Opening Bell: 09.23.11

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US House passes spending bill as showdown looms (Reuters)
Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives regrouped on Friday to approve a must-pass spending bill, but the prospect of a government shutdown loomed as Democrats said it would go nowhere in the Senate. Even in the face of rock-bottom approval ratings, the dispute suggested that lawmakers may not be able to bridge their differences to pass even the most essential legislation. Aid for victims of tornadoes, wildfires and other disasters could dry up by Monday if Congress does not replenish a dwindling relief fund. Funding for everything from national parks to law enforcement could expire in a week. By a largely party-line vote of 219 to 203, the Republican-controlled House in an after-midnight vote approved a bill that would keep the government running through Nov. 18 and provide $3.65 billion for disaster relief in one of the most extreme years for weather in U.S. history.

Moody's Downgrades 8 Greek Banks (WSJ)
National Bank of Greece SA, EFG Eurobank Ergasias SA, Alpha Bank AE, Piraeus Bank SA, Agricultural Bank of Greece and Attica Bank SA were downgraded by Moody's to Caa2 from B3. Emporiki Bank of Greece and General Bank of Greece were downgraded to B3 from B1. All of the banks' debt ratings carry a negative outlook. "The government faces significant solvency challenges and historical experience shows that small sovereign debt restructurings have often been followed by larger sovereign defaults," Moody's warned.

BofA To Seek $800 Million In Deal To Sell Pizza Assets (Bloomberg)
BofA is in exclusive talks to sell its stake in the biggest U.S. Pizza Hut franchisee for more than $800 million, said two people with knowledge of the discussions.

Economic Signals Heighten Worries Of A Double-Dip (WSJ)
"The world is in a danger zone," said World Bank President Robert Zoellick. His confidence in major economies avoiding another recession, he said, was "being eroded daily by the steady drip of difficult economic news."

French, German Bank Credit Default Wagers Soar (Bloomberg)
Deutsche Bank was the most- traded company of 1,000 issuers tracked by the Depository Trust & Clearing Corp. in the week through Sept. 16, up from 12th the week before. Credit Agricole SA (ACA) climbed to seventh place from 43rd, while Societe Generale (GLE) SA soared to eighth from 58th. Banks hold more than half of the bonds issued by other lenders and are hedging that risk in the credit-swaps market. U.S. lenders Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC), JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) and Morgan Stanley (MS) also jumped into the top 10 most-traded companies, according to the DTCC, amid speculation the world’s largest economy is headed for another recession.

Report: Ex-labor chief's 1-day rehire nets $158,000 city pension (MSNBC)
A retired Chicago labor leader secured a $158,000 public pension — roughly five times greater than what a typical retired public-service worker in the Windy City receives — after being rehired for just one day of active duty on the city payroll, local news reports said. According to The Chicago Tribune, Dennis Gannon stands to collect approximately $5 million in city pension funds during his lifetime. He now draws the pension while working for a hedge fund, the Tribune reported.

Prison In Bluffs Cat Sex Case (AP)
A Council Bluffs, Iowa, man who told police that he performed a sex act on a cat and then threw it out of a seventh-floor window has been given two years in prison. Thirty-year-old Gerardo Martinez was arrested after officers found the dead cat on a sidewalk outside a Council Bluffs apartment building on Aug. 3rd. Officers say Martinez was naked and told them he used methamphetamine and had engaged in sex with the cat.

Greece Denies Reports On Default Scenarios (Reuters)
Greece denied on Friday newspaper reports that one option in the debt crisis would be an orderly default with a 50 percent haircut for bondholders. "Greece denies the reports," a senior government official told Reuters on condition of anonymity. Separately, the Finance Ministry said, in reaction to the reports, that the country was committed to implementing a second, 109 billion euro bailout agreed with its international lenders in July. "All other discussions, rumours, comments, scenarios which are diverting our attention from this central target and Greece's political obligation ...do not help our common European task," Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos said in a statement.

