Opening Bell: 11.04.11

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Corzine Resigns From MF Global (DealBook)
“I feel great sadness for what has transpired at MF Global and the impact it has had on the firm’s clients, employees and many others,” Mr. Corzine, 64, said in a statement. “I intend to continue to assist the company and its board in their efforts to respond to regulatory inquiries and issues related to the disposition of the firm’s assets.”

Job report hints at some improvement (Reuters)
U.S. employment rose less than expected in October, but a drop in the jobless rate to a six-month low of 9.0 percent and upward revisions to prior months' job gains pointed to underlying strength in the labor market. Nonfarm payrolls rose 80,000 last month, the Labor Department said on Friday, missing economists' expectations for a gain of 95,000. However, figures for August and September were revised to show 102,000 more jobs than previously reported.

MF Global Masked Debt Risks (WSJ)
For the past two years, MF Global Holdings Ltd. may have disguised its debt levels to investors by temporarily slashing the debt it was carrying before publicly reporting its finances each quarter, according to an analysis by The Wall Street Journal. The activity, referred to in the financial industry as "window dressing," suggests that the troubled financial firm was shouldering more risk and using more borrowed funds to facilitate its trading than investors could easily detect from the firm's regulatory filings.

Groupon Prices at $20 a Share; More Than 10x Oversubscribed, So It Adds 5M More Shares (AllThingsD)
Groupon has priced its public offering at $20 a share, several dollars above the expected price range of $16 to $18. That will garner $700 million for the start-up, which is only several years old, at a valuation of close to $13 billion. The offering for the Chicago-based daily deals site — which has had a controversial IPO process — was well upward of 10 times oversubscribed.

Italy accepts IMF monitoring, EU looks for support (Reuters)
Italy, under fierce pressure from financial markets and European peers, agreed to have the IMF monitor its progress with long delayed reforms of pensions, labor markets and privatization, senior EU sources said on Friday. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, his government close to collapse, agreed to the step in late-night talks with euro zone leaders and U.S. President Barack Obama on the sidelines of a G20 summit in Cannes.

Hey, Bro, That's My Little Pony! Guys' Interest Mounts in Girly TV Show (WSJ)
Bronies—a mash-up of "bro" and "ponies"—established a quarterly New York convention, called BroNYCon, this year. They've spawned at least two Pony-themed websites and enjoy a thriving subculture of artists whose creations include Pony-inspired music and their own writings about Twilight Sparkle and the gang. ... Mr. Subhani tried to get his rock-band mates to play some Pony-inspired covers. They declined, so he formed a new band of bronies called Neighslayer, in which he plays guitar-heavy renditions of such "My Little Pony" songs as "Art of the Dress."

KKR Posts $592 Million Quarterly Loss as Market Declines Prompt Writedowns (Bloomberg)
Pretax economic net income, a measure of profit excluding some costs, swung to a loss of $592.1 million, or 91 cents a share, from a profit $317.3 million, or 39 cents, a year earlier, New York-based KKR said today in a statement. Results were better than the average loss of $1.02 a share estimated by 12 analysts in a Bloomberg survey. KKR wrote down the value of its private-equity holdings by 8.5 percent, reflecting declines in global equities markets in the quarter and leading to negative investment income of $688.5 million.

Confusion Still Prevails Over Greek Leadership (CNBC)
The high-stakes poker game at the top of the Greek parliament will continue Friday as the country braces itself for the outcome of a key confidence vote later in the day. Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos confrmed Friday that the government has dropped its plans to hold a controversial referendum. When Prime Minister George Papandreou called the referendum on Monday, it plunged his government into chaos. ... On Thursday, a flurry of will-he-won't-he headlines from Athens had Papandreou in and out of office like a jack-in-the-box.

Cautious Hedge Funds Lag Markets in October (II)
The first handful of hedge funds to report October results have lagged the broader market. Not that they're apologizing for it. This is because many of them had their portfolios structured very conservatively and not to fully benefit from a straight upward move in the markets.

