Opening Bell: 09.08.11

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Obama To Challenge Republicans On Jobs (Bloomberg)
The president's address to a rare joint session of Congress on jobs, the top concern of voters as the 2012 election campaign gets under way, will frame the government’s response as one of either action or delay on reviving the economy. On taxes, the signature Republican issue, he will cast himself as a champion of relief for the middle class rather than for the wealthy. Obama will propose a more than $300 billion stimulus plan in the Republican-controlled House chamber as job growth stalls and the unemployment rate hovers above 9 percent. His job- approval ratings are scraping new lows as public doubts about his stewardship of the economy rise. “The president has had a difficult summer,” said Democratic political consultant Tad Devine, a senior strategist for the Al Gore and John Kerry presidential campaigns. “All of the polling is heading in the wrong direction. He needs a circuit breaker.”

ECB Holds Rates As Recession Fears Mount (Reuters)
The European Central Bank held interest rates at 1.5 percent on Thursday and is likely to indicate that a policy tightening cycle it began in April is on hold in the face of growing evidence the euro zone's economic recovery is losing momentum.

German Finance Minister: Situation In Greece Is 'Serious' (Reuters)
FYI.

Market Conditions Leave David Tepper Cautious (II)
Sources say the Appaloosa manager has gone 30 percent to 40 percent in cash, which is very high for him. Some of his cash is invested in U.S. Treasuries...he is not preparing to aggressively start spending this cash any time soon, except to pick up some shares of stocks he already owns on the dips.

Financial Firms' Ceilings (WSJ)
Ms. Krawcheck believes that her abrupt exit from Bank of America "is not a woman's issue," a person familiar with her thinking said. "She doesn't feel that. This was a business decision. The music stopped, and she didn't have a chair."

Yahoo Seen Willing To Take Any Bid After Bartz (Bloomberg)
Carol Bartz’s ouster is giving companies from Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. to Microsoft Corp the chance to buy Yahoo! Inc.’s earnings virtually for free.

Rising Fears Of Recession (NYT)
“The chances that we are in something that is going to feel like a recession are close to 100 percent,” said Joshua Shapiro of MFR Inc. in New York, who has diagnosed the economy more accurately than many other forecasters lately. “Whether we reach the technical definition”—which is determined by a committee of academic economists and based on gross domestic product, employment and other factors—“I think is probably close to 50-50.”

Gumby Botches Robbery Of 7-11 (CBS)
San Diego police say a suspect, dressed up as Gumby, tried to rob a 7-Eleven on Labor Day. The botched robbery happened just after midnight Monday in Rancho Penasquitos. Surveillance tape shows the costumed bandit telling the clerk he is being robbed and reportedly demands a pack of cigarettes and cash. The flexible suspect then tried to pull out what he said was a gun from his costume. Apparently flustered, Gumby dropped 27 cents on the floor and left the convenience store empty-handed.

Fed Prepares To Act (WSJ)
Three of the five regional bank presidents who have a vote on monetary policy dissented in August because they didn't want the Fed to pledge to keep interest rates low for another two years, as it chose to do. They seem likely to resist additional actions. "It is unlikely that the [economic] data in September will warrant adding still more accommodation," Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota said in a speech Tuesday.

Feared SEC Watchdog Preps Slew Of Reports (WSJ)
The reports, to be issued this month by the SEC's inspector general, involve several serious issues that could help determine the agency's standing on Capitol Hill. They include allegations that regulators destroyed documents relating to initial probes; alleged conflicts of interest concerning payments to Bernard Madoff victims; the "revolving door" between the SEC and Wall Street; and the financial package offered a former SEC official. The reports "involve significant aspects of the SEC's operations, whether it's ethical controls or how the agency deals with important records," said David Kotz, the SEC's inspector general. Though he declined to comment on the findings of the reports, Mr. Kotz said: "There's a lot of congressional interest in our findings." "We look forward to receiving the reports," said John Nester, an SEC spokesman.

Moynihan Tries To Keep BofA Intact As Mortgages Fall Apart (Bloomberg)
On the afternoon of Aug. 23, Gary G. Lynch, the global chief of legal, compliance, and regulatory relations for Bank of America, was attending a meeting in Washington when the floor heaved. Although Lynch, a lanky 61-year-old attorney with swept- back white hair, had never experienced an earthquake, he possessed the good sense to get beneath a sturdy conference table, along with several other people, Bloomberg Businessweek reports in its Sept. 12 issue. “If the ceiling came down,” he recalled, “I thought we were dead.” The ceiling held, despite the magnitude 5.8 quake rippling from its epicenter in Virginia. Minutes later, Lynch pulled out his BlackBerry and discovered another startling development: a rumor rattling Wall Street that Bank of America might get swept into an involuntary, government-orchestrated rescue by its smaller rival JPMorgan Chase & Co. “This is really getting nuts,” he thought.

Corpse Found In Tub With TV Weatherman (MFDC)
Homeowner Christopher Barbour, who says he is a friend of 33-year-old KARK weatherman Brett Cummins, told police that he woke up Monday morning and found his friend asleep in his bathtub with a dead man wearing a dog collar lying next to him. Barbour told investigators Cummins had brought a friend that Barbour knew only as "Dexter" over the night before and the three were drinking and snorting drugs. Barbour said he later went to sleep on his couch, and woke up around 8 a.m. the next morning. He heard snoring from the bathroom and saw the two men in the tub, which had no water in it. He shook Cummins awake, and the two tried to wake "Dexter."

