Opening Bell: 11.16.11 - Dealbreaker

Opening Bell: 11.16.11

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Purgatory For MF Global Customers (WSJ)
"My entire business has come to a halt," said Mr. Gochberg, who can't get to his cash. "I'm angry and I no longer have any confidence in our system." More than two weeks after MF Global filed for Chapter 11, some 33,000 customers are stuck in a sort of purgatory, with no access to their cash until a trustee liquidating the securities firm says they can get it...A spokesman for the trustee said this week it is possible customers won't get all their money back, due to the apparent shortfall at MF Global.

MF Global Trustee Moves To Return $520 Million In Client Cash (Reuters)
In a measure that will provide some relief to traders who have clamored to get access to their funds, James Giddens sought permission to return about $520 million to some 15,000 commodity customers even as the search continues for client money that regulators say MF Global may have misappropriated in its final days. The motion, which must still be approved by the court, came after intensifying pressure from commodity traders and the leading exchanges, who said that punishing customers who had liquidated their trading positions ahead of MF Global's October 31 bankruptcy set a worrying precedent.

Italy's Monti Names New Government (WSJ)
The ministers, including Mr. Monti—who will serve as prime minister and economy minister—will be formally sworn into office during a ceremony later Wednesday. Mr. Monti's new ministers are drawn mainly from academia and the private sector. Corrado Passera, chief executive of Italian bank Intesa Sanpaolo SpA, will be industry minister. Mr. Monti said that post would be "at the center" of Italy's efforts to revive growth.

Citigroup May Cut 3,000 Jobs As Pandit Trims Costs (Bloomberg)
The reduction, equal to about 1 percent of the staff, is an estimate and may change, according to the person, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about the cuts. Among the jobs eliminated may be 900 from the division that includes the bank’s trading and investment banking operations, the person said. Citigroup, ranked third by assets among U.S. lenders, employed about 267,000 people at the end of the third quarter.

JPMorgan Joins Goldman Keeping Investors in Dark on Italy Derivatives Risk (Bloomberg)
As concerns mount that those countries may not be creditworthy, investors are being kept in the dark about how much risk U.S. banks face from a default. Firms including Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan don’t provide a full picture of potential losses and gains in such a scenario, giving only net numbers or excluding some derivatives altogether. “If you don’t have to, generally people don’t see the advantage to doing it,” said Richard Lindsey, a former director of market regulation at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission who worked at Bear Stearns Cos. from 1999 through 2006. “On the other hand, if there were a run on Goldman Sachs tomorrow because the rumor was that they had exposure to Greece, you’d see them produce those numbers.”

Geithner Seeks A US Boost (WSJ)
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said Europe's smoldering fiscal crisis should compel Congress to pass legislation that boosts the economy, warning that continued global pressures are constraining U.S. growth. Mr. Geithner also said there were "lots of ways" the European Central Bank could "play a more effective, supportive role" in resolving the European crisis, though he didn't specify what the ECB might do...Mr. Geithner said he constantly monitors the situation in Europe and is willing to help leaders and finance ministers navigate their political challenges. He chose an American football analogy for gauging Europe's progress, likening it to "three yards and a cloud of dust."

Blankfein: Growth To Snap Back (Bloomberg)
“I don’t think that we can conclude that this slowdown is secular rather than cyclical change,” Blankfein, 57, said today at an investor conference in New York hosted by Bank of America Corp. (BAC)’s Merrill Lynch unit. “The world will snap back and it will be a surprise and it will be faster than people think. I don’t know when that will be and we will gear ourselves accordingly.” Blankfein, while noting that the firm is cutting costs and adapting to changing regulation and slower economic growth, said he is wary of overreacting by assuming the world has permanently changed. He reminded investors that Goldman Sachs reported record earnings in 2009 following a quarterly loss in 2008, in part because competitors pulled away from making markets for clients.

Protestors Weigh Movement's Future (WSJ)
Activists vowed that their protests would persist. Marches and other demonstrations were planned for Thursday, the two-month anniversary of the movement's founding. Some thought the eviction would galvanize their movement, which had become increasingly bogged down in running the miniature society created in the park. "In a way, this movement is not bound to any central location," said Andrew Carbone, a 26-year-old freelance media coordinator who lives in Brooklyn. "In many ways [the encampment] has made people a little too comfortable."

