Holiday Bell: 12.27.11

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Economic Downturn Took A Detour At Capitol Hill (NYT)
Largely insulated from the country’s economic downturn since 2008, members of Congress — many of them among the “1 percenters” denounced by Occupy Wall Street protesters — have gotten much richer even as most of the country has become much poorer in the last six years, according to an analysis by The New York Times based on data from the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit research group...While the median net worth of members of Congress jumped 15 percent from 2004 to 2010, the net worth of the richest 10 percent of Americans remained essentially flat. For all Americans, median net worth dropped 8 percent, based on inflation-adjusted data from Moody’s Analytics.

SEC Cracks Down On Rogue Firms (WSJ)
It is the Securities and Exchange Commission's new "most-wanted" list: a chart covered with handwritten notes, yellow highlighter and the names of about 100 hedge funds. The hedge funds have one thing in common: Their performance seems, to the SEC, too good to be true, with some trouncing the overall market and others churning out modest results without ever suffering a down month. Some funds on the list stumble but still always outperform rival hedge funds. "There is serious fraud in this space, and we have been attacking it," said Bruce Karpati, co-chief of the SEC's asset-management enforcement unit. The hedge-fund chart dominates a corner of his lower Manhattan office.

Obama Wins Most Demand for Debt of U.S. Presidents Since Before First Bush (Bloomberg)
The Treasury Department attracted $3.04 for each dollar of the $2.135 trillion in notes and bonds sold, the most since the government began releasing the data in 1992 during the George H. W. Bush administration. The U.S. drew an all-time high bid-to- cover ratio of 9.07 for $30 billion of four-week bills it auctioned on Dec. 20 even though they pay zero percent interest. While Standard & Poor’s stripped the U.S. of its AAA credit rating on Aug. 5, Treasuries due in 10 years or more returned 25.6 percent this year.

S&P Index in 2011 Moves Least Since 1970 (Bloomberg)
The S&P 500 rose 3.7 percent last week, sending the measure to a gain of 0.6 percent for the year. The last time it moved less on an annual basis was in 1970, when it fell 0.1 percent.

Kynikos, Third Point Are Dismissed From $8 Billion Fairfax Suit (Bloomberg)
James Chanos’s Kynikos Associates LP and Daniel Loeb’s Third Point LLC won dismissal from an $8 billion lawsuit accusing the two hedge funds of spreading negative information to drive down Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd.'s stock price...In September, Hansbury dismissed billionaire Steven A. Cohen and his Stamford, Connecticut-based SAC Capital Advisors LP from the case. Fairfax, a Toronto-based insurer, sued the hedge funds in 2006, alleging they acted to harm the company because they were betting its stock price would decline. The hedge funds named in the suit have denied Fairfax’s accusations. “We thought Fairfax was engaged in some pretty blatant forum shopping and it took a while but the judge saw through it,” Bill Carmody, a lawyer for Third Point at Susman Godfrey LLP in New York, said in a phone interview.

Moynihan: ‘Our job is to be fair to customers’ (Boston Globe via BI)
Q: How badly did the plan to impose a $5 debit card fee hurt your reputation, and how do you repair it? A: We didn’t do our best work there...We struck a chord with customers that no one anticipated. We learned our lesson and stopped it.

A Rash Of Tuba Thefts At Southland High School (LA Times via Matthew Goldstein)
As Southern California awoke to the wreckage from a recent massive windstorm, music teacher Ruben Gonzalez Jr. was assessing a different sort of devastation in his band room at South Gate High School. Thieves had pried open a door and torn the room apart while hunting for a specific instrument. "All they took were tubas," Gonzalez said. Losses included an upright concert tuba and a silver sousaphone — or marching-band tuba — worth a combined $13,000. Several weeks earlier, band members at Centennial High School in Compton experienced a similar shock when they found that eight sousaphones were missing. And on Tuesday, burglars broke into Huntington Park High School and spirited away the school's last tuba, according to band instructor Fernando Almader. A silver Jupiter tuba had been stolen earlier in the school year. Those are just the latest in what police and music instructors are describing as a rash of unsolved tuba thefts at high schools in southeast Los Angeles County.