Deranged homeless man goes on violent rampage in Zuccotti Park (NYP)
The only thing that could stop Jeremy Clinch from his Godzilla-like rampage was a left hook to the face delivered by a paranoid fellow protester who claimed to be an ex-Turkish diplomat -- and charged that his assailant was carrying out a plot hatched by Mayor Bloomberg.

Snake slithers out of ATM (UPI)
Authorities in Spain said a man was shocked when a snake slithered out of an ATM while he was withdrawing money. Police in Llodio said the man was withdrawing money around 8 a.m. when the snake slithered out of the Caja Madrid bank ATM and attempted to attack him, Euro Weekly News, Costa del Sol, Spain, reported Thursday. ... Police said the snake may have come from the nearby countryside or it may have been placed in the machine as a prank.Investigators did not say whether the snake was venomous.

Related

Opening Bell: 12.18.15

Hedge fund carnage; More Martin Shkreli; Dominique Strauss-Kahn has a 5 year-old love child; Large snake takes weekend ride on MTA bus; and more.

Opening Bell: 03.22.12

Goldman conducts company-wide email review (Reuters) Goldman Sachs Group Inc has begun scanning internal emails for the term "muppet" and other evidence that employees referred to clients in derogatory ways, Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein told partners in a conference call this week, according to people familiar with the call...It was not clear when the search would be completed or what actions, if any, Goldman would take if the search turns up derogatory comments. Jobless Claims in U.S. Fall to Lowest Level in Four Years (Bloomberg) Jobless claims decreased by 5,000 to 348,000 in the week ended March 17, the fewest since February 2008, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 46 economists in a Bloomberg News survey projected 350,000. The number of people on unemployment benefit rolls and those getting extended payments also fell. ‘Worst Still to Come’ for Europe Says Citi Economist (CNBC) Despite high-profile measures such as the Greek debt deal and mass pumping of liquidity into the banking system, Europe’s problems have merely been delayed for another day, Willem Buiter, chief economist at Citi, told CNBC. “We have really just paused for breath,” he said. “It (the long-term refinancing operation) really hasn’t solved the problem, and for Europe the worst is still to come.” On Wall St., Keeping a Tight Rein on Twitter (Dealbook) So a cottage industry has emerged. Adept start-ups act as guides on Wall Street’s social media adventure, providing the software that helps firms comply with regulations that date to a sleepier era of communication. “Here they were, these organizations that had never used the social networks because they had completely locked down access,” said Chad Bockius, the chief executive of Socialware, a start-up based in Austin, Tex., that advises financial firms on social media. “This is the same thing we saw when people started to use the Internet for business purposes.” Mr. Bockius, 35, says his company was the first to offer social media compliance products for the financial industry. Socialware sells software that can archive messages, house a library of prewritten content and allow compliance officers to oversee postings. Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, which Mr. Bockius holds up as one of his most enterprising clients, gave about 600 of its 17,800 financial advisers access to Twitter and LinkedIn last summer, and now plans to expand those ranks. “We’re trailblazing, so to speak,” said Lauren W. Boyman, who runs social media at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney. “Even with the restrictions that we have, we’ve seen a lot of success.” John Edwards is First Name Uncovered in 'Millionaire Madam' Investigation (DNAI via Daily Intel) Edwards allegedly hooked up with one of Gristina’s high-end hookers in 2007 when the dashing pol from North Carolina brought his then high-flying presidential campaign to the Big Apple. The one-night fling allegedly took place at an Upper East Side hotel suite and was arranged by an aide with help from a New Yorker familiar with Gristina’s prostitution ring, sources said...