Man walks into house; puts up Christmas decorations (WHIO)
A Vandalia family is in shock when a man broke into their house, made himself at home and even put up Christmas decorations. Police said the man's strange behavior may involve bath salts. According to police, an 11-year-old child came home and found a stranger sitting on the couch. Tamara Henderson was next door when her son call her. She said, "What do you mean a man is in our house? You don't know if he has a gun or if he has a knife?" Henderson called 911 and screamed for her neighbors. Police reports indicated that 44-year-old Terry Trent did have a pocket knife and was most likely on bath salts. They said Trent walked through a back door and made himself comfortable. "The candle was lit on the coffee table, the television was on and very loud, and the candle on the kitchen table was lit," Henderson said. He also did some Christmas decorating, police said.

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Opening Bell: 03.28.12

Top MF Global Witness Talks Deal With Justice (WSJ) The star witness in a congressional hearing about MF Global Holdings Ltd.'s collapse has told Justice Department representatives through her lawyers details about transactions that ended up dipping into customer funds, people familiar with the matter said. But Edith O'Brien, the assistant treasurer at MF Global, isn't expected to reveal those details when she appears at Wednesday's hearing of the House Financial Services Committee's oversight and investigations subcommittee. Ms. O'Brien plans to invoke her constitutional right against self-incrimination and to decline to answer questions, people familiar with the matter said. J.P. Morgan Was 'Assured' on MF GlobalTransfers (WSJ) MF Global Holdings Ltd. Chairman and Chief Executive Jon S. Corzine was in direct contact with J.P. Morgan Chase officials about a large transfer of customer funds to the bank shortly before the securities firm collapsed, according to prepared testimony from a J.P. Morgan lawyer for a House subcommittee hearing Wednesday. The testimony by Diane Genova, deputy general counsel for J.P. Morgan, provides additional details about a transfer of $175 million in MF Global customer funds to a J.P. Morgan account on Oct. 28. That move is the subject of scrutiny as investigators hunt for clues about how MF Global firm lost about $1.6 billion in customer funds. Magic Johnson Group to Buy L.A. Dodgers for $2 Billion (Bloomberg) The group was chosen yesterday by Dodgers owner Frank McCourt over billionaire Steve Cohen, who runs hedge fund manager SAC Capital Advisors LP, and Stan Kroenke, who owns the National Football League’s St. Louis Rams and Arsenal of English soccer’s Premier League. [WHO DOES STEVE COHEN HAVE TO SCREW AROUND HERE TO BUY A BASEBALL TEAM???] BATS Chairman Will Give Up Post (WSJ) BATS Global Markets Inc.'s directors voted to remove Joe Ratterman as chairman Tuesday, while expressing unanimous support for him to stay on as the company's chief executive. The vote came after Friday's collapse of the exchange operator's initial public offering, which raised questions about BATS's technology and put Mr. Ratterman on the defensive...BATS has launched a search for a new chairman, according to a spokesman. Face time with Facebook CEO stirs concerns on Wall Street (Reuters) Two people who attended Facebook's March 19 meeting remarked on the young CEO's absence and privately said they expected at least a cursory appearance. One analyst asked how involved Zuckerberg would be in future. In response, the company said expectations should be set pretty low, according to one of the two who was at the meeting. "Investors are crazy to want to get in bed with a company where the guy who controls it doesn't even pretend to care about the rest of the shareholders," said Greg Taxin of activist investment firm Spotlight Advisors, who will not buy shares. "That seems like a recipe for disaster." Texas journalist Sarah Tressler outed for leading a double life (NYDN) By day, she’s a reporter who strips through the veneer of Houston’s high society. By night, she’s a reporter who strips off her clothes. And Sarah Tressler, a 2008 graduate of NYU’s School of Journalism, is not ashamed. In fact, until recently, the 29-year-old brunette blogged about her after-hours gig and posted pictures of herself in scanty outfits on a Facebook page entitled “Diary of an Angry Stripper.” Since the outcry, that — and her titillating Twitter account — have been moved to a protected site. Before Tressler went underground, one of her juicier postings was about an alleged and “somewhat disappointing” sexual encounter with “Entourage” star Jeremy Piven. Europeans Sees Crisis Near End (Bloomberg) The euro area’s woes are “almost over” after a slow initial response by policy makers, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti said in Tokyo today. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said yesterday that the crisis is ebbing and her country’s borrowing costs will probably rise as its status as a haven wanes. Jefferies CEO Handler’s Pay Drops 7.9% for 2011 After Stock Rout (Bloomberg) Handler, 50, was awarded $14 million for the fiscal year ended Nov. 30, compared with $15.2 million for the 11 months through November 2010, New York-based Jefferies said today in a filing. The package included $1 million in salary and $13 million in restricted-stock units that were granted in 2010. Handler elected to not receive a bonus for 2011. Goldman Bows To Pressure (WSJ) Goldman Sachs agreed to change its board structure in order to persuade a union pension fund to drop a shareholder proposal that could have cost Chief Executive Lloyd C. Blankfein his job as chairman. The deal between the New York securities firm and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees means Goldman will appoint a "lead" director, but shareholders won't get a chance to vote at the firm's annual meeting in May on the proposal to replace Mr. Blankfein with an independent chairman. Ben Bernanke: The World Needs More Nerds (OS) In an exclusive interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said it’s important not to be complacent about the improving economy...[he also said] he takes no offense that Time magazine, in naming him Person of the Year for 2009, described him as “the most powerful nerd on the planet.” “I am very proud of my nerd-dom,” he told Sawyer. “In fact, the world needs more nerds. Nerds, you know, create more jobs and advance science, and I hope make good economic policy, but that remains to be seen.”

