Opening Bell: 04.20.11

Author:
Publish date:
Updated on

US Weighs Summer Sale Of GM Stock (WSJ)
To break even, the U.S. Treasury would need to sell its remaining stake—about 500 million shares—at $53 apiece. GM closed off 27 cents a share at $29.97 in 4 p.m. trading Monday on the New York Stock Exchange, hitting a new low since its $33-a-share November initial public offering. "Planning for the sale of our remaining GM stock is still at an early stage, and the IPO lock-up does not expire until late May," a Treasury spokesperson said. "At that point, we will consider all of our options, based on our twin goals of protecting taxpayers' interests and exiting as soon as practicable."

Obama administration officials tried to keep S&P rating at ‘stable’ (WP)
Treasury officials told S&P analysts that they were underestimating the ability of politicians in Washington to fashion a compromise to curb deficits, a Treasury official said. They argued a change in ratings was not needed at this time because the debt was manageable and the administration had a viable plan in the works, the official said.

IMF's Blanchard Says US Lacks Deficit Plan (Reuters)
"There are reasons to be worried. The United States lacks a credible plan, for the medium term, to reduce its budget deficit," Blanchard said.

Justice Department Seeks Data In Nasdaq-NYSE Anti-Trust Review (Bloomberg)
Antitrust review is emerging as a key test in the battle for the 219-year-old market, which Nasdaq OMX Chief Executive Officer Robert Greifeld tried to snatch away from Deutsche Boerse with an $11.3 billion offer on April 1. Giving Nasdaq control would create a monopoly in listings, a prospect that may create undue risk the takeover will be blocked, according to NYSE CEO Duncan Niederauer.

Congress Mulls Budget Deal Forcing More Taxes, Spending Cuts (Bloomberg)
Proposals being circulated among the bipartisan “Gang of Six” Senate negotiators, and about 20 other lawmakers in both chambers, would set deficit-cutting targets, according to people familiar with the plan. They would impose automatic, across-the- board spending reductions and higher taxes if Congress failed to meet the goals.

Freshman Republican’s bind: Vote convictions or help economy by rising debt limit? (WaPo)
“I desperately want to vote ‘no,’ ” Rep. David Schweikert said at the town hall. “I also desperately don’t want [the economy] to crash.”

Bank of America Merrill Lynch to Exit Private Equity Business (CNBC)
The unit, BAML Capital, has not been particularly active in recent months, having made its last investment in the fall of 2010. Bank of America, under pressure to conserve capital, has apparently decided it could no longer provide capital to the unit, which has roughly 35 professionals. A Bank of America spokesperson said BAML Capital is being spun off, and will be run by the current management team. The team will continue to manage the $5 billion in assets owned by BofA. Those assets will remain on the bank's books, with expecations they will be monetized.

London Skyscraper Boom Ends as City Goes ‘From Vanity to Sanity’ (Bloomberg)
“The age of bling is over,” said Shuttleworth, who led the team at Norman Foster’s firm that designed the seven-year- old tower in the City of London financial district. He said it would never get off the ground today. “Money now drives everything, so if you can build something for half the price, you will,” he said.

Mubarak clinically depressed in hospital, officials say (NYP)
Doctors said the ousted leader spends all day in bed and is eating very little with his wife Suzanne by his side, the official added.

Facebook Seeks Friends In Beltway (WSJ)
Until lately, Facebook has spent very little money in Washington, even by Silicon Valley's frugal standards. The company's outlays on lobbying totaled $351,000 last year, federal records show. That's a fraction of the amount spent by other technology giants, including Google Inc.'s $5.2 million and Microsoft Corp.'s $6.9 million. Facebook's new Washington office, designed to look like a hacker's lair, with walls of faux construction rubble, is a work in progress. People familiar with the company's plans said talks to hire former Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs to guide the company's communications strategy, including with Washington, have fallen apart in the wake of a leak to the media that made a deal for him to join the company sound imminent.

