Holiday Bell: 12.30.11

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BofA Posts Worst Showing In Dow Average (Bloomberg)
The 59 percent decline through yesterday erased almost $80 billion of shareholder value at Charlotte, North Carolina- based Bank of America. It’s the firm’s largest drop since a 66 percent plunge in 2008, when a U.S. bailout staved off a collapse. The bank probably will also end 2011 last in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Financials Index and the KBW Bank Index. “What you have is like a three-ring circus, and in all the rings for Bank of America, the show isn’t any good,” said Greg Donaldson, chairman of Evansville, Indiana-based Donaldson Capital Management LLC, which oversees $500 million including Bank of America shares. He cited new regulations, mounting costs of bad loans and a lack of confidence in management. “You just got one surprise after another this year,” Donaldson said.

Deepening Crisis Over Euro Pits Leader Against Leader (WSJ)
On a chilly October evening in her austere chancellery, Angela Merkel placed a confidential call to Rome to help save the euro. Two years after the European debt crisis erupted in little Greece, the unthinkable had happened: Investors were fleeing the government debt of Italy—one of the world's biggest economies. If the selloff couldn't be stopped, Italy would go down, taking with it Europe's shared currency. Her phone call that night to the 16th-century Quirinale Palace, once a residence of popes, now home to Italy's octogenarian head of state, President Giorgio Napolitano, trod on delicate ground for a German chancellor. Europe's leaders have an unwritten rule not to intervene in one another's domestic politics. But Ms. Merkel was gently prodding Italy to change its prime minister, if the incumbent—Silvio Berlusconi—couldn't change Italy...Her impatience shows the extent to which Italy's woes undid Europe's strategy to fight the crisis. Until then, Europe had followed a simple formula to preserve the euro: The financially strong would save the weak. But Italy, with nearly €2 trillion, or about $2.6 trillion, in national debt, was simply too big to save...Ms. Merkel, widely criticized for not dealing forcefully with the crisis in its early phase, was at the center of the action, grappling with personal tensions and Byzantine politics among the 17 euro nations.

German FinMin Sees Crisis in Check Within a Year (Reuters)
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said he expects the euro zone will be stabilized within 12 months and ruled out a break-up of the single currency in an interview published on Friday. "I believe that in the next 12 months we will be so far that we will have the risk of contagion under control and will have stabilized the euro zone," Schaeuble told Handelsblatt newspaper in an interview. Asked whether he could rule out a break-up of the currency bloc that has been rattled by a sovereign debt crisis for more than two years, Schaeuble said: "With everything I know at the moment: yes."

HP Ex-CEO Hurd Pursued Sex With Jodie Fisher: Letter (Bloomberg)
During dinners, hotel-room visits and other meetings in cities such as Los Angeles, Atlanta, St. Louis and Madrid between 2007 and 2009, former HP chief executive officer Mark Hurd kissed and embraced Fisher, brushed his hand against her breast and attempted to initiate an affair, according to the letter sent to Hurd on June 24, 2010, by Fisher’s lawyer, Gloria Allred. Hurd, who is now a president at Oracle Corp. (ORCL), wasn’t found to have committed sexual harassment by Hewlett-Packard, and Fisher herself later said the document contained inaccuracies. “You had designs to make her your lover from the onset using your status and authority as CEO of HP,” Allred said in the letter to Hurd, the contents of which were first reported by Bloomberg News. “At times you would behave professionally seemingly ‘getting’ that she was not going to have sex with you. At other times, not, and you would relentlessly attempt to cajole her into having sex with you.”

Flash Crash Threatens to Return With a Vengeance (FT)
FYI.

SAT taker-for-hire tells '60 Minutes' it was easy to cheat (NYP, earlier)
Speaking out for the first time, the Long Island teen who took college-entrance exams for cash told “60 Minutes” that his scandalous scheme couldn’t have been simpler to pull off. “I would say that between the SAT and ACT, the security is uniformly pathetic,” a cocky Sam Eshaghoff says in a segment to air this Sunday. “In the sense that anybody with half a brain could get away with taking the test for anybody else.” Now a student at Emory University, Eshaghoff was arrested in September, and the bust set off a national debate on entrance-exam integrity and trained a harsh light on his tony hometown of Great Neck. The 19-year-old whiz kid says his bustling business started with a casual proposal from a classmate. “He’s like, ‘Yo, you’re good on your SATs and I’m not. And you know this is possible. How much is it going to take?’ ” The answer was a cool $2,500. Eshaghoff told “60 Minutes” that he took the tests — both the SAT and the ACT — roughly 20 times for score-starved clients. “My whole clientele were based on word of mouth and, like, a referral system,” Eshaghoff said. He offered up his SAT wizardry gratis only once, for his then-girlfriend. With his business booming, Eshaghoff began to feel like he was performing a noble public service rather than a criminal act that would lead him into handcuffs. “I mean, a kid who has a horrible grade-point average, who no matter how much he studies is gonna totally bomb this test, by giving him an amazing score, I totally give him this . . . new lease on life. He’s gonna go to a totally new college. He’s gonna be bound for a totally new career and a totally new path on life.”

