Opening Bell: 04.27.11

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Barclays, Credit Suisse Post Lower Profits (BW)
Net income at Credit Suisse fell to 1.14 billion Swiss francs ($1.31 billion) from 2.06 billion francs in the year-earlier period, the Zurich-based bank today. That compares with the 1.32 billion-franc average estimate of 16 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg...Barclays said today its first-quarter profit fell 5.2 percent to 1.01 billion pounds ($1.67 billion) as earnings at its Barclays Capital investment banking unit dropped 33 percent. Sales and trading revenue fell 17 percent from the year-earlier period.

Bernanke's Code: A Guide To The Fed Chairman's First Q&A (WSJ)
Balance sheet: Look for Mr. Bernanke to affirm that QE2 will end in the summer, as planned. Any deviation from that position would be major news. Listen for what Mr. Bernanke says about the future size of the balance sheet. In this new world of Fed policy, how many securities the central bank holds is the primary signal of how much support it is providing the economy; the Fed has injected more than $2 trillion into the economy since the financial crisis. It is considered unlikely, but if Mr. Bernanke hints the Fed may stop reinvesting the proceeds from its mortgage holdings, it will be seen as the first step toward actual monetary tightening. If Mr. Bernanke drops such a hint, expect the dollar to rally.

Fed's 'Extended Period' May End In May 2011, Economists Say (Bloomberg)
Thirty-three of 44 economists surveyed said the central bank will remove the two-word phrase from its post-meeting statement in 2011, with 18 betting it will move by September. The Fed may wait until 2012 to announce sales of mortgage or Treasury securities it bought to reduce borrowing costs, with 26 respondents expecting a plan next year, according to the survey, conducted from April 20 to April 25.

Hedge Fund Pot Farmer Pleads Guilty (TB)
Tara A. Bryson, executive of Ridgefield-based New Stream Capital has plead guilty to drug possession charges. She was sentenced to one year in jail, which was suspended, and a year of probation. Bryson copped a last minute plea deal with the State of Connecticut. In return she had felony charges of conspiracy to cultivate a pot farm reduced to a misdemeanor–possession of a controlled substance under four ounces and possession of drug paraphernalia. Bryson’s arrest report shows Connecticut State police found over 203 marijuana plants in her million dollar Newtown home so the charges being subbed out from cultivation of marijuana to only possession less than four ounces appears to be a lucky break.

Banks Warn Obama On Soaring Debt (FT)
“Any delay in making an interest or principal payment by Treasury even for a very short period of time would put the US Treasury and overall financial markets in uncharted territory and could trigger another catastrophic financial crisis,” said Matthew Zames, a JPMorgan executive, in a letter to Tim Geithner, the Treasury secretary, this week.

Robot Stock Picker Beats Human Managers After Japan Quake (Bloomberg)
Six computer programs, making all the investment decisions for T&D Asset Management’s Kabu-Robo Fund, generated returns of 1.9 percent in March. The average actively traded fund that invests in Japan lost 6.9 percent during the month, according to Tokyo-based Rating and Investment Information Inc. The benchmark Nikkei 225 (NKY) Stock Average dropped 8.2 percent in the period. “People tend to go with the herd when there’s a panic,” said Kazuhiro Kunisada, chief executive officer of Trade Science Corp., which designed the programs for T&D’s Kabu-Robo Fund. “Robots just follow the rules.”

NYPD Admits It Provided Diddy With A Police Escort (NYP)
The NYPD admitted today that it provided Sean "Diddy" Combs with a police escort following a concert last week, a decision slammed by Mayor Bloomberg. "The bottom line is the police department should treat everybody exactly the same. If you don't get a police escort, P. Diddy shouldn't," Bloomberg said.

Does Corporate America Kowtow To China? (Reuters)
"I don't blame the Chinese, they're just pursuing their national interest," said Patrick Mulloy, a member of the Congressional U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. "I blame us for not realizing what's happening to us and for doing nothing about it."

White House Distributes Copies Of Obama's Birth Certificate (BW)
Today’s release was made because “the president believes it was becoming a distraction,” White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said.

