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Opening Bell: 08.04.11

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How The White House Wooed Wall Street In Debt Debate (WSJ)
White House officials including Mr. Daley and senior adviser Valerie Jarrett placed calls to banks, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. Daley called a former colleague at J.P. Morgan, head of government relations Peter Scher, and tried to reach Bank of New York Mellon Corp. CEO Robert Kelly, people familiar with the matter said. The message from administration officials: contact key senators and congressman in both parties to tell them that an agreement was crucial for business confidence and the economy...Separately, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and J.P. Morgan CEO James Dimon talked twice in the last week about the debt-ceiling deliberations, said people familiar with the conversations. Mr. Dimon called Mr. Geithner last week and the two discussed how the markets were reacting and whether a government default would upend U.S. payment systems. On Monday Mr. Geithner called Mr. Dimon to brief him on the final deal, one of these people said.

Berlusconi to Meet Italian Executives, Unions (Bloomberg)
The meeting in Rome today comes after the premier, rejecting calls to resign, addressed both houses of Parliament yesterday on Italy’s economy. Berlusconi said he’d seek to liberalize the labor market, adding that the country is “up to the task” of tackling the debt crisis as its economic fundamentals are solid.

Italian Bank CEO: Italy Is Rich But Needs Growth (CNBC)
“It's a matter of confidence. I don't think the fundamentals of Italy are justifying this overshooting in the market. So, we have problems, the debt is very high but on the other side the debt is only 23 percent of the total wealth of the families so Italy is still quite a rich market,” said Federico Ghizzoni, the CEO of Unicredit during an interview in Milan.

Mark Zuckerberg's Sister Is Over Facebook (Daily Intel)
Randi Zuckerberg has quit the family business.

Swedish Man Caught Trying To Split Atoms At Home (AP)
A Swedish man who was arrested after trying to split atoms in his kitchen said Wednesday he was only doing it as a hobby. Richard Handl told The Associated Press that he had the radioactive elements radium, americium and uranium in his apartment in southern Sweden when police showed up and arrested him on charges of unauthorized possession of nuclear material. The 31-year-old Handl said he had tried for months to set up a nuclear reactor at home and kept a blog about his experiments, describing how he created a small meltdown on his stove. Only later did he realize it might not be legal and sent a question to Sweden's Radiation Authority, which answered by sending the police.

Buffett Can’t Get Analysts to Say Buy Berkshire (Bloomberg)
Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway can’t get a buy recommendation from equity analysts, even as it trades in New York at the cheapest price relative to book value since March 2009. Berkshire fell this week to its lowest since June 2010 and has underperformed the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index over the last 12 months. The company faces a sluggish U.S. economy, declining world equity markets and reinsurance claims tied to Japan’s biggest earthquake.

BofA In The Back Door (NYP)
Bank of America has held settlement negotiations with some states over home foreclosures separately from talks with a larger group of state and federal officials, two people familiar with the matter said. The proposed deal would give the bank liability releases from state and federal claims over its mortgage practices in exchange for reducing loan principals to help struggling homeowners, said the people, who didn't want to be identified because the discussions aren't public.

BofA Snags JPMorgan Exec for Global Banking Post (Reuters)
Bank of America has hired Anne Clarke Wolff from JPMorgan Chase to work as co-head of global corporate banking, according to a memo.

His Playboy Philosophy: Massage The Stock (NYP)
The husband of former Playboy CEO Christine Hefner, the daughter of company founder Hugh Hefner, received a public spanking yesterday for sneaking around on his wife to satisfy his lust for easy money. William Marovitz reaped $101,000 in ill-gotten gains between 2004 and 2009 by trading on confidential tips he gleaned from his wife, despite her repeated warnings to keep the info under wraps, according to a civil complaint filed yesterday by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Marovitz, 66, a former Illinois state senator, agreed to pay $168,352 to settle the charges. Marovitz, who married Hefner in 1995, didn't admit wrongdoing, but the SEC alleged in its complaint that he acted with knowledge of wrongdoing.

Surf's Up? (PMM)
"Tim Geithner received a wet suit for his upcoming 50th birthday so can he engage in his new favorite hobby: hanging ten (or at least five)."

Bank of England Holds Rates After Weak Growth (Reuters)
The Bank of England (BoE) held interest rates on Thursday at their current historic low of 0.5 percent after weaker than expected gross domestic product (GDP) figures last week effectively killed off any hope of a rate rise this year.

Drunken Ben Bernanke Tells Everyone At Neighborhood Bar How Screwed Economy Is (The Onion)
Customers at the bar told reporters the "shitfaced" and disruptive Bernanke refused to pay for his drinks with U.S. currency, claiming it was "worthless." Witnesses also confirmed that near the end of the evening, Bernanke put money into the jukebox and selected Dire Straits' "Money For Nothing" to play five times in a row. "This is what it's all about," said Bernanke, who reportedly danced alone in the middle of the dark tavern. "Fucking love this song."

Police seize record £300mn cocaine haul (AP)
Police have seized Britain's largest ever cocaine haul, worth up to £300 million, from a luxury yacht which had sailed from the Caribbean, officials said. The 1.2-tonne stash was found hidden under the bathing deck of the pleasure cruiser docked in the port of Southampton in southeast England, Britain's Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) and UK Border Agency (UKBA) said Wednesday. Police believe the drugs were loaded onto the boat in Venezuela. In dawn raids Tuesday Dutch police, acting on intelligence from British and French authorities, arrested six men suspected to be involved in an international drugs ring responsible for the shipment. Officials said it was the largest haul of Class A drugs -- classified as those most likely to cause harm -- ever found in Britain.