Opening Bell: 03.25.11

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Rajaratnam’s Wiretapped Call With Brother Bolsters Insider Case (Bloomberg)
And in testimony earlier this week, Goel said that Rajaratnam told him in 2003 that Rajaratnam had given BMW cars to two women in Intel’s sales department who leaked information to him. Lynam asked Goel if he thought Rajaratnam was joking. “I don’t think that was a joke, sir,” he responded. Wasn’t Rajaratnam kidding when he told Goel in a wiretapped conversation that he would kiss Goel on the cheek the next time he saw him? Lynam later asked. “I hope he was,” said Goel, to laughter in the courtroom. “If not, I had him figured out all wrong.”

Economy Grows 3.1%, Aided By Surge in Corporate Profits (Reuters)
Gross domestic product growth was revised up to an annualized rate of 3.1 percent, the Commerce Department said in its final estimate, close to its initial estimate of 3.2 percent published two months ago and up from its tally of 2.8 percent made in February.

Barclays Said to Be Investigated by Regulators in Libor Probe (Bloomberg)
U.S. and U.K. regulators are examining if communications between Barclays’s traders and its treasury broke regulations that stop information being shared across the bank.

S&P Warns Big Banks About 'Excessive' Dividends (NYT)
The credit rating agency said in a report that it “remains wary of banks aggressively increasing capital returns to shareholders at this juncture of the economic recovery.” S.&.P. indicated it might downgrade credit ratings at banks that made “excessive” payouts to investors.

Goldman Slides to 10th Spot in US M&A Rankings (Reuters)
Goldman advised on $71 billion worth of U.S. deals in the first quarter, far less than JPMorgan's chart-topping $170 billion, and even lower than much smaller banks such as Rothschild, Evercore Partners and Lazard.

China-Focused Hedge Fund Assets Rise Despite Laggard Performance (DJ)
China funds added $3.5 billion in assets in 2010 to a total $18.68 billion, even as their 6.11% gains were short of the global industry average of 10.55%.

Warren Says Consumer Bureau Foes Should Look at Bank ‘Behemoths’ (Bloomberg)
“If we’re going to go out there and spill ink on accountability, we should also ask about how to hold powerful financial institutions accountable,” Warren said yesterday in an interview with Bloomberg News. “The idea that we should be worried that some agency that will speak up for consumers might get a little too loud is looking in the wrong direction.”

Bernanke To Hold Press Conferences 4 Times A Year (WSJ)
"The introduction of regular press briefings is intended to further enhance the clarity and timeliness of the Federal Reserve's monetary policy communication," the Fed said.

Spain's Bank Rescue Hits Headwinds (WSJ)
Eight of Spain's cajas must present their capital-raising plans to regulators by April 10. That has caused a flurry of activity in recent weeks as savings banks sounded out hedge funds and private-equity funds and others pursued initial public offerings. But the exercise has stirred questions from investors about the level of reserves that the banks hold against real-estate risk in their portfolios. The banks also have faced questions over whether their executives have distanced themselves sufficiently from local politics; in some cases, they have even been quizzed about managements' own understanding of what is on their books. In general, "people don't understand what they are buying," said a Spanish banker who has tried to get investors interested in the cajas.

Reactor Core May Be Breached at Damaged Fukushima Plant (Bloomberg)
“It’s very possible that there has been some kind of leak at the No. 3 reactor,” Hidehiko Nishiyama, a spokesman at the Japan Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, said in Tokyo today. While radioactive water at the unit most likely escaped from the reactor core, it also could have originated from spent fuel pools stored atop the reactor, he said.

Fed Mulls Auction For AIG Bonds (WSJ)
The Federal Reserve is considering an auction for a large portfolio of subprime-mortgage bonds and is consulting with BlackRock Inc. about the process, according to people familiar with the matter.

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