brands (CNBC)
Google became the world's most valuable brand this year, while Coca Cola dropped out of the top ten global brands for the first time, according to the 2011 Brand Finance ranking of the most valuable 500 brands across the globe.

Mets Owners Fire Back At Madoff Trustee (WSJ)
Team owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz and their associates issued a 107-page response to the $1 billion lawsuit filed by trustee Irving Picard. They said that, among other distortions, Mr. Picard had falsely accused them of dismissing warnings they had allegedly received about Mr. Madoff from employees at a hedge fund they helped start, Sterling Stamos Capital Management. David Sheehan, a lawyer for Mr. Picard, said "the Katz Wilpon defendants are wrong on the facts and the law."

How Dumb Are We? (Newsweek)
When Newsweek recently asked 1,000 U.S. citizens to take America’s official citizenship test, 29 percent couldn’t name the vice president. Seventy-three percent couldn’t correctly say why we fought the Cold War. Forty-four percent were unable to define the Bill of Rights. And 6 percent couldn’t even circle Independence Day on a calendar.

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