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Opening Bell: 12.05.11

Italy Plan Opens Pivotal Week For Euro (WSJ)
Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, in his first test since taking office two weeks ago, outlined a three-year plan made up of €30 billion ($40.2 billion) in tax increases, spending cuts, pension overhauls and growth-boosting measures. The package—equivalent to 1.9% of Italy's €1.6 trillion gross domestic product—will likely be followed by Franco-German proposals on Monday to create a new regime for budget policies in the euro zone, which European leaders could adopt at a summit on Dec. 8-9. Leaders hope a deal could pave the way for a massive European Central Bank intervention in government bond markets that is aimed at stopping the exodus of private capital and reversing the rise of countries' borrowing costs to ruinous levels. "On the whole—considering that Monti's cabinet has been in place for 18 days or so—this package amounts to a valid and rapid first step in the right direction," said Vladimir Pillonca, an economist with Société Générale...Under Mr. Monti's plan, the retirement age for women with private-sector jobs would be raised by 2018 to 66 years old, from 60 today, a change that would align the retirement ages of men and women. Labor Minister Elsa Fornero broke into tears during the news conference, saying the pension changes were necessary to avoid "collective impoverishment." [At left, a montage the Journal put together of Fornero in said tears, in what presumably is the first in new series of government officials and private sector executives called "I'm Not Crying, You're Crying."]

Monti’s Austerity Debut Risks Italian Wrath (Bloomberg)
“The huge public debt of Italy isn’t the fault of Europe, it’s the fault of Italians,” Monti, who took over last month after former Premier Silvio Berlusconi resigned, told a news conference as he detailed the package yesterday. “Together, we will make it.”

Merkel Heads to Paris as EU Seeks Debt Strategy (Bloomberg)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy will hold talks in Paris today starting at 1:30 p.m. over lunch.

Fed Prepares To Make Itself Perfectly Clear (WSJ)
Federal Reserve officials are close to completing an overhaul of how they signal their policy plans to the public...They are likely to spend much of their Dec. 13 meeting ironing out unresolved pieces of the new communications strategy and seem on pace to unveil it early next year. They have two major objectives: Be more explicit about the Fed's goals for inflation and employment, and articulate more clearly the interest-rate strategy to meet those goals.

Tony Bennett’s Nude Lady Gaga Sketch Could Soon Be In Your Living Room (WSJ)
Stocking stuffer?

Eight Ferraris Crash at ‘Gathering of Narcissists’ (Bloomberg)
Eight Ferraris and a Lamborghini were part of a 14-car crash in Japan yesterday that wrecked more than $1 million of vehicles. “The accident occurred when the driver of a red Ferrari was switching from the right lane to the left and skidded,” said Mitsuyoshi Isejima, executive officer for Yamaguchi Prefecture’s Expressway Traffic Police unit. “It was a gathering of narcissists.” The drivers were aged between 37 and 60 years old, he said. The accident, at 10:16 a.m. on the rain-soaked Chugoku Expressway in Yamaguchi Prefecture at the western tip of Japan’s main island of Honshu, also involved three Mercedes Benz (DAI) vehicles and two Toyotas, police said. The convoy was heading from Kyushu to Hiroshima when the accident occurred. No fatalities were reported and 10 people sustained bruising and minor injuries.

Senate Democrats To Offer New Tax Cut Plan (Reuters)
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, a Democrat, said that the offer would be a "serious attempt to move this ball forward," and avoid a Dec. 31 expiration of the popular tax cut.

Chinese Rating Agency Keep Triple Rating For China (Reuters)
Beijing-based Dagong Global Credit Rating has kept its top-notch sovereign rating for China despite hard-landing concerns about the Chinese economy. Dagong kept its AAA rating for China's foreign currency debt and its AA+ rating for the country's local currency debt, noting in a press statement that "the fundamental character of rapid economic growth (in China) has not been changed." Moody's has an Aa3 rating on China's sovereign debt, and Standard and Poor's rates China's long-term sovereign debt as AA-.

Lehman Closes In On Final Board (WSJ)
The new board, made up of seven experts in restructuring, real estate and derivatives who lack Lehman ties, will oversee the liquidation of tens of billions of dollars in assets for the benefit of Lehman creditors, the people said.