SEC Big Grilled On Ethics Issues (NYP)
Lawmakers grilled Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Schapiro over what they called a breakdown in ethics that allowed the agency’s former top lawyer to work on policy related to the Bernard Madoff fraud after he inherited money from the Ponzi scheme. “This is simply unacceptable,” Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., told Schapiro. “I continue to have grave concerns and serious questions about the procedural breakdown in the SEC’s ethics process.”

UK Committed To Austerity, No Plan B (CNBC)
In a speech in Ottawa, Canada, Cameron said more "leadership" was needed. "We’re not quite staring down the barrel, but the pattern is clear," he said "Growth in Europe has stalled, growth in America has stalled."

Particles Found Faster Than Light (WSJ)
According to a statement on the website of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, also known by its French acronym CERN, scientists have measured particles known as neutrinos moving at a velocity that was 20 parts a million above the speed of light, nature's speed limit.

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Opening Bell: 6.17.15

Greece ready to reject deal; Swiss deals to be part of FIFA investigation; Greenberg will appeal AIG ruling; Toe wrestling is huge in England; and more.

Opening Bell: 6.22.15

Bankers behaving badly; Strauss-Kahn dealing with another probe; Twinkies says Twinkies are healthy; North Korea claims it's found the cure for MERS, Ebola, SARS And AIDS; and more.

Opening Bell: 03.08.12

Greece Readies Record Debt Swap With 60% Commitments (Bloomberg) Greece moved closer to sealing the biggest sovereign restructuring in history as investors indicated they’ll participate in the nation’s debt swap. Holders of about 60 percent of the Greek bonds eligible for the deal, including Greece’s largest banks, most of the country’s pension funds and more than 30 European banks and insurers including BNP Paribas (BNP) SA and Commerzbank AG (CBK), have agreed to the offer so far. That brings the total to about 124 billion euros ($163 billion), based on data compiled by Bloomberg from company reports and government statements. Roubini: Private Sector’s Greece Deal Is ‘Sweet’ (FT) “The reality is that private creditors got a very sweet deal, while most actual and future losses have been transferred to the official creditors." Hedge Funds See Tax Break in Republican Bill (Bloomberg) ^^^An interesting way of putting this: Cantor told House members in a memo last month his plan would let “every” business with fewer than 500 employees deduct 20 percent of its profits. Labor Dept. Asks Nuclear Guardians for Help Keeping Jobs Data Secret (CNBC) The Department of Labor has asked Sandia National Laboratories — the organization that ensures the safety of the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile — to scrutinize the security procedures surrounding the release of monthly jobs report data. Separately, officials at the U.S. Energy Information Administration tell CNBC they have taken steps to block computers operating from certain Internet protocol addresses from accessing the administration’s website, arguing that some users appear to have a “malicious intent” to slow down the website’s release of data for the general public while speeding it up for themselves. U.S. Initial Jobless Claims Rose 8,000 to 362,000 (BW) Applications for unemployment insurance payments increased by 8,000 in the week ended March 3, Labor Department figures showed today. Economists forecast 352,000 