Opening Bell: 04.21.11

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Morgan Stanley Profit Drops, Beats Estimates as Trading Revenue Jumps (Bloomberg)
Net income fell 45 percent to $968 million, or 50 cents a share, from $1.78 billion, or 99 cents, a year earlier, the bank said today in a statement. Earnings from continuing operations, excluding a 26-cent loss tied to a Japanese joint venture and a 30-cent tax gain, were 46 cents a share. That compared with the 40-cent average estimate of 14 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

Ex-Goldman Sachs Banker Starts Hedge Fund Analyzing Japanese Blog Traffic (Bloomberg)
Former Goldman Sachs Group banker Hideki Furusho and a University of Tokyo professor have teamed up to create a hedge fund that invests in Nikkei 225 futures based on a computer model that analyzes Japanese blogs.

At Facebook Townhall, Obama Goes On Offensive (WSJ)
"The Republican budget that was put forward I would say is fairly radical. I wouldn't call it particularly courageous," Mr. Obama said. Mr. Obama offered a dire description of the budget drafted by Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. He said it would reduce taxes for corporations and the wealthy by cutting funds to clean energy programs and transportation. "I guess you could call that bold. I would call it shortsighted," Mr. Obama said to applause from an audience of mostly young people. "I do think Mr. Ryan is serious," Mr. Obama added. "He's a patriot."

BlackRock First Quarter Profit Gets Boost From Popular ETFs (Reuters)
The New York-based firm earned $819 million, or $2.96 per share, excluding some expenses, compared with $727 million, or $2.40 per share, a year earlier, BlackRock said on Thursday.

Weil: Geithner Downgrades His Own Credibility To Junk (BusinessWeek)
Fox Business reporter Peter Barnes began his televised interview with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner two days ago with this question: “Is there a risk that the United States could lose its AAA credit rating? Yes or no?” Geithner’s response: “No risk of that.” “No risk?” Barnes asked. “No risk,” Geithner said.

GE Profit, Revenue Beat Street View (Reuters)
The world's biggest maker of jet engines and electric turbines said earnings attributable to common shareholders came to $3.36 billion, or 31 cents per share, up from $1.87 billion, or 17 cents per share, a year earlier. Revenue rose 6 percent to $38.45 billion.

Bernanke Plans To Make Voice Heard (WSJ)
Next Wednesday, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will do something no Fed chief has done before: Stand before a room full of journalists after officials conclude a policy meeting and answer questions about the central bank's decisions..."You can argue that the chairman of the Fed is more important than the president of the United States, but very few Americans understand what the Fed does," says Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who successfully pushed for the Fed to disclose more about its secretive bank lending. Addressing the press, Mr. Sanders says, will be "a step forward."

Greece Seeks Probe Into Debt Restructuring Rumor (Reuters)
Greek bank stocks fell 4.58 percent on Wednesday and the broader Athens bourse index lost 2.62 percent, underperforming pan-European indices on what traders said where rumors, spread by email, that the country would soon restructure its debt..."The ministry urgently requested the prosecutor's office to launch a criminal investigation regarding the move in the Athens Stock Exchange and the bond market," the ministry said in a statement.

Taco Bell Demands Apology After Lawsuit Is Withdrawn (CT)
On Wednesday, the fast-food chain decided to trumpet that good news with full-page ads in 10 major U.S. newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal, demanding an apology. The company pegged the ads at a total cost of between $3 million and $4 million. "Would it kill you to say you're sorry?" the ad exclaimed. "Sure, they could have just asked us if our recipe uses real beef. Even easier, they could have gone to our Web site where the ingredients in every one of our products are listed for everyone to see," the ad read. "But that's not what they chose to do.

New Swiss Tax Rules Signal Big Changes for Private Banks (NYT)
Switzerland aims to sign new treaties by the summer with Germany and Britain under which their citizens would pay taxes on more of their undeclared assets in Swiss banks. France and Italy are expected to follow suit.

Business Group Vows Support for U.S. Lawmakers to Cut Deficits (Bloomberg)
“The business community strongly supports a comprehensive deficit-reduction plan and will support members of Congress who help get it enacted,” according to a statement from the Committee for Economic Development released today in Washington. “Serious deficit reduction cannot be painless, and no one should expect or demand that the spending and revenue provisions they care most about will not be touched.”

Regulators Serve Up Alphabet Soup (WSJ)
Banks that decide they don't want to belong to this exclusive, heavily regulated club should beware the "Hotel California." This provision of Dodd-Frank, named in homage to the Eagles lyric that "you can check out any time you like but you can never leave," ensures a taxpayer-aided bank can't "de-SIFI" simply by shrinking its assets. Jargon purists, who prefer acronyms to Eagles songs, can find particularly rich pickings in the dozens of new rules affecting swaps, futures and options. A round-table event held by regulators last fall invited the public—"seating on a first-come, first-served basis"—to discuss DCOs, DCMs, SDs, MSPs, SEFs and SB SEFs. Such acronyms "remain strictly for the Dodd-Frank cognoscenti," says Margaret Tahyar, a partner at law firm Davis Polk. Some of these terms will remain obscure. But some will enter the corporate lexicon, perhaps graduating to be the SECs and FDICs of their day.

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