Opening Bell: 10.17.11

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Wall Street Protests Spread To Four Continents (Bloomberg)
“I want to see stricter regulation of the finance system,” said Joe Spence, 23, an anthropology student at Kent University, one of those who have camped out for three nights next to Christopher Wren’s 17th century church. “I want a government that will not just pander to the banks.” A notice at the campsite, about 100 yards from the LSE, read “Jail the Bankers.” The Occupy Wall Street demonstrations that began last month in Lower Manhattan moved uptown on Oct. 15, as about 6,000 people gathered in Times Square during what organizers called a “global day of action against Wall Street greed.” The protests spread to Europe and Asia at the weekend, with more than 100 people were injured in Rome, where as many as 200,000 gathered, the Corriere della Sera newspaper reported...“Around the world, we’re seeing people coming out in record numbers -- not just to protest and then go home,” said Tim David Frank, 27, a teacher involved with the Occupy Sydney movement. “These are people who’ve decided to live and stay overnight, on the streets, outside of the financial institutions to remind them that we exist and that our world should be based on our interests, not just theirs.”

Occupy Wall Street Protestors Flood Times Square (NYMag)
Saturday: As some [of the 10,000-20,000] protesters moved forward into the intersection, two officers on horseback repelled them. People were seen trying to kick and push the horses away. Said a facilitator who asked not to be named, "The horses were stomping on people. We were yelling, 'stop, get down, don't get arrested.'" Sewer steam was billowing into the air and one occupier yelled "tear gas!" in confusion. As the protesters pushed forward, officers ran toward them with batons, yelling, "Get back!" The crowd fell backwards, and an 82-year-old woman cracked her head on the pavement. She lay in the street bleeding from the head for ten minutes before EMTs arrived. During that time, police drove in a truck filled with more gates to the intersection, as well as several scooters. At least two people were arrested in the showdown.

Customers locked in and arrested after attempting to close their accounts in protest (DM)
Footage has emerged showing what appears to be dozens of Citibank and Bank of America customers denied requests to close their accounts, some even being arrested after alleged clashes with branch managers. A woman dressed in a business suit holding a checkbook attempts to enter but is stopped by officers outside who ask her if she was part of the protest. After calmly insisting she is a customer of the bank, a plain-clothed officer detains her. Police swarm as she appears to be taken back inside - one of 24 people arrested on charges of criminal trespassing...Citibank said in an official statement the group was 'very disruptive and refused to leave after being repeatedly asked.'

Obama Extends Support For Protestors (FT)
On Sunday, Mr Obama honoured Martin Luther King at a dedication to a new memorial on National Mall in Washington. Referring to protests that have spread from Wall Street to London, Rome and elsewhere, Mr Obama said: “Dr King would want us to challenge the excesses of Wall Street without demonising those who work there.”

Germany Shoots Down Swift Euro Crisis Solution (Bloomberg)
Germany said European Union leaders won’t provide the complete fix to the euro-area debt crisis that global policy makers are pushing for at an Oct. 23 summit. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has made it clear that “dreams that are taking hold again now that with this package everything will be solved and everything will be over on Monday won’t be able to be fulfilled,” Steffen Seibert, Merkel’s chief spokesman, said at a briefing in Berlin today. The search for an end to the crisis “surely extends well into next year.”

Citigroup, Wells Fargo May Post Profit Jump (Bloomberg)
Citigroup may say that profit climbed 15 percent to $2.5 billion when it reports results at 8 a.m. in New York, according to the average estimate of analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Wells Fargo, scheduled to report at the same time, may say earnings rose 18 percent to $3.9 billion. Bank of America, which reports tomorrow, may report $2.7 billion in profit, compared with a $7.3 billion net loss a year earlier.

Challengers Take Aim At Credit Rating Titans (WSJ)
The credit-rating arm of Morningstar Inc., best known for mutual-fund research, on Sunday launched ratings of bond deals backed by home mortgages. The rating firm already rates commercial-mortgage bonds and is in the early stages of developing municipal-bond ratings. "The Big Three is soon going to be the Big Four," said Robert Dobilas, president of Morningstar Credit Ratings LLC, a unit of the Chicago company. Morningstar has 17 credit-rating analysts, compared with more than 2,900 in total at Standard & Poor's Ratings Services, Moody's Investors Service and Fitch Ratings, but it plans to expand and challenge them in every major asset class over the next few years.