claims, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey. The average over the past four weeks held close to a four-year low. Solar Storm Races Towards Earth (AP) The storm started with a massive solar flare earlier in the week and grew as it raced outward from the sun, expanding like a giant soap bubble, scientists said. When it strikes, the particles will be moving at four million miles an hour. "It's hitting us right in the nose," said Joe Kunches, a scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Boulder, Colo. The massive cloud of charged particles could disrupt utility grids, airline flights, satellite networks and GPS services, especially in northern areas. But the same blast could also paint colorful auroras farther from the poles than normal. 'Sterilized' Bond Buying an Option in Fed Arsenal (WSJ) Under the new approach, the Fed would print new money to buy long-term mortgage or Treasury bonds but effectively tie up that money by borrowing it back for short periods at low rates. The aim of such an approach would be to relieve anxieties that money printing could fuel inflation later, a fear widely expressed by critics of the Fed's previous efforts to aid the recovery. Treasury to Sell $6 Billion Worth of A.I.G. Shares (Dealbook) The Treasury Department announced a plan on Wednesday to sell $6 billion of its American International Group shares, further whittling down the federal government’s holdings in the insurance giant it helped bail out during the financial crisis. As part of the offering, which is expected to be completed in a few days, A.I.G. will buy back up to $3 billion worth of the common stock that the Treasury Department is selling. A.I.G. will also repay $8.5 billion in other obligations to the Treasury Department, principally using proceeds gained from various asset sales. The plan is the latest effort by the federal government to unwind its $182 billion bailout of A.I.G. in 2008. Last spring, the Treasury Department sold off 200 million shares of the insurer in a highly awaited offering known as the “re-I.P.O.” of A.I.G. Yet that sale still left the government owning about 77 percent of the company, down from 92 percent. ‘Madam’s my$tery man ID’d (NYP) Sources say David Walker, 47, an ultra-successful investment manager for Morgan Stanley, is the money man who met with soccer-mom-turned-Upper East Side-madam Anna Gristina right before her Feb. 22 arrest. And prosecutors say the business meeting in Morgan Stanley’s West 52nd Street offices that day was all about helping Gristina bring her high-end hooker business to the Web. It was minutes after the pair left the office building near Fifth Avenue that Gristina was arrested, the culmination of what prosecutors have described as a five-year investigation into the alleged call-girl ring. Prosecutors, without naming Walker, said at Gristina’s Feb. 23 arraignment, “We picked her up yesterday with a Morgan Stanley [broker] who she counts a close friend, and she had been present at his office for a meeting in which she was trying to solicit money to fund what we believe is another business venture on the Internet that involves matching up male clients with female prostitutes.” Gristina was arrested on East 53rd Street and Madison Avenue at 11 a.m., just a few blocks away from Walker’s home, a high-rise, doorman building on 55th near Third Avenue. Walker was not arrested, nor has he been charged with any crime. “She’s known him for a while. He was a nice guy. He was a banker trying to get her investors for her Web site,” said Vinnie Parco, a private eye working for Gristina.