China Speed Yuan Push (WSJ)
A senior Hong Kong monetary official told The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday that China's central bank is "actively considering" new rules that would make it easier to bring yuan funds raised offshore back onto the Chinese mainland.

Leader of Big Mortgage Lender Guilty of $2.9 Billion Fraud (NYT)
After more than a day of deliberations, a federal jury in Virginia found Lee B. Farkas, the former chairman of Taylor, Bean & Whitaker, guilty on 14 counts of securities, bank and wire fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud. Mr. Farkas, 58, faces decades in prison for his role in the $2.9 billion plot, which prosecutors say was one of the largest and longest bank fraud schemes in American history and led to the 2009 collapse of Colonial Bank.

Goldman Luster Fades On Revenue Worries (NYP)
"There's a possibility that at least over the next six months the bank will have weak earnings," said Rochdale Securities bank analyst Dick Bove, who cut the firm's shares to "neutral" from "buy."

Related

Opening Bell: 02.11.13

Two Firms, One Trail, In Probe Of Ratings (WSJ) The Justice Department last week went after Standard & Poor's Ratings Services—not rival Moody's Investors Service —with a $5 billion fraud lawsuit. Some former Moody's employees think they know why. The Moody's Corp. unit took careful steps to avoid creating a trove of potentially embarrassing employee messages like those that came back to haunt S&P in the U.S.'s lawsuit, the former employees say. Moody's analysts in recent years had limited access to instant-message programs and were directed by executives to discuss sensitive matters face to face, according to former employees. The crackdown on communications came after a 2005 investigation by then New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer into Moody's ratings on some mortgage-backed deals, the former employees say. Former employees also point to an April 2001 settlement between Moody's and the Justice Department's antitrust division over the destruction of documents amid a civil inquiry by the agency. Moody's pleaded to one count of obstruction of justice and paid a fine of $195,000. Moody's called that situation "an isolated incident" and said it cooperated with the Justice Department's investigation. That settlement helped lay the groundwork for heightened concerns about sensitive documents, former Moody's employees say. Credit Rating Victims Didn’t Know S&P’s Toxic AAA Born of Greed (Bloomberg) When Charles O. Prince III was chief executive officer of Citigroup Inc. from 2003 to 2007, he didn’t know about a surge in mortgage risk that his own investment bankers loaded on to its bank’s books. Because such debt carried top credit ratings from firms such as Standard & Poor’s, few financial executives paid attention to the potential dangers. When Charles O. Prince III was chief executive officer of Citigroup Inc. from 2003 to 2007, he didn’t know about a surge in mortgage risk that his own investment bankers loaded on to its bank’s books. Because such debt carried top credit ratings from firms such as Standard & Poor’s, few financial executives paid attention to the potential dangers. Makeover At Barclays Won't Be Extreme (WSJ) Mr. Jenkins's cuts are likely to be focused on areas where Barclays lags far behind competitors, executives say. That could include parts of the equities sales-and-trading businesses in Asia and continental Europe, according to analysts and people at other banks. Those are businesses in which Mr. Diamond spearheaded an ambitious expansion but where Barclays remains a second-tier player. But other changes are driven more by polishing the bank's tarnished image than they are by the need to boost profits. A few business lines that don't seem "socially useful" are likely to end up on the chopping block, executives say. For example, Barclays plans to retreat at least in part from the lucrative trading of "soft commodities" such as coffee, executives say. That is a concession to mounting criticism that speculative trading in those commodities contributes to food-price inflation. "We're a big player, but does it pass the smell test of what society would think of this?" a senior executive said. Mr. Jenkins is also expected to trumpet plans to dramaticallyscale back Barclays's tax-planning business, in which it advises clients on how to minimize their tax burdens. The bank will no longer help clients put together transactions that have no businesspurpose other than reducing taxes. "Such activity is incompatible with our purpose," Mr. Jenkins will say on Tuesday, according to the extract of his speech. But the bank isn't expected