Big Cash Edge Powers Obama For Drive In '12 (NYT)
Since the beginning of the year, Mr. Obama and the Democratic National Committee, for which the president is helping raise money to finance his party’s grass-roots efforts, have spent close to $87 million in operating costs, according to a New York Times analysis of campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. That amount is about as much as all the current Republican candidates together have raised so far in this campaign.

Kinder Morgan to buy El Paso Corp. for $20.7B (AP)
Kinder Morgan agreed to buy El Paso Corp. for about $20.7 billion in cash and stock in a deal expected to create the largest natural gas pipeline in the U.S. "We believe that natural gas is going to play an increasingly integral role in North America," said Richard Kinder, Kinder Morgan Inc.'s chairman and chief executive, on Sunday, citing the recent developments in natural gas shale drilling. After adding El Paso's pipeline network, Kinder Morgan would have the largest natural gas pipeline network in the country with 80,000 miles of pipelines.

Hedge Funds Add To Commodities Wagers (Bloomberg)
Money managers boosted combined net-long positions across 18 U.S. futures and options by 0.2 percent to 656,691 contracts in the week ended Oct. 11, Commodity Futures Trading Commission data show. The Standard & Poor’s GSCI Index of 24 commodities rose 5.2 percent last week, the most since December and enough to take the gauge out of the bear market it entered last month. Hedge funds had cut their bets by 49 percent in the previous four weeks.

Hank Greenberg Calls Yuan Bill 'Dumb Idea' (Bloomberg)
A U.S. Senate bill designed to punish China for keeping its currency undervalued is a “dumb idea” and risks igniting a trade war, former American International Group Inc. Chief Executive Officer Maurice “Hank” Greenberg said. “Just doing it was wrong, totally wrong,” Greenberg, who helped build AIG into the world’s largest insurance company, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television.

Woman Charged After Pelting Husband With Cupcakes (Tribune)
The fight started with a verbal quarrel about 7:45 p.m. at the home in the 4700 block of South Western Avenue, according to a police report, but escalated until the woman started hitting her husband over the head. After that, she reached for the box of desserts and directed a fusillade of snack cakes at his head and body, her husband told police. Several of the confections apparently hit their mark, as the man's head and shirt were smudged with icing when officers arrived, according to a police report...On Sunday morning, Cook County Circuit Judge Adam D. Bourgeois Jr. ordered electronic monitoring for the woman and a $10,000 bond.