Opening Bell: 01.22.13

Glencore, Xstrata Move Closer to Deal (WSJ) The two companies, who want to combine to form the world's fourth-largest diversified miner with a market capitalization of about $80 billion, said they still need to secure regulatory approval from China. They will also have to abide by conditions set out by the South African regulator limiting the timing and scope of any layoffs stemming from the merger. SAC Misses Out On Big Investment (WSJ) Mizuho Financial Group had discussed last year making a major investment that could have brought as much as $500 million to SAC, said people briefed on discussions with SAC executives and advisers. But the bank ultimately notified SAC that it wasn't proceeding. By December, with scrutiny of SAC's trading practices mounting, the firm's executives told advisers and others inside and outside the firm that Mizuho's decision appeared final, the people said. Global A-List Descends On Davos (WSJ) Of all the sectors it is probably the bankers who are fielding the highest concentration of big names. Anshu Jainof Deutsche Bank AG,  Brian T. Moynihan of Bank of America Corp., Lloyd C. Blankfein of Goldman Sachs and HSBC Holdings CEO Stuart T. Gulliver are just a sample. Trust in Business Leaders at Low as Davos Begins (CNBC) Less than one in five people believe business and government leaders can be trusted to make ethical and moral decisions, the survey of some 30,000 people showed, with confidence particularly low in France and Germany. Calpers Buy-Hold Rule Recoups $95 Billion Recession Loss (WSJ) The California Public Employees’ Retirement System is poised to top a record $260 billion in assets, the market value it held before the global financial crisis wiped out more than a third of its wealth, by sticking with a strategy of buy-and-hold. The largest U.S. public pension, with half of its money in publicly traded equities, was worth $253.2 billion on Jan. 17, or about 97 percent of the pre-recession high set in October 2007. The fund returned 13 percent in 2012, about the same gain as the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index achieved. Armstrong Becomes ‘Madoff on a Bike’ as Cheating Shatters Lives (Bloomberg) “He’s Bernie Madoff on a bike,” said John Llewellyn, an associate professor of communication at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. “The level of self-absorption and mean-spiritedness with which he has defended himself and castigated others over a decade makes an impression that’s pretty bleak for the human spirit.” Irish lawmakers back plan to allow drink-driving ‘in moderation’ (The Journal) KERRY count councillors have voted in favour of a motion which would allow people in rural Ireland to have ‘two or three’ drinks and still drive. The motion put forward by councillor Danny Healy-Rae calls on the Minister for Justice to allow Gardaí to issue permits to people in the most isolated parts of the country to allow them to drive after drinking some alcohol. Speaking to The Journal, Danny Healy-Rae said the idea was to help “those people in every parish who are isolated and who can’t get out of their place at night." Barclays Loses Anonymity (Bloomberg) A group of Barclays employees had a request to prevent their names from being published ahead of the UK’s first trial related to manipulation of the London interbank offered rate rejected by a judge yesterday. “I simply do not see that there is any sufficient case of prejudice” to the trial, Judge Julian Flaux said in dismissing the request. The names weren’t immediately released. Affiliates of Guardian Care Homes sued Barclays over an interest-rate swap tied to Libor and argued the benchmark was manipulated. The swap resulted in a loss for the Wolverhampton, England-based Guardian and Barclays was ordered to give the company’s lawyers the identities and e-mails of bank staff that were included in disclosures to regulators. Atari’s U.S. Operations File for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy (Bloomberg) Atari SA’s U.S.-based video-game- making businesses filed for bankruptcy protection inManhattan with the intention of separating from the unprofitable French parent and seeking independent funding. New York-based Atari Inc., maker of video games “Pong” and “Asteroids,” as well as affiliates Atari Interactive Inc., Humongous Inc. and California U.S. Holdings Inc., asked to be jointly administered in filings yesterday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, according to a statement. “Within the next 90 to 120 days, the companies expect to effectuate a sale of all, or substantially all, of their assets,” in a free and clear sale under the U.S. bankruptcy laws, or confirm reorganization plans that “accomplish substantially the same result,” according to the statement. EU Approves Financial Transactions Tax (Reuters) A majority of European Union finance ministers voted on Tuesday to allow Germany, France and nine other euro zone countries to prepare to introduce a tax on financial transactions, said two officials who attended the meeting. The vote clears the way for Germany,France, Italy, Spain, Austria, Portugal, Belgium, Estonia, Greece, Slovakia and Slovenia to press ahead with their own tax on trading. Man paddles for love of Florida waters (NWFDN) Justin Riney turned his back on his degree in finance and last year followed his heart and founded his own non-profit organization: Mother Ocean...Riney needed a project to kick off his newly-founded organization and bring attention to it and when he read that 500 years had passed since Ponce de Leon discovered Florida, he decided that was a cause for celebration. On Jan. 1 he began a 365-day journey around Florida on a stand-up paddle board from Pensacola. He plans to spend six months paddling the peninsula, ending In Jacksonville on July 4. Then, he will spend six months on the inner waterways, ending Dec. 31 in Tallahassee. He has named this adventure Expedition Florida 500. Briton wrestles shark away from children in Australia (Telegraph) The incident happened on Friday in the Sunshine Coast region of the state of Queensland, and was captured by a local news team. According to Australia's Channel Nine, the shark came into very shallow waters and two men rushed to move it away before it reached children who were playing in the water nearby. Paul Marshallsea, a grandfather from Wales, and Terry Dale, a wildlife carer, pushed the shark towards open waters. The shark was also spotted in shallow waters of a creek by frightened parents, children and tourists.