Putin's Party Clings To Reduced Majority In Russia (Reuters)
In the biggest electoral setback for Putin since he rose to power in 1999, the Central E lection Commission said United Russia was set to lose 77 seats in the State Duma and end up with 238, a slim majority in the 450-member lower house. Medvedev, who led the party into the election at Putin's behest, said voters had sent "a signal to the authorities" and hinted officials in regions where the party did badly could face dismissal if they do not shape up.

Cash Wad Takes Bullet For Suspect Drug Dealer (NYP)
A New Jersey man’s huge wad of cash kept a bullet from ripping into his thigh. But it wasn’t all good luck for Jaquan Taylor, 21, of Paterson — who had a $3,400 bankroll in his pocket — after cops allegedly found heroin and pot in his jacket, leading to his arrest for possession with intent to distribute. Taylor was shot in the parking lot of the Holiday Inn on Route 46 West in Totowa at 3 a.m. on Saturday.

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Opening Bell: 12.17.15

Martin Shkreli arrested; Beijing stock-market rescue probed; Iranian bonds are coming; Putin loves Trump; and more.

Opening Bell: 03.01.13

Congress Leaders To Meet With Obama As Budget Cuts Begin (Bloomberg) Democrats and Republicans are in a standoff over how to replace the cuts totaling $1.2 trillion over nine years, $85 billion of which would occur in the remaining seven months of this fiscal year. Republicans reject Democrats’ call for higher taxes on top earners to replace part of the spending reductions. “Middle-class families can’t keep paying the price for dysfunction in Washington,” Obama said in a statement yesterday. The president has until 11:59 p.m. to issue the order officially putting the cuts into effect. “How much more money do we want to steal from the American people to fund more government?” Boehner said at a news conference in Washington yesterday. “I’m for no more.” The White House meeting follows the Senate’s rejection yesterday of a pair of partisan proposals to replace the spending reductions. No additional congressional action is planned before the start of the cuts, to be split between defense and non-defense spending. Fiscal Pain to Be Parceled Out Unevenly (WSJ) Economies in and around the nation's capital are likely to feel the most pain. Federal spending accounts for about a fifth of the economic output of Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia, according to the Pew Center on the States. Other areas likely to be hit hard are Hawaii and Alaska, which have a heavy military presence, and states such as New Mexico, Kentucky and Alabama, which have major defense operations or substantial military contracting. Struggling Groupon Ousts Its Quirky CEO (WSJ) Mr. Mason didn't return calls for comment. In a memo to employees that was by turns tongue-in-cheek and rueful, he said, "After four and a half intense and wonderful years as CEO of Groupon, I've decided that I'd like to spend more time with my family. Just kidding—I was fired today." 'Girls' Gone Under (NYP) “Girls Gone Wild” founder Joe Francis has put his video empire into bankruptcy in a bid to wiggle out of some $16 million in debt — most of it owed to casino magnate Steve Wynn. Wynn’s camp claims Francis owes closer to $30 million, including $2 million for unpaid gambling debts and $7.5 million in defamation damages. Wynn first hauled Francis to court to get him to pay the $2 million debt he racked up during a 2007 gambling binge. He sued again for defamation after Francis blabbed to gossip site TMZ that Wynn threatened to kill him and bury him in the desert. Wynn won two defamation awards for $7.5 million and $20 million, although the latter wasn’t listed in the Chapter 11 filing. Michael Weaver, a spokesman for Wynn Las Vegas, said the judgments are against Francis “personally” and not the company. “Consequently, these recent bankruptcy filings by the GGW companies will not slow our efforts to collect on our judgments against Mr. Francis,” he said. New York Investigating Bank of America for Mortgages (Reuters) Bank of America said in a securities filing on Thursday that the New York State Attorney General was investigating the bank over its purchase, securitization and underwriting of home loans. SEC Scrutinizing Chesapeake Energy (WSJ) The SEC notified Chesapeake in December that it was stepping up an informal inquiry into Aubrey McClendon's ability to invest in wells that the