Outrage Over Caged Wall Street Bull (NYP)
Six weeks after Occupy Wall Street was evicted from Zuccotti Park, the nearby Wall Street bull is still completely corralled behind police barricades — enraging tourists and members of the downtown community who want cops to uncage the bronze beast. Protesters first gathered at the sculpture on the first day of the demonstrations, Sept. 17, before squatted in the park for two months, leading cops to barricade the 3 1/2- ton “Charging Bull” ever since. Although officers will sometimes ease up and let visitors briefly enter the barricades, climbing on the bull and snapping photos with its famous cojones are strictly off-limits. The barriers have driven away tourists and the money they spend, community leaders say. “One of the most popular monuments and sources of tourism is being kept away from the public,” fumed Arthur Picollo, chairman of the Bowling Green Association. “It is an outlandish decision to keep those barricades there. Uncage the bull!”

For Obama, Merkel Holds Keys (WSJ)
The key to an Obama victory is an economy that feels as if it's recovering. The biggest obstacle to economic growth right now is Europe's crisis. And the largest voice in determining the path out of that crisis is Ms. Merkel's. So, forget about David Plouffe and David Axelrod, the domestic brains behind the Obama re-election effort. Concentrate on Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and his continuing dialogue with the Merkel government for signs of how things are going.

Credit Suisse Fined Over Short Sales (WSJ)
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority fined Credit Suisse Group AG $1.75 million for allegedly violating Regulation SHO and failing to properly supervise short sales and marking sale orders.

Sears Plunges on Plans to Close as Many as 120 Stores (Bloomberg)
Sears Holdings Corp., the retailer controlled by hedge-fund manager Edward Lampert, tumbled the most in 8 1/2 years after saying it will close as many as 120 stores to reduce costs amid declining sales.

Third Point Re Closes (TP)
"Third Point Re Investors: I am very pleased to advise that we have successfully completed the funding and formation of Third Point Re as originally planned and scheduled. The company will be launched with more than $750 million in capital and an A- credit rating from A.M. Best."

Anchors Away (NYP)
"Anchors Melissa Francis, Erin Burnett and Trish Regan all departed this year after running headlong into the glass ceiling known as Maria Bartiromo, the longtime anchorwoman."

Lou Williams approached by gunman (Philly)
"A guy tried to rob me but decided not to because of whatever I do in the community," said Williams. "He's a Lou Williams fan, so he didn't rob me." Williams said he was driving in his car when the man approached, knocked on the driver's window and had a gun drawn. "There's crime everywhere," said Williams. "I was debating whether to pull off to help the guy. The gun was already out. He did all the talking, and we came up with a solution before i could really say much. I treated him to McDonald's."

Westchester man takes Greyhound bus for Christmas joyride to visit upstate pal
(NYDN)
Andrew Hickey, 39, stole a Greyhound bus in Syracuse and drove it to visit to a pal in Watertown before getting caught, cops said. Hickey, of Peekskill, boarded the bus Christmas morning because he was cold and the vehicle was running and warm while being fueled at the Syracuse transportation center, authorities said. Officials say Hickey drove off and headed north to a friend’s home in Watertown, 70 miles away. Police say he has a commercial driver’s license and knows how to operate a bus. Greyhound disabled the wayward coach electronically two hours later in Watertown and notified Jefferson County sheriff’s deputies. They arrested Hickey and charged him with stealing the bus.

Programming Note: We’re on an abbreviated vacation-esque schedule this week (opening/closing wraps and limited updates whenever the urge to reach out and touch you moves us). We still want to hear from you, though, so if Vikram announces he’s quitting to join the Blue Man Group in 2012, or anything else happens that you think might tickle our fancy, do not hesitate to let us know.

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