“Most of the women don’t have any idea about the identities of the men they sleep with,” a source explained. “How would they know a money man from Wall Street or the face of a lawyer or banker who shows up? “But the face of the national politician?” the source rhetorically asked. “She knew.” Volcker Says U.S. Needs Reforms in Finance, Government (Bloomberg) “It is not only our economic prosperity that’s in jeopardy, but our national security and our ability to play a constructive role in a changing world,” said Volcker, 84. Volcker said that progress has been made toward improving financial regulatory oversight, capital and liquidity standards and rules for derivatives. He said more needed to be done to regulate money market mutual funds, which he called “a new systemic risk,” and to rebuild a private market for home mortgages to replace the government-sponsored entities that dominate the business. “The reform report card still reads, ‘Promising but definitely incomplete,’” Volcker said. More Wings, Please — Signs Small Biz Is Improving (AP) Some diners at Hurricane Grill & Wings had been limiting themselves to a small order of the chain's saucy chicken wings and a glass of tap water. These days, many of those people are upgrading to a bigger order of as many as 15 wings and a soda. For Hurricane Grill, which sells its wings in more than 30 varieties of sauces, the larger plates and the sodas are a sign that customers are OK about spending a little more when they go out to eat. The evidence may not be a big economic report like gross domestic product or factory orders in a region, but small businesses have their own indicators that the economy is improving. Rich Would Skirt 'Buffett Rule' Report Shows (WSJ) The administration's proposal to end the Bush-era tax cuts for couples making more than $250,000 would raise about $850 billion over the next decade. Mr. Obama also wants to limit the value of many deductions for families making more than $250,000. That would raise a further $584 billion over the decade. But millionaires likely would find legal ways to avoid paying higher taxes under another of Mr. Obama's new tax proposals, his so-called "Buffett Rule," a separate congressional estimate found. The proposal—spelled out in Mr. Obama's State of the Union address but not included in his budget—would impose a 30% minimum tax rate on those who make more than $1 million a year. It's named for the billionaire investor Warren Buffett, who advocates higher taxes on the very wealthy. Taxpayers' likely efforts to sidestep the rule's impact mean it would raise about $47 billion in extra revenue over the next decade, according to a new estimate by the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, a congressional advisory body that functions as the official congressional scorekeeper for legislation affecting government tax revenues. The Tax Policy Center had estimated the Buffett rule would raise about $114 billion over the next decade. Monster titanoboa snake invades New York (AP) New York commuters arriving at Grand Central Station will soon be greeted by a monstrous sight: a 48-foot-long, 2,500-pound titanoboa snake. The good news: It's not alive. Anymore. But the full-scale replica of the reptile -- which will make its first appearance at the commuter hub on March 22 -- is intended, as Smithsonian spokesperson Randall Kremer happily admitted, to "scare the daylights out of people" -- actually has a higher calling: to "communicate science to a lot of people." The scientifically scary-accurate model will go a long way toward that: If this snake slithered by you, it would be waist-high and measure the length of a school bus. Think of it as the T-rex of snakes.