Related

Opening Bell: 11.15.12

FSA Warns Global Banks Over Bonus Levels (FT) Global banks operating in London have been warned by the top UK bank supervisor that this year’s staff bonuses must reflect the mis-selling and market manipulation scandals that have damaged the sector in the past 12 months. Andrew Bailey, head of the Financial Services Authority’s prudential business unit, wrote to bank chief executives in late October ahead of this year’s bonus round warning them that the watchdog would be looking for evidence they had “clawed back” deferred bonuses from people involved in scandals. He also urged banks to consider firm-wide bonus reductions to account for the impact of the scandals. The letter went not only to UK banks but also global institutions with substantial presences in the country. Blankfein Backs Higher Taxes (NYP) “I believe that tax increases, especially for the wealthiest, are appropriate,” Blankfein wrote in his 1,000-plus-word column entitled “The Business Plan for American Revival.” He added that raising taxes needed to be coupled with “serious” cuts to discretionary spending and entitlements. JPMorgan Energy Unit Curbed (WSJ) U.S. energy-market regulators Wednesday handed J.P. Morgan Chase's energy-trading unit a six-month suspension from some of its activities in electricity markets, the latest in a string of clashes with Wall Street. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission cited false information it has said the company submitted as part of a probe into alleged market manipulation. It was a rare move for the commission and another signal that it is trying to assert itself as a regulatory heavy hitter. The agency, which oversees transmission lines and natural-gas pipelines, also recently proposed a record penalty of nearly $470 million against Barclays for alleged market manipulation. Barclays denies the charges. FHA Nears Need For Taxpayer Funds (WSJ) The Federal Housing Administration is expected to report this week it could exhaust its reserves because of rising mortgage delinquencies, according to people familiar with the agency's finances, a development that could result in the agency needing to draw on taxpayer funding for the first time in its 78-year history. Fed Moves Toward Tying Interest-Rate Decisions to Economic Data (Bloomberg) Policy makers “generally favored the use of economic variables” to provide guidance on the when they are likely to approve their first interest-rate increase since 2008, according to minutes of their Oct. 23-24 meeting released yesterday. Such measures might replace or supplement a calendar date, currently set at mid-2015. Israel Wages Twitter War With Hamas Over #Gaza Attacks (BusinessWeek) The Israeli Defense Forces took to its Twitter account yesterday to announce “a widespread campaign on terror sites & operatives in the Gaza Strip” even as its jets began attacking. Within minutes, Hamas, the group that controls Gaza, announced through its English-language account the assassination of its “top leader Ahmed Jabari” by “Israeli drones.” As Israeli jets bombarded suspected missile facilities and other buildings in Gaza, the service run by San Francisco-based Twitter lit up with 140-character chronicles of the assault and the reaction. Most of the messages known as tweets were identified with #Gaza, a “hashtag” with a pound sign before a key word that lets those on Twitter search for information. The two sides even fought for sympathy through the names they gave the operation. While Israeli tweeters called it #PillarOfDefense, Palestinians used #GazaUnderAttack. As airstrikes intensified, an IDF spokesman tweeted that “we recommend that no Hamas operatives, whether low level or senior leaders, show their faces aboveground in the days ahead.” Hamas’s @AlqassamBrigades account quickly retorted, “@idfspokesperson Our blessed hands will reach your leaders and soldiers wherever they are (You Opened Hell Gates on Yourselves.” Hedge Funds Back Off Apple (NYP) Lee Ainslie’s Maverick Capital, Chase Coleman’s Tiger Global, Eric Mindich’s Eton Park Capital, David Einhorn’s Greenlight Capital and Steve Cohen’s SAC Capital Advisors each pared their Apple positions during the quarter, according to reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission filed yesterday...Despite selling off Apple shares, the tech titan remains one of the biggest holdings for Maverick, Tiger Global and Greenlight. In fact, its slide pushed their monthly returns negative. Jobless Claims Rise Following Storm (WSJ) People seeking unemployment benefits increased by 78,000 to a seasonally adjusted 439,000 in the week ended Nov. 10, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires expected 375,000 new applications for jobless benefits. Bank of America Slashes $4.75 Billion Off Mortgages (CNBC) The bank, which took on the burden of Countrywide Financial’s mortgage ills when it bought the company, has completed or approved a total of $15.8 billion in consumer relief for about 164,000 homeowners as of Sept. 30 and is on track, according to officials, to meet its total financial obligations within the first year of the three-year agreement. South Africa holds diamond smuggler who swallowed 220 gems (BBC) South African police have arrested a man who they say swallowed 220 polished diamonds in an attempt to smuggle them out of the country. The man was arrested as he waited to board a plane at Johannesburg airport. Officials said a scan of his body revealed the diamonds he had ingested, worth $2.3m (£1.4m; 1.8m euros), inside.