Opening Bell: 04.23.12

IMF And World Bank Meetings End With Little Agreement (NYT) To be sure, the additional $430 billion in lending capacity contributed by developed economies like Japan, Britain, Saudi Arabia and South Korea was seen as a major achievement. The contributions came after I.M.F. economists determined that countries around the world might require up to $1 trillion in new loans because of the combined effects of the sovereign debt crisis in Europe and sluggish global economic growth. The I.M.F. agreed to raise about half that amount if Europe would raise the other half. But finance ministers are still at odds over the effect of debt reduction on economic growth. Geithner urges 'aggressive' action to fight financial crisis (DowJones) US Treasury secretary Timothy Geithner said Saturday that the eurozone needed stronger action from authorities, including the European Central Bank, to tame a potential deterioration in the debt crisis. "The success of the next phase of the crisis response will hinge on Europe's willingness and ability, together with the European Central Bank, to apply its tools and processes creatively, flexibly and aggressively to support countries as they implement reforms and stay ahead of markets," Geithner told the International Monetary Fund's policy steering committee. Hedge Fund Short-Sellers to Target Wal-Mart Mexico (Reuters) Hedge fund managers are bracing for selling pressure in shares of Wal-Mart Stores on Monday, but market experts said it is the retail giant's less visible Mexican unit that could be the more attractive target for short sellers. The New York Times reported on Saturday that Wal-Mart de Mexico, which is 69 percent owned by Wal-Mart Stories, had orchestrated a widespread bribery campaign in 2005 to win market dominance. The investigative article alleged that senior Wal-Mart executives knew about the matter and tried to cover it up. "I would not consider Wal-Mart shares expensive, but I definitely would not be a buyer at these levels in the 60s. I'm more interested in shorting the Mexico traded 'pure play,'" said private activist investor Daniel Yu, who has presciently shorted such stocks including Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and Sino-Forest. Wal-Mart said in a statement on Saturday that it was "deeply concerned" about the allegations in the Times report and began an investigation into its compliance with anti-bribery laws last autumn. MF Global Customers Press JPMorgan For Funds (WSJ) In a letter set to be sent to regulators and lawmakers on Monday, an MF Global customer group calls for J.P. Morgan to "return hundreds of millions of dollars in MF Global customer funds transferred" to J.P. Morgan in late October. The group, called the Commodity Customer Coalition, urged U.S. officials to "demand" that the New York bank "disgorge all MF Global customer property immediately." J.P. Morgan is cooperating with the ongoing investigation, has said it did nothing wrong and lost some of its own money in the Oct. 31 bankruptcy because it was a creditor of MF Global. Vietnam Funds Beat India, China in Attracting Investors (Bloomberg) Vietnam-focused stock funds became the only emerging market equity assets in Asia to lure investors every week this year as the nation’s benchmark index rose to an 11-month high, Emerging Portfolio Fund Research said. Table Hockey, on Ice Since Heyday in 1970s, Makes a Comeback (WSJ) Carter Campbell leaned over the stick-figure hockey players, loosening up his wrists and hopping from one foot to the other. The 14-year-old's cap was turned around. His iPod blared