company drills, the company disclosed in a regulatory filing. The agency has issued subpoenas for information and testimony to Chesapeake, the country's second-largest natural-gas producer. Mornings Not For Erin Burnett, Demanding Sizable Buyout (NYP) Erin Burnett made her morning-show debut yesterday on CNN with Chris Cuomo for Pope Benedict XVI’s last day on the job. But it doesn’t mean she’s going to end up there permanently, sources tell The Post’s Michael Shain. It seems Burnett is digging in her high heels and refusing the new morning assignment. She has a clause in her contract that requires CNN to air her show in prime time. If new boss Jeff Zucker wants her to get up at 4 a.m., Erin is demanding a sizable chunk of cash — more than her $2.5 million salary — to buy her out of the prime-time clause. Insiders say Zucker believes she should be grateful she’s being offered a marquee job and he has started to look elsewhere for an anchor to partner with Cuomo. Burnett is telling her staff she doesn’t want to go to the morning. “What she means is she doesn’t want to go at the old price,” sniffed a source. Druckenmiller Sees Storm Worse Than ’08 as Retirees Steal (Bloomberg) Druckenmiller, 59, said the mushrooming costs of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, with unfunded liabilities as high as $211 trillion, will bankrupt the nation’s youth and pose a much greater danger than the country’s $16 trillion of debt currently being debated in Congress. “While everybody is focusing on the here and now, there’s a much, much bigger storm that’s about to hit,” Druckenmiller said in an hour-long interview with Stephanie Ruhle on Bloomberg Television’s Market Makers. “I am not against seniors. What I am against is current seniors stealing from future seniors.” Druckenmiller said unsustainable spending will eventually result in a crisis worse than the financial meltdown of 2008, when $29 trillion was erased from global equity markets. What’s particularly troubling, he said, is that government expenditures related to programs for the elderly rocketed in the past two decades, even before the first baby boomers, those born in 1946, started turning 65. Lloyds CEO Links Bonus To Stake Sale (WSJ) Chief Executive António Horta-Osório said he is "very confident" U.K. taxpayers will get their money back, referring to the stake of about 40% the government took in the bank following a series of bailouts at the height of the crisis. He requested that his £1.49 million ($2.26 million) bonus only be paid if the government sells at least a third of its holdings in Lloyds at a share price above 61 pence. The average buy-in price for the U.K. government was 63.1 pence, according to U.K. Financial Investments, a body that manages the government's stake in Lloyds. Unemployment Worsens In Euro Zone (WSJ) Eurostat, the European Union's statistics agency, said 11.9% of the euro zone's workforce was unemployed in January, the highest percentage for the 17 countries that make up the currency bloc since records began in 1995. The figure is higher than the jobless rate of 11.8% in December. Wilbur Ross: Italy Has Choice Of 'Two Clowns' (CNBC) ...in the wake of the unresolved Italian election, the WL Ross chairman said he's worried the next leader of the economically-troubled nation is a choice of two clowns — former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and comedian Beppe Grillo. "One, an acknowledged clown, and one may be inadvertent clown. And until that gets resolved, there's a great danger that the nice reforms that Mr. Monti put in will just get rolled back." Truck crashes on I-80 in Reno, spilling Heinz ketchup 'everywhere' (RGJ) A tractor trailer carrying thousands of bottles of Heinz ketchup crashed on Interstate 80 near the Robb Drive overpass this afternoon, spilling its red contents onto the freeway and snarling traffic in the process. “I have red everywhere on the highway,” said Sgt. Janay Sherven with the Nevada Highway Patrol. “No bodies, no people, just ketchup.” There were no injuries in the accident, which happened when the driver of the semi-truck likely overcorrected to avoid another car while traveling eastbound, she said. The truck hit the center median and then knocked over a light pole that slashed open the left side of the trailer. As a result, thousands of bottles and cans of ketchup were splattered onto the road like a bad horror movie. ‘“The scene looks pretty bad as far as color goes,” Sherven said.