S&P's Japan Outlook Goes Negative (WSJ)
In a statement Wednesday, the credit-rating firm said it estimated reconstruction costs owing to the quake and subsequent tsunami and nuclear disaster at ¥20 trillion to ¥50 trillion ($245 billion to $613 billion), with a central forecast of ¥30 trillion.

PIMCO Says Greece Needs To Restructure Its Debt (Reuters)
"So far none of the solutions for the Greek debt crisis have worked. And a lot of people - including me - don't believe that they will work in the future," Mohamed El-Erian, chief executive of PIMCO, wrote. Greece will need "a preferably voluntary and orderly restructuring" to relieve itself of its debt burden, the PIMCO CEO said.

I handed over £6.2m to gigolo out of love for him: Heiress tells how conman turned blackmailer (Daily Mail)
Married mother of three Ms Klatten, who is said to be worth more than £6 billion through holdings in car giants BMW and chemical firm Altana, fell for conman Helg Sgarbi, 46, after meeting him in a luxury hotel. The Swiss born former investment banker had told her he was a 'special adviser for the Swiss government' and fed her a string of lies, winning her over and within weeks they had become lovers. He wooed her with his charm but it later emerged that it was all part of an elaborate plot hatched by mystical faith healer Ernani Barretta, 63, whose trial began in Pescara today.