to exit the business altogether. It will continue to offer tax-minimizing advice. People familiar with the matter say the business has been hiring employees recently. Putin Turns Black Gold Into Bullion as Russia Out-Buys World (Bloomberg) Not only has Putin made Russia the world’s largest oil producer, he’s also made it the biggest gold buyer. His central bank has added 570 metric tons of the metal in the past decade, a quarter more than runner-up China, according to IMF data compiled by Bloomberg. The added gold is also almost triple the weight of the Statue of Liberty. White House Warns Coming Austerity Will Hit Economy Hard (Reuters) Automatic government spending cuts due to go into effect March 1 unless Congress acts to prevent them would bite deeply into programs affecting many Americans, such as law enforcement, small business assistance, food safety and tax collection, the White House said on Friday. The administration urged Congress to blunt the effect of the reductions, which the White House said would slash non-defense programs by 9 percent across the board and defense programs by 13 percent, the White House said. "These large and arbitrary cuts will have severe impacts across the government," the administration said in a statement. World's most prolific stripper calls it a day (DM) For two decades, the Liverpudlian father-of-three has been the Usain Bolt of the naked dash. In 1995, he leapt naked on to Fred Talbot’s weather map on daytime TV show This Morning, and a year later he appeared nude on the green during the Open at Royal Lytham. Then, in 2004, he was fined £550 for trespassing after streaking across the pitch at the Super Bowl in Texas – a match watched by 130 million people in 87 countries. For good measure, Mark has also stripped off at Wembley, Wimbledon and Ascot. ‘There’s no major venue or event I haven’t done,’ he says proudly. ‘But I’m nearly 49 now and my children have begged me to stop. It’s time. I’m not ready for my slippers just yet, but gravity’s against me.’ Treasury Pick Lew Faces Grilling on Citi Bonus, Cayman Account (Reuters) Jack Lew, President Barack Obama's pick to be U.S. treasury secretary, is expected to come under fire for the administration's budget policies and a nearly $1 million bonus he received from bailed-out bank Citigroup when he testifies on Wednesday before a Senate panel vetting him for the job. The hearing will briefly become ground zero in the pitched political battle over the federal budget, with Republicans set to attack over what they contend is Lew's devil-may-care attitude to reducing the U.S. budget deficit. "He'll be used as a political ping-pong ball," said Ted Truman, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for InternationalEconomics who served briefly as an adviser to Obama's former treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner. Treasury Eases Off On Bank Rules (WSJ) The proposal, which will be subject to comment before becoming a final rule, is likely to insist that financial institutions gather beneficial ownership information—who is in charge and who profits—on new corporate accounts, officials said. But in a move that could assuage some industry concerns, financial institutions wouldn't have to vet that ownership data for accuracy. Instead, they would rely on the customer to vouch for the information. With a Focus on Its Future, Financial Times Turns 125 (NYT) On Wednesday, The F.T. is celebrating its 125th birthday. The newspaper’s London headquarters along the south bank of the Thames will be lit up in pink, the color of the paper on which it has been printed since shortly after it was founded. There will be a few parties — understated, of course, for these are straitened times in the City of London, and challenging ones for the newspaper industry. Waxing Our Way To The ER (Salon) A new study from the University of California-San Diego reveals that “Emergency room visits due to pubic hair grooming mishaps,” including “lacerations,” increased fivefold between 2002 and 2010, sending an impressive 11,704 pube-scapers to the E.R. The culprits? Scissors and hot wax did some of the damage, but plain-old non-electric-razors accounted for the lion’s share, at 83 percent...The study also revealed that below-the-belt grooming isn’t just for adult ladies anymore – men accounted for 43.3 percent of the injuries, and almost 30 percent of them were girls under the age of 18. To avoid becoming yet another harrowing grooming gone bad statistic, the researchers advise hair removal aficionados to “Pay attention to where you’re placing that razor. Invest in a non-slip bath mat. And don’t shave while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.”