Opening Bell: 11.14.12

Austerity Strikes Sweep Across Europe (WSJ) Unions in Spain, Portugal and Greece went on strike Wednesday to protest government austerity plans amid a wide economic contraction across Europe's periphery, but questions remained about the unions' ability to influence economic policy. The general strike led to minor violent incidents in Spain, even though morning business activity seemed to remain relatively normal. Spain's government said 32 people had been arrested since midnight, and national TV showed small clashes with police, as well as rallies held by union members in transportation hubs like train and subway stations. The Spanish unions are protesting austerity cuts and an unemployment rate at 25% of the workforce. Geithner Warns Against Delaying Solution to US Fiscal Crisis (Reuters) With lawmakers and the White House bickering over how to put the country on a sustainable fiscal path, a number of lawmakers and think tanks have argued for more time. "That will leave all the uncertainty you don't like on the table," Geithner said at an event sponsored by the Wall Street Journal in his first public comments on the looming fiscal crisis since President Barack Obama won re-election last week. Facebook Investors Brace For Big Round Of Unlocked Shares (Bloomberg) Restrictions lift today on 804 million shares held by former employees and those who sold at the initial public offering, almost doubling the total available for trading, according to a regulatory filing. Geithner’s Money Fund Overhaul Push Sparks New Opposition (Bloomberg) Geithner, heading a Washington meeting of the Financial Stability Oversight Council, a group formed by the Dodd-Frank Act to address systemic financial risks, won unanimous approval for a draft recommendation to the SEC spelling out three ways to overhaul the $2.6 trillion industry. A new option would require capital buffers of as much as 3 percent of assets, while two other solutions he offered were opposed earlier by the fund industry and rejected in August by an SEC majority. Representatives for the fund industry, who last month put forth their own plan, immediately denounced the proposals as stale and unhelpful. While Geithner has said the SEC is best positioned to address money funds, he has also said that the regulators’ panel, often referred to as FSOC, might intervene and subject funds to oversight by the Federal Reserve if the SEC fails to act. SEC Expands Knight Probe (WSJ) The Securities and Exchange Commission has deepened its probe into whetherKnight Capital Group Inc. did enough to police its trading systems before computer errors nearly destroyed the brokerage. The inquiry, which began after Knight's errant Aug. 1 trades saddled it with more than $450 million in losses, initially focused more narrowly on what caused the errors. The probe has broadened to look further at the company's risk-control procedures and Knight's compliance with a rule implemented last year—called the market-access rule—that requires brokerages to guard against these sorts of problems, say people familiar with the investigation. Blankfein Warns Over Cuts (FT) The financial industry should not go “overboard” in cutting costs in reaction to current market conditions, the chief executive of Goldman Sachs said yesterday. “Our industry has a long history of letting too many people go at the bottom of the cycle and hiring too many at the top,” Mr. Blankfein told an industry conference in New York. Pepsi's New Fat Blocking Soda Unleashed On Japanese Consumers (Forbes) Up until recently, soda manufacturers have at least tacitly acknowledged that their carbonated swills aren’t healthy options. Up until recently. [Then] yesterday, Pepsi-Cola in Japan launched a fiber-infused iteration of its cola drink. According to Suntory, the sole distributor of Pepsi in Japan, the beverage contains “indigestible dextrin,” more commonly known as dietary fiber. This magic ingredient, Suntory’s website claims, helps reduce the amount of fat that’s absorbed into the body, hence the tagline of the new drink as a “fat-blocking soda.” Suntory also proffers that the drink quells the rise in triglycerides in the blood that normally follows a meal. Rochdale May Be At The End Of Its Rope (NYP) Stamford, Conn.-based Rochdale Securities is struggling to secure a deep-pocketed buyer three weeks after a former trader, identified as David Miller, saddled the firm with $1 billion in “unauthorized” Apple trades that it wasn’t able to cover. CEO Dan Crowley has been working around the clock to identify a “white knight” willing to save the 55-person broker dealer, according to sources. But staffers of the 37-year old firm worry ongoing investigations will turn off suitors and impede the firm’s ability to operate as a broker dealer. BNY Mellon Unit Settles Madoff Suits (WSJ) The Ivy Asset Management unit will pay $210 million to resolve a series of lawsuits claiming that it concealed doubts about the business operated by convicted Ponzi schemer Bernard L. Madoff. Shareholders To Citi: Break This Company Up (AP) Trillium Asset Management, a shareholder advisory firm with more than $1 billion in assets under management, effectively renewed call made recently by Sandy Weill, Citigroup’s former CEO and one of the founding fathers of the “financial supermarket” concept that helped turn Citi into a global banking behemoth. Siewert In Line For Goldman Partnership (NYP) Hired only last March, Richard “Jake” Siewert, the head of corporate communications, could be among the 70 or so new partners the 144-year-old bank is set to announce this morning...Siewert’s predecessor, Lucas Van Praag, made partner in 2006 — five years after joining the firm. Paula Broadwell Warned Gen. Allen Against "Seductress" Jill Kelley (CBS) A senior official has told CBS News correspondent David Martin the vast majority of the emails between Allen and Tampa socialite Jill Kelley were "completely innocuous," and the general believes many of the 20-30,000 pages under scrutiny are duplicates. The official said that in some of the emails, Kelley would say things like, "saw you on television and you were terrific," and Allen would write back with "thanks, sweetheart." The official said the two never discussed sex and that Allen had never been alone with Kelley. Nonetheless, CBS News correspondent Bob Orr says Pentagon and FBI sources describe the communications as "potentially inappropriate" and "flirtatious," and another source says they were likely more than just innocent exchanges -- noting that the Pentagon's Inspector General is involved for a reason. Among the hundreds of emails exchanged between Allen and Kelly - Orr reports that investigators are focusing on one from several months ago. In it, Allen told Kelley he'd just received an anonymous email warning him to stay away from her. Sources say that the anonymous email came from Broadwell, Petraeus' mistress, who allegedly warned Gen. Allen that Kelley was "a seductress." Broadwell allegedly sent similar warnings to other military officers at the U.S. Central Command, located near Kelley's Tampa home. Broadwell, who had been out of sight since the scandal emerged on Friday, was spotted Tuesday night preparing dinner and drinking a glass of wine inside her brother's Washington home.