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JPMorgan Trader Iksil Fuels Prop-Trading Debate With Bets (Bloomberg) Iksil’s influence in the market has spurred some counterparts to dub him Voldemort, after the Harry Potter villain. He works in London in the bank’s chief investment office, which has assembled traders from across Wall Street to its staff of 400 who help oversee $350 billion in investments. While the firm describes the unit’s main task as hedging risks and investing excess cash, four hedge-fund managers and dealers say the trades are big enough to move indexes and resemble proprietary bets...The trades, first reported by Bloomberg News April 5, stirred debate among U.S. policy makers over the Easter-holiday weekend as they wrangle over this year’s implementation of the so-called Volcker rule, the portion of the Dodd-Frank Act that sets limits on risk-taking by banks with government backing. Taking Measure Of Citigroup And Bank Of America (NYT) Bank of America shares are up 66 percent this year, while Citigroup has risen 33 percent, amid the broader rebound in financial stocks. After staying out of the spotlight and earning $21 billion over the last two years, Citigroup’s potential problems are gaining attention again...At Barclays, the analyst Jason Goldberg said he was shocked when Citigroup did not get the go-ahead from the Fed, adding, “We had run mock stress tests with Citi passing by a fair amount.” Just as surprising, he added, has been Bank of America’s surge this year. Its performance has been a far cry from last year, when Bank of America’s stock, which closed at $9.23 on Thursday, was flirting with $5, and questions about whether it had enough capital were mounting. “If you asked me in January whether this thing would be up 66 percent, I’d have said you’re crazy,” Mr. Goldberg said, referring to Bank of America’s stock performance this year. A 'Fat Cat' With The President's Ear (WSJ) When President Barack Obama attacked "fat-cat bankers on Wall Street" in 2009, Robert Wolf had a ready response. "I said 'Mr. President, I know you think I'm overweight, but I can think of better names to call me,'" Mr. Wolf recalls. "He laughed." Humor and self-deprecation have served Mr. Wolf well in his often conflicting roles as presidential pal and Wall Street power broker. The 50-year-old president of UBS's UBS investment bank has remained a leading voice in the industry while also serving as Mr. Obama's chief Wall Street fundraiser and his current BFF (best friend in finance)...Mr. Wolf plays golf and basketball with the president and he is a frequent visitor to the White House. On vacation in Martha's Vineyard or at fundraising events, the two often bond over sports and their families, since they each have two school-age kids. As if to prove the president wrong about "fat cats," Mr. Wolf says he has lost 20 pounds in the past three months. Willing Banks Find Profits in Legal Trade With Iran (WSJ) As Western sanctions on Iran have grown tighter, some small banks have found a lucrative niche financing what remains of the legal trade with the Islamic Republic. Top-tier financial institutions including Société Générale SA GLE.FR -0.74% and Rabobank Group have stepped back from business with Iran in recent months, citing increased political risk and logistical hassles that attend even legal trade with the country. As a result, the remaining players are commanding higher fees and offering increasingly complicated services. Like Russia's First Czech-Russian Bank LLC and China's Bank of Kunlun Co. Ltd, they are typically small, obscure financial institutions often based in countries historically friendly to Iran. The firms and other intermediaries still brokering these trades are charging more than 6% per transaction for legitimate trade deals with Iran, on top of traditional banking fees, according to traders and bankers knowledgeable with the process. That is as much as triple the fees typically charged by Arab Gulf banks two years ago, before the United States and European Union significantly stiffened sanctions, according to Iranian businessmen. Easter Bunny Arrested (KTLA) An Easter Bunny was arrested this week after police found he was carrying around more than Easter eggs and candy. Joshua Lee Bolling, 24, was arrested and charged on Thursday with illegally possessing prescription narcotics. Police arrested Bolling after businesses at the Piedmont Mall in Danville, Virginia complained that the Easter Bunny was acting suspicious. "His suspicious behavior took place while he was on breaks and not during his contact with children," a police release said. UBS Faces Billionaire Olenicoff in Lawsuit Over His Tax Felony (Bloomberg) and billionaire Igor Olenicoff are scheduled to clash in court today over his claim that the bank bears blame for his failure to declare $200 million in offshore accounts on U.S. tax returns. Olenicoff, 69, a real-estate developer, pleaded guilty in 2007 to filing a false tax return, admitting he didn’t tell the Internal Revenue Service about his offshore accounts for seven years. He was sentenced to two years’ probation and ordered to pay $52 million in back taxes, fines and penalties. In 2008, he sued Zurich-based UBS, the largest Swiss bank, claiming it traded excessively in his accounts, engaged in racketeering and committed fraud by not telling him he owed U.S. taxes. He seeks as much as $1.7 billion in damages. Arguments on the bank’s motion to dismiss the case are set for today before U.S. District Judge Andrew Guilford in Santa Ana, California. Markets at the Start of a More Significant Downturn Says Marc Faber (CNBC) “The technical underpinnings of the market have been a disaster in the last couple of weeks,” Faber said on the sidelines of the Maybank Invest Asia conference. “The number of new highs have declined, the volume has been poor, insider sales just hit a record.” Faber said the weakness in economically sensitive stocks such as mining and industrial goods was particularly “disturbing.” Agencies At Odds Over New Ratings (FT) The latest example came this month when a near-$800 million bond deal backed by U.S. prime mortgages was sold to investors with triple-A ratings — provided by Standard & Poor’s and DBRS, a smaller competitor based in Canada — on some tranches. Fitch Ratings issued a statement saying it would not have rated the bonds triple A. It said it provided “feedback” on the transaction to the arranger, Credit Suisse, and “was ultimately not asked to rate the deal due to the agency’s more conservative credit stance”. Steven Vames, a Credit Suisse spokesman, said it was common for an issuer to engage multiple rating agencies to look at a deal and ultimately choose a subset of those agencies to rate it. In March, Moody’s said: “Some recent cases have come to market for which we believe increased risk has not been adequately mitigated for the level of ratings assigned by another agency.” In particular, Moody’s faulted ratings issued by S&P, Fitch and DBRS on asset-backed deals. For Big Companies, Life Is Good (WSJ) An analysis by The Wall Street Journal of corporate financial reports finds that cumulative sales, profits and employment last year among members of the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index exceeded the totals of 2007, before the recession and financial crisis. UK Cruise Retraces Titanic's Ill-Fated Voyage (Reuters) Descendants of some of the 1,500 people killed when the Titanic sank a century ago were among the passengers on a cruise ship that set off from Britain on Sunday to retrace the route of the liner's ill-fated voyage. Some donned period costume, including furs and feathered hats for women and suits and bowler hats for men, to board the MS Balmoral at Southampton on the southern English coast. The world's most famous maritime disaster has fascinated people ever since, explaining why passengers from 28 countries were prepared to pay up to 8,000 pounds ($13,000) each to be a passenger on the memorial cruise organized by a British travel firm. The Balmoral will follow in the wake of the Titanic, sailing near Cherbourg in France and then calling at Cobh inIreland before arriving at the spot where the Titanic went down...Passenger Jane Allen, whose great-uncle died on his honeymoon trip on the Titanic while her great-aunt survived, said she did not think it was "ghoulish or macabre" to go on the voyage.