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Opening Bell: 04.13.12

JPMorgan Profit Slips (WSJ) J.P. Morgan reported a profit of $5.38 billion, down from $5.56 billion a year earlier. On a per-share basis, earnings were $1.31, up from $1.28 as the share count outstanding declined. The latest quarter included a net 8-cent per-share loss tied to litigation expenses and changes in the value of the bank's debt. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected a per-share profit of $1.18, excluding debt-related charges. Revenue rose 6.3% to $27.42 billion. Analysts were looking for $24.68 billion. Wells Fargo reports higher first-quarter profit (Reuters) Wells Fargo, the nation's fourth-biggest U.S. bank, said net income was $4.25 billion, or 75 cents a share, in the quarter, compared with $3.76 billion, or 67 cents, a share in the same period a year earlier. The average estimate from analysts was 73 cents per share. JPMorgan Said to Transform Treasury to Prop Trading (Bloomberg) Achilles Macris, hired in 2006 as the CIO’s top executive in London, led an expansion into corporate and mortgage-debt investments with a mandate to generate profits for the New York- based bank, three of the former employees said. Dimon, 56, closely supervised the shift from the CIO’s previous focus on protecting JPMorgan from risks inherent in its banking business, such as interest-rate and currency movements, they said. Some of Macris’s bets are now so large that JPMorgan probably can’t unwind them without losing money or roiling financial markets, the former executives said, based on knowledge gleaned from people inside the bank and dealers at other firms. Bank Bonus That Tops Salary May Be Banned by EU Lawmakers (Bloomberg) Governments and lawmakers in the 27-nation EU are considering rules for lenders that would go far beyond international agreements approved by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision. Denmark, which holds the rotating presidency of the EU, has proposed empowering nations to set surcharges of up to 3 percent across their banking systems. Karas yesterday suggested adding language to the legislation that would ban banker bonuses that exceed fixed pay, following calls from other lawmakers to rein in excessive compensation. IMF Lifts Growth Forecast, Cautiously (WSJ) Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, said the world economy is marked by "a high degree of instability" even though prospects for global growth are better than they were a few months ago. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Ms. Lagarde said the IMF, which marked down its 2012 forecast for global growth in January to 3.3%, has now marked it up to reflect improving conditions in the world economy. But she said the new forecast, to be released next week, remains more pessimistic than the one it made last September, which predicted 4% growth. Europe remains the biggest single risk to the global economy, the former French finance minister said. Hedge Fund Driver Guns DownArmed Robber (NYP) A retired NYPD lieutenant blew away a drugstore bandit yesterday as the suspect tried to gun down three police officers during a foot pursuit, sources said. Thomas Barnes, Barnes — a driver for hedge fund manager Philippe Laffont, was filling his tank at the BP station on East 119th Street and First Avenue at around 11 a.m. when he saw gunman Rudolph Wyatt running from the store, and sprang into action. He crouched behind his hedge-fund boss’ Mercedes SUV and squeezed off three shots, killing Wyatt, 23. The trigger-happy thug — wanted on warrants for two other shootings — lay dead in a pool of blood on the sidewalk wearing a black stocking mask with a wad of stolen cash spilling out of his pocket, witnesses said. “Part of the back of his head was missing. He had a large head wound and there was tons of blood,” said witness John Brecevich, 59, owner of the Original Patsy’s restaurant nearby. “It was a scene straight out of NYPD Blue.” Trustees Aim For MF Execs (NYP) The trustee tasked with clawing back money for burned customers of MF Global is training his sights on the brokerage firm’s executives — a list that likely includes former CEO Jon Corzine. In a statement yesterday, trustee James Giddens said he is considering pursuing claims against “certain responsible individuals” who worked for MF at the time customers’ trading accounts were improperly tapped. Kent Jarrell, a spokesman for Giddens, declined to name names but said the trustee is considering civil suits against “officers, directors or other employees” of both the brokerage firm and the holding company. Fed Officials Differ on Need to Keep Rates Low to 2014 (Bloomberg) William C. Dudley, president of the New York Fed, and Vice Chairman Janet Yellen said the 2014 time-frame is needed to lower unemployment from 8.2 percent. Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota said rising inflation may prompt an interest-rate increase as early as this year, while Philadelphia’s Charles Plosser said policy should hinge on economic performance, not a calendar commitment. Newark Mayor Cory Booker: Race into home fire was a "come to Jesus moment" (CBS) Booker arrived home last night to discover his next-door neighbor's house on fire, and rescued a young woman trapped upstairs by carrying here through the flames, suffering second-degree burns in the process. The mayor's security team discovered the fire and pounded on the door to alert residents, when an elderly woman said that her daughter was trapped upstairs. At first, Newark Police Detective Alex Rodriguez would not let Booker into the burning house. "He basically told me, 'This woman is going to die if we don't help her,' and what can I say to that?," Rodriguez said. "I let him go and without thinking twice, he just ran into the flames and rescued this young lady." Booker said that as he jumped through the kitchen on the second floor, "I actually wasn't thinking. When I got there and couldn't find her in all the smoke, looked behind me and saw the kitchen really erupting with flames all over the ceiling, that's when I had very clear thoughts that I'm not going to get out of this place alive and got ... very religious. He admitted he was "not gentle" with her - "I just sort of threw her over my shoulder and dragged her through the kitchen."

Opening Bell: 04.09.12

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.

By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America (Ash KetchumUploaded by maybeMaybeMaybe) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Opening Bell: 7.13.16

IMF not worried about Brexit impact on U.S. growth; Sequoia exits Valeant; IRS auditing marijuana businesses; "I got caught cheating through Pokémon Go"; and more.