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Opening Bell: 8.18.17

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Opening Bell: 05.10.12

Greek Socialist Make Last-Ditch Attempt At Government (Reuters) With new elections likely in three or four weeks and Athens, due to run out of cash in June, needing to impose new austerity measures in exchange for funds, the financial daily Kerdos to warn on its front page: "Time is running out." Bernanke Gets 75% Approval From Investors (Bloomberg) Bernanke, whom Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said he wouldn’t reappoint for running too lax a monetary policy, receives a favorable assessment from three of four of those surveyed in the latest Bloomberg Global Poll. Respondents to the survey of investors, analysts and traders who are Bloomberg subscribers also rate U.S. financial markets highly: 46 percent say they will be among the best performers over the next year, double the percentage that select China, in second place. Goldman Had One Day Of Losses In First Quarter (WSJ) The loss was up to $25 million, the firm said. In contrast, Goldman reported 24 days of trading gains of $100 million or more. US Jobless Claims Decline (Bloomberg) Jobless claims dropped by 1,000 to 367,000 in the period ended May 5, in line with the median forecast in a Bloomberg News survey and the lowest since the end of March, the Labor Department said today in Washington. The number of people on unemployment benefit rolls was the smallest since July 2008. Goldman Redeems $250 Million Hedge-Fund Stakes on Volcker (Bloomberg) Under the Volcker rule provision of the Dodd-Frank financial-reform law, federally backed banks are required to limit their investments in private equity and hedge funds to no more than 3 percent of the fund or 3 percent of the bank’s Tier 1 capital. Goldman Sachs’s fund stakes were worth $17.2 billion at the end of March and the firm was committed to providing an additional $7.77 billion to the funds, the filing showed. “We currently expect to redeem up to approximately 10 percent of certain hedge funds’ total redeemable units per quarter over 10 consecutive quarters, beginning March 2012 and ending June 2014,” Goldman Sachs said in the filing. “In addition, we have limited the firm’s initial investment to 3 percent for certain new funds.” John Manning, a Bloods gang member, told police outside City Hall he wanted to fight Mayor Michael Bloomberg (NYDN) John Manning, 27, of Newark, a gang member with 12 arrests in the Garden State, showed up at the security entrance of the government building while the mayor held an outdoor press conference on the city’s new bike share program on Monday. “I want to take on the mayor in a fight. Man vs. man, and knock him out,” he told cops at the Broadway and Murray St. entrance around 11:30 and to attend the event. When he was asked to leave, Manning refused, saying, “I'll wait as long as it takes.” He was arrested and charged with trespassing and obstruction of government administration. Five Arrested At Bank of America Protest (AP) Five people have been arrested as they tried to force their way into the annual Bank of America shareholders' meeting in Charlotte, and police used a new ordinance to declare the gathering an extraordinary event subject to special restrictions. Hundreds gathered on the streets Wednesday morning as dozens of police officers worked to contain the protest. Johnny Rosa of Framingham, Mass., was one of those arrested. Before being taken into custody, Rosa said his home had been foreclosed. He wanted to tell shareholders the foreclosure was wrong because he wanted to make payments. By law, if a gathering in Charlotte is deemed an extraordinary event, authorities can designate areas where people aren't allowed to carry backpacks, magic markers and other items. Brian Gets Broiled At BofA Meeting (NYP) “Let Bank of America take care of America,” one attendee yelled at Moynihan. “This is America. Listen to the people in this room.” One shareholder even called the bank “a felon.” “We abide by the law every day,” Moynihan shot back. Citi’s Buiter: Time for 'Helicopter Money Drops' (CNBC) “We think central banks in the U.S., euro area, Japan, and the U.K. could and should do much more” to stimulate growth, said the firm’s economists, led by Willem Buiter. Yes, these institutions, which have already pushed their respective interest rates to historic lows and made unprecedented efforts to buy government bonds and other securities, are not being aggressive enough, the firm argues. Extremely rare calico-colored lobster found at Massachusetts restaurant (NYDN) The unusually colored “calico” lobster is marked by bright orange and yellow spots. But the extraordinary find could have easily ended up in someone's belly at Jasper White's Summer Shack restaurant in Cambridge. “We happened to be cleaning the tank and I happened to be there," White said. "One of my guys said, 'Chef, look at this lobster,' and from across the room I knew it was special." The lobster is destined for the Biomes Marine Biology Center in Rhode Island, with a stopover at Boston's New England Aquarium, which released a photo on Wednesday. White named the lobster Calvin.