Opening Bell: 06.23.11

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Some Greeks Fear Government Is Selling Nation (NYT)
They are the crown jewels of Greece’s socialist state, and they are now likely to go to the highest bidder: the ports of Piraeus and Thessaloniki; prime Mediterranean real estate; the national lottery; Greek Telecom; the postal bank and the national railway system.

Athens accused of bid to amend austerity deal (FT)
Greece’s new finance minister has attempted to renegotiate parts of the austerity deal struck with international lenders last month, drawing anger from his European counterparts as they battle to find a solution to Athens’ debt crisis. According to officials briefed on the gambit, Evangelos Venizelos proposed changing the €50bn privatisation programme agreed to by Greek authorities and tried to delay next week’s vote in parliament, insisting it could not be done quickly on procedural grounds.

Economists See Slim Odds for More Fed Help (AP)
The Federal Reserve and its chairman Ben Bernanke have all but ruled out another round of bond buying. And in a recent Associated Press survey, 36 of 38 economists opposed any further effort by the Fed to spur growth.

Lagarde on Track to Win IMF Nod (WSJ)
The race to lead the International Monetary Fund is all but over as its executive board interviews the candidates this week and French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde appears on track to win final approval within days.

Citi: US to Lose Second Place in World Trade to India (CNBC)
“In terms of the largest countries by trade, we expect China to overtake the US to become the world’s largest trader by 2015 and to remain in the top spot for the rest of our forecast horizon,” the report said. “India, which does not even feature in the top 10 of the world’s largest traders in 2010, is expected to be the world’s second-largest trader by 2050, with the US in third place,” the report predicted.

U.S. House Panel Approves Measure to Boost Covered Bond Market (Bloomberg)
The committee voted 44-7 today to approve the bill, which would provide a regulatory framework for covered bonds by giving the Treasury Department oversight of the market and creating a separate resolution process in order to bolster investor interest. The bill, if signed into law, could provide a boost to issuers including Bank of America Corp. (BAC) and JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM)…The panel also approved, 33-21, the repeal of an 18-line provision from Dodd-Frank that requires all publicly traded companies to report the ratio between chief executive officer compensation and that of their median employee salary.

£1,000 bank shares for everyone: Clegg urges Treasury to hand taxpayers sell-off windfall (Daily Mail)
Every adult in Britain could be handed free bank shares worth £1,000 when nationalised institutions are sold off. Under the unprecedented give-away, the Government would hand over its stakes in Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group to 46million voters.

Barclays Seeks Dismissal of Lehman $500 Million Claim to Unpaid Bonuses (Bloomberg)
Lehman asked U.S. Bankruptcy Judge James Peck in May to order the U.K. bank to pay the rest of the $2 billion in bonuses it agreed to when it bought Lehman’s North American business in 2008…The bonuses were due to Lehman employees whom Barclays took on with the purchase, the former investment bank said. The annual bonuses for the 2008 fiscal year should have paid in full by March 15, 2009, Lehman said in a May filing. Instead, the employees received $1.5 billion, it said.

Winklevosses throw in Facebook towel (NYP)
The Winklevoss twins, who won a dubious fame as the sore losers in the Oscar-winning bio flick about the meteoric rise of Facebook phenom Mark Zuckerberg, have abandoned plans to appeal a $65 million settlement with the company and its founder.

Hedge Funds Aren’t Minting Fees Like They Used To (Deal Journal)
Hedge funds are estimated to have generated $10 billion in revenue for investment banks and broker-dealers, at least a third below historical norms, according to an annual survey of hedge funds, as managers remain conservative toward borrowing coming out of the financial crisis.

Alleged Crime Boss James 'Whitey' Bulger Arrested (WSJ)
After more than 15 years on the run, crime boss James "Whitey" Bulger was arrested Wednesday night in Santa Monica, law enforcement authorities said Wednesday. Mr. Bulger, an infamous crime figure in Boston and beyond, is wanted in connection with 19 murders in the 1970s and 1980s. He has been on the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted List" since 1999. His whereabouts have been a mystery that has captivated the country. He was the inspiration for a character in the movie "The Departed," which starred Jack Nicholson and Matt Damon.

Biggest Banks May Get Boost From Basel (Bloomberg)
About 25 banks may have to hold more than the 7 percent core Tier 1 capital required by the Basel rules, according to Morgan Stanley analysts. While the plans may force lenders such as Deutsche Bank AG (DBK) and Bank of America Corp. (BAC) to hold more capital, they may conversely make it cheaper for them to borrow as the lenders will have an implicit state guarantee as being too big to fail, analysts and lawyers said. HSBC Holdings Plc (HSBA) Chairman Douglas Flint said in March he “absolutely” wanted Europe’s biggest lender to be classified as systemically important as it would make the bank more attractive to investors and clients.

Siren Mind-Meld: Regs Risking New Depression? (Politico/Morning Money)
A former senior Fed official tells M.M. that pushing capital requirements too high on big banks could be very dangerous: “The 1929 stock market crash is often regarded as the beginning of the Great Depression. In fact, the economy managed a weak recovery following the Crash, not unlike the one we've experienced since the financial crisis. But in September 1931, the [Fed] raised the discount rate sharply in an attempt to stem an outflow of gold reserves...Within a year, the economy had relapsed dramatically, taking its deepest plunge between November 1932 and March 1933, ushering in the Great Depression and more than a decade of misery.

Dennis Gartman: Bernanke 'Quietly Risk Negative' (CNBC)
"He was less than optimistic, but I don’t think really pessimistic."

China’s Manufacturing May Expand at Slowest Pace in 11 Months, PMI Signals (Bloomberg)
The 50.1 level reported by HSBC Holdings Plc. and Markit Economics today compares with a final reading of 51.6 in May. A number above 50 indicates expansion.

Irish Economy Grows Fastest in Three Years (Bloomberg)
Gross domestic product rose 1.3 percent from the previous three months, when it fell 1.4 percent, the Central Statistics Office said in a report published in Dublin today. The increase was the most since the fourth quarter of 2007 and exceeded the 0.5 percent median estimate of six analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News. From a year earlier, GDP rose 0.1 percent.

Challenges in Chasing Fraud (WSJ)
Michael R. Llodra and Edward S. Steffelin both worked on the disastrous J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. mortgage-bond deal called Squared. And both men were warned by U.S. securities regulators in January that they could face civil-fraud charges related to the $1.1 billion deal, which plummeted in value soon after being sold in 2007. But their fates couldn't be more different. The Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil-fraud lawsuit Tuesday against Mr. Steffelin, a former executive at GSC Capital Corp., the firm that managed the assets in the Squared deal. Mr. Llodra, the former head of asset-backed collateralized debt obligations at J.P. Morgan, wasn't accused of any wrongdoing as part of the bank's $153.6 million settlement with the SEC, and officials at the agency said no current or former J.P. Morgan employees are facing enforcement actions stemming from the Squared deal.

Hulu Hires Advisers for Potential Sale (DealBook)
Hulu’s board has hired two investment banks, Morgan Stanley and Guggenheim Partners, as advisers on a potential sale, a person briefed on the matter told DealBook on Wednesday…The assignment is a prominent one for Guggenheim, the investment bank run by Alan D. Schwartz, the former Bear Stearns chief executive.

Lindsay Lohan fails alcohol test again, ordered to court (CNN)
"When my friends come over, they're not drinking," Lohan told an interviewer with Life & Style magazine. "Alcohol is not in my house, so it's just not a part of my life."

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