Opening Bell: 04.04.13

Bank of Japan Launches Easing Campaign (WSJ) At his inaugural policy board meeting Thursday, Haruhiko Kuroda convinced the nine-member panel to agree to a major expansion of government bond purchases, including buying longer-term debt, which is designed to drive down longer-term rates. The BOJ also broke free from some self-imposed limits that the previous leadership under Masaaki Shirakawa adhered to. "Our stance is to take all the policy measures imaginable at this point to achieve the 2% price stability target in two years," Mr. Kuroda said at a news conference following the two-day meeting, one of the most closely watched in the central bank's recent history. ECB holds fire on rates (FT) The European Central Bank kept its main refinancing rate on hold at 0.75 per cent on Thursday, hours after the Bank of Japan stunned investors with a dramatic easing plan that will see it double its monetary base over two years. ... The ECB has been reluctant to cut its own interest rates further, which might involve moving into negative territory on its 0 per cent deposit rate, and would face difficulty adopting a quantitative easing programme itself. Yet inflation has been falling below the bank’s 2 per cent target, unemployment is at a record high and the 17-nation bloc remains in recession. Weekly Jobless Claims Get Weaker as Outlook Dims (Reuters) Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 28,000 to a seasonally adjusted 385,000, the highest level since November, the Labor Department said on Thursday. It was the third straight week of gains in claims. Coming on the heels of data on Wednesday showing private employers added the fewest jobs in five months in March, the report implied some weakening in job growth after hiring accelerated in February. Enron's Jeff Skilling Could Get Early Release From Prison (CNBC) Former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling, who is serving a 24-year prison term for his role in the energy giant's epic collapse, could get out of prison early under an agreement being discussed by his attorneys and the Justice Department, CNBC has learned. Skilling, who was convicted in 2006 of conspiracy, fraud and insider trading, has served just over six years. It is not clear how much his sentence would be shortened under the deal. MF Global Trustee's Report Blasts Former CEO Corzine (WSJ) A risky business strategy, failure to improve inadequate systems, as well as "negligent conduct" by former Chief Executive Officer Jon S. Corzine and others contributed to the unraveling of MF Global Holdings Ltd., a new report said Thursday. The report, released by Louis J. Freeh, the trustee for MF Global Holdings—the parent company of the U.S. brokerage firm MF Global Inc. and other units—laid much of the blame at Mr. Corzine's feet, accusing him of implementing trading strategies with minimal oversight and exceeding board-approved limits for some European trades the company made under his stewardship. Nightclub dancer "Ruby" stands up for Berlusconi outside court (Reuters) Carrying a large sign reading "The Ruby case: Are you not interested in the truth any more?", she said she had been used as part of a deliberate campaign against Berlusconi by magistrates and sections of the press. "Today I realize that there is a war under way against him that I do not feel part of, but which has dragged me in and injures me," she said, reading a prepared statement. "I do not want to be a victim of this situation." KKR to Carlyle Target $3.6 Trillion in 401(k)s Accounts (Bloomberg) Carlyle Group LP (CG), Blackstone Group LP (BX) and KKR & Co. (KKR), which usually open their doors only to clients willing to commit at least $5 million, are lowering that threshold or offering investments directly to individuals, an effort to attract fresh cash amid lackluster fundraising. Their ultimate goal: a slice of the $3.57 trillion Americans have accumulated in their 401(k) retirement plans. ... “We definitely would like to be part of 401(k) platforms,” Michael Gaviser, a managing director responsible for individual investor products at KKR, which oversees $76 billion, said in an interview at the firm’s New York headquarters. “We think about it every day because there’s so much demand.” Tiger Cubs Report a Rough Q1 (II Alpha) The first quarter was especially tough for long-short hedge fund managers - and the biggest, most prominent Tiger Cubs were not immune. ... New York-based Tiger Global, for example, was up only 2.5 percent in March and 5 percent for the first three months. Moscow Tries to Reinvent Itself as Financial Hub (NYT) “The idea is to upgrade the position of Moscow in ratings, to become closer to the leaders of innovation and to the big boys of international financial centers,” Andrei V. Sharonov, the deputy mayor for economic affairs, who led a roadshow tour promoting the city in Asia, said in an interview. ... Certainly Moscow has a lot of wooing to do. A city of traffic-clogged highways and sprawling concrete apartment blocks, Moscow is widely known as a singularly difficult place to do business. It did attract the big banking houses from New York and London after the fall of Communism. But cronyism, the lack of transparency and shady accounting gave companies pause. Weak courts and selective enforcement encouraged companies to conduct business outside Russia. North Korea Warns U.S. It’s Authorized Nuclear Attack (Bloomberg) North Korea stepped up threats against the U.S, authorizing its military to conduct a potential “smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear strike” while again restricting South Korean access to a joint industrial zone. Mark Zuckerberg’s Childhood Website Was Slightly Uglier Than Facebook (DI) "The only site where a yellow eye blinks at you." Norwegian schools reschedule exams amid Bieber fever (AFP) Bieber, who is 19, sparked chaos in Oslo in May last year when dozens of teenagers chased the singer's car in the hope of following him to a free concert at a location that was only revealed at the last minute.