tunes from the classic-rock band Rush. Across from him, 35-year-old, No. 1 ranked table hockey champ Mark Sokolski hunched over his own players. "I'm gonna stomp this kid," Mr. Sokolski said. At stake was a slot in the elite eight of this year's Canadian Table Hockey Championships, the best-attended North American tournament that the game has seen in decades. Across the U.S. and Canada, a resurgence of table hockey is under way, drawing younger players and women to a sport that has long been the domain of older men in their basements reliving a game that hasn't been popular since they were kids. Global Crisis Not Over, China Reforms to Go On: Wen (Reuters) The global financial crisis is not over and technical innovation and investment will be key to sustaining what remains a "tortuous" recovery, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said on Sunday during a visit to Germany. Wen also said China, the world's biggest exporter and second largest economy, would press on with reforms aimed at creating better legal protection for foreign investors — a major concern for the growing number of German firms active in the country. Buffett Joined by 12 Families Pledging Wealth to Charity (Bloomberg) Twelve families promised to donate most of their wealth to philanthropy, joining the Giving Pledge initiative started by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates. The families include hedge-fund manager Bill Ackman and his wife Karen, Tesla Motors Inc.’s billionaire owner Elon Musk and film producer Steve Bing, according to an e-mailed statement from the initiative. Arthur M. Blank, Edgar M. Bronfman, Glenn and Eva Dubin, Red and Charline McCombs, Michael Moritz and Harriet Heyman, John and Ginger Sall, Henry and Susan Samueli, John A. and Susan Sobrato, John Michael Sobrato, and Ted and Vada Stanley also signed the pledge. Aiming for Clarity, Fed Still Falls Short in Some Eyes (NYT) But as Mr. Bernanke prepares to meet the press for the fifth time Wednesday afternoon, after a scheduled meeting of the Fed’s policy-making committee on Tuesday and Wednesday, there are reasons to doubt that the efforts are increasing public understanding of monetary policy. Experts and investors have continued to disagree about the plain meaning of the Fed’s recent policy statements. Some say the increased volume of communication is creating cacophony rather than clarity. Political criticism of the Fed has continued unabated. Man's nightmare since NYPD labeled him ‘Gentleman Groper’ (NYP) A citywide manhunt ensued after four Manhattan women were fondled in tony neighborhoods in a 35-day stretch. On April 13, authorities paraded their main suspect past snapping cameras. He defied the conventional image of a creepy perv. He was young, handsome, well-dressed, affluent, educated, a churchgoer. A gentleman groper. That suspect, Karl Vanderwoude, says if the scene seemed implausible — that’s because it was. “I didn’t do it. I wasn’t even in the vicinity of these incidents,” he said in his first interview since his arrest. “It’s a case of mistaken identity.” The 26-year-old Bible-study leader’s nightmare began 10 days ago, when he left early from his job as an operations coordinator at a Flatiron District private equity firm because he felt sick. He was in his Park Slope apartment for about an hour when the doorbell rang. “I thought it was my roommate who had been locked out and forgot his keys, which has happened, so I go to answer the door,” he recalled. Instead, two NYPD detectives were standing in the threshold. “They’re like, ‘Are you Karl? May we speak with you?’"