Opening Bell: 05.25.12

J.P. Morgan Unit Made Risky Bets on Firms (WSJ) The JPMorgan unit whose wrong-way bets on corporate credit cost the bank more than $2 billion includes a group that has invested in financially challenged companies, including LightSquared Inc., the wireless broadband provider that this month filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection...The Special Investments Group last year took a $150 million stake in closely held LightSquared, in a deal that J.P. Morgan lost money on, according to a person familiar with the bank. Both Campaigns Seize on Romney’s Years at Bain (NYT) ...the Romney campaign is actively recruiting testimonials from workers who have had positive experiences with Bain. It is getting ready to release advertising highlighting Bain’s marquee success stories, like the turnaround of Staples. It is considering seeking out middle-class surrogates — a fireman or members of a teachers union, for instance — who would be willing to talk about how Bain managed and increased the size of their pension funds, a lesser-known aspect of private equity...Mr. Romney’s advisers are betting that if they stay out of the nuances of private equity and tell a story about turning around failing companies, they can transform the Bain attacks into a narrative that underscores Mr. Romney’s image as a skilled executive who can steer a troubled economy back to prosperity. ECB Official: On Greece, ‘We Are Working on Plan A’ (CNBC) "It's our strong preference that Greece stays in the euro zone...We are working on plan A," Joerg Asmussen said in the interview yesterday. "I always work on plan A. I am not speculating, I am working to make plan A successful," he added. What Would A Greek Exit Mean For The US Economy? (Reuters) usiness investment would stall, banks would pull back on credit, and lost wealth as equity prices fall would cause consumers to slow their spending. Commodity prices would plunge, helping importers but hurting growth in export economies. Merkel May Be Persuaded On Euro Debt-Sharing Compromise (Bloomberg) Chancellor Angela Merkel left the door open to a compromise on debt sharing in the euro area as Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti said he can help bring Germany round to acting in Europe’s “common good.” Short Sellers Find Friends In Banks (WSJ) As traders at Morgan Stanley were frantically trying to shore up Facebook Inc.'s FB share price following the company's initial public offering, other managers on the deal were helping short sellers bet that the newly minted stock would fall. Trading desks at Goldman Sachs Group and J.P. Morgan Chase, two of the firms that helped Morgan Stanley underwrite the IPO, were among those lending out Facebook shares that hedge funds needed for short sales, according to people familiar with the matter. While it isn't uncommon for Wall Street firms to make shares available for shorting on IPOs they manage, Morgan Stanley, the lead underwriter, didn't lend shares, according to people familiar with the matter. Escaped monkey holds up flight at JFK for hours (NYP) Monkey business held up a Beijing-bound flight at Kennedy Airport nearly four hours yesterday. A monkey escaped its crate in the cargo hold of an Air China Boeing 747 scheduled to leave Terminal 1 at 4:50 p.m., said Port Authority police. Port Authority emergency services officers and an airport worker caught the monkey and handed it over to the airline. The animal never got out of the jet’s cargo hold. The foot-tall monkey was one of about 50 to 60 being shipped to China for medical research, said police sources. “He was a slippery little beast,” one source said. Bankia Shares Suspended Ahead of Board Meeting (WSJ) EFE news agency reported Thursday that the lender will ask the government for more than €15 billion ($18.80 billion). The bank said it requested the suspension ahead of the meeting, at which it will also approve its 2011 earnings report. The board meeting will begin at 2:30 p.m. GMT. Moody's Downgrades Major Nordic Banks (WSJ) Moody's said the funding and margin issues left the banks susceptible to unexpected losses from which it would be a challenge for them to rebuild capital. It also highlighted risks to asset quality, with the Swedish economy exposed to weakness in Europe and the banks' variable-rate mortgage books vulnerable to interest rate changes. USDA Is a Tough Collector When Mortgages Go Bad (WSJ) Unlike private firms, the USDA doesn't need permission from a court to start collecting on unpaid debts. It can in some cases seize government benefits and tax refunds before a foreclosure is completed. After foreclosure, the USDA can go after unpaid balances, even in states that limit such actions by private lenders. Nasdaq CEO went ahead with Facebook IPO despite signs new software had bugs (NYP) During a conference call on Monday evening, Nasdaq officials said that they were unaware of any problems with the system. However, sources said that there may have been signs that the system wasn’t glitch-free even at the 11th hour and that Nasdaq opted to roll the dice. “They may have thought they did not have any material issues with the systems,” said one exchange platform official. Lacrosse Party-Boy Image Worries Coaches Who See Slower Growth (Bloomberg) “It’s really important that the lacrosse world grows up a little bit,” Danowski said from his office in Durham, North Carolina. “We are getting more TV exposure; more people are able to make a living through lacrosse. If we want to be accepted in the mainstream, then it’s time for us to grow up.”

Opening Bell: 1.19.16

Deutsche faces high-speed trading suit; Shkreli calls fraud case against him ‘fictitious’; "Woman faces jail for tagging former in-law on Facebook"; and more.