Customers Say to Cable Firms, 'Let's Make a Deal' (WSJ)
Every three to six months, when his most recent promotional deal expires, Carey Anthony blocks out an hour of his day to negotiate with his cable company. Each time, the president of a software company in Los Angeles says he can knock $20 to $30 off his monthly bill. "Negotiating works every time," says Mr. Anthony, 46, who estimates he has saved more than $350 a year over the past decade. "Sometimes you have to threaten to cancel service, or switch to another provider, or sit on hold for an hour, but I've never failed to get a discount," he says. "You just have to be diligent."

Egypt’s Long-Term Currency Debt Downgraded (Bloomberg)
Egypt’s long-term foreign currency debt was downgraded by Fitch Ratings, which pointed to a decline in central bank reserves and uncertainty over possible International Monetary Fund support. Fitch lowered the rating to BB-from BB with a negative outlook. The long-term local currency rating was cut to BB from BB+, it said in an e-mailed report today.

TCW and Jeffrey Gundlach reach settlement (LA Times)
Chrome penises for everyone!

Fed Says Dealers Tighten Terms on Hedge-Fund Security Trades (Bloomberg)
Wall Street dealers made it tougher for hedge funds to finance trading of securities and derivatives in the three months through November, a Federal Reserve survey showed today. Responses “indicated a broad but moderate tightening of credit terms applicable to important classes of counterparties,” especially hedge-fund clients, trading real estate investment trusts and nonfinancial corporations, according to the quarterly survey of senior credit officers at 20 dealers covering the period of September to November.

El-Erian: IMF Must Stand Up to 'European Bullying' (CNBC)
"The world needs a strong and legitimate multilateral institution if it is to avoid costly fragmentation; and Europe needs a credible IMF to help it overcome a deepening crisis. This will only be achieved if there is a change next year in the overly cosy relationship between Europe and the IMF," El-Erian wrote. "The IMF must find the courage to resist European bullying; and the rest of the world must help by making a collective effort to accelerate reform of the institution’s governance and representation. Only then would an enhanced IMF be able to help the global economy back to growth and jobs," he added.

On 10th Anniversary, Euro Takes Blame for Economy (AP)
Just three years ago, the euro was being praised as the can-do currency that had delivered unprecedented prosperity in Europe. Now, it's widely derided as a hugely flawed experiment in the wake of a debt crisis that's threatening its very existence — an uncomfortable backdrop as the currency's notes and coins hit their first decade in circulation on Jan. 1. The question is: Will it get to its 11th birthday, let alone 20th?

Russia Submerges Nuclear Submarine to Douse Blaze (Reuters)
Russia said it had brought a blaze aboard a nuclear submarine under control on Friday by partially submerging the vessel at a naval shipyard, after hours of dousing the flames with water from helicopters and tug boats. The submarine's nuclear reactors had been shut down and posed no danger, officials said. However, nine people were injured when fighting the fire and taken to hospital.

Fox apologizes to Jews for Facebook poll on Jesus (AP)
Fox Latin America has apologized for a poll on whether Jews killed Jesus Christ that one of its staffers put on a Facebook page promoting the National Geographic Channel's Christmas special. The poll asked readers who they think is responsible for the death of Christ: Pontius Pilate, The Jewish People or the High Priests...Fox Spokeswoman Guadalupe Lucero apologized on behalf of National Geographic, saying the poll was removed immediately and measures have been taken to prevent such incidents in the future.

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Holiday Bell: 7.3.15

Greece, Greece, Greece; Russia; Dominique Strauss-Kahn; Fireworks; "Joey Chestnut is focused on gobbling wieners after splitting from fiancee"; and more.