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Opening Bell: 01.05.12

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Positive Signs For Jobs Market (WSJ)
Fewer people sought new unemployment benefits in the U.S. last week, further signaling that the labor market began to stabilize as 2011 drew to a close. Separately, the private sector added a white-hot 325,000 jobs in December, according to Automatic Data Processing's monthly hiring report. Initial jobless claims fell by 15,000 to a seasonally adjusted 372,000 in the week ended Dec. 31, the Labor Department said Thursday. Last week was the eighth time in the past nine that new claims came in below the 400,000 mark, a positive sign as economists generally believe claims must remain consistently below that level to signal a real turnaround.

Hungary Is Open To IMF Loan (WSJ)
Coming under intensifying financial pressure, Hungary signaled Thursday it was open to negotiating a standby loan with the International Monetary Fund without setting any pre-conditions and that it might even back away from a controversial central-bank law that has blocked aid talks. In an attempt to bring the country back from the brink of a currency crisis, Tamas Fellegi, a minister without portfolio and the country's chief negotiator with the fund, said Hungary was ready to discuss the central-bank law that has become a major stumbling block in talks with the IMF and the European Union. The IMF and the EU say the law threatens the independence of the central bank.

Citi Analyst Lures Hot IPOs (WSJ)
When real-estate website Zillow Inc. was looking for a Wall Street bank to lead its $80 million initial public offering in July, Citigroup Inc. rose to the top of the list. A main attraction: the bank's top-ranked Internet analyst, Mark Mahaney. Mr. Mahaney "is widely regarded as one of the most influential analysts covering the Internet, and, yes, that was absolutely part" of Zillow's choice of Citi, said Spencer Rascoff, Zillow's chief executive, in an interview. During the sales process for the shares, Mr. Mahaney "probably spent 100 hours on calls with investors," Mr. Rascoff recalled.

China No Country for Old Men as Government Battles ‘Demographic Tsunami’ (Bloomberg)
Wang Fuchuan lies in bed wearing a quilted black jacket, with two comforters pulled up to his chin to keep out the chilly November air. The heating at Beijing Songtang Caring Hospice is broken and the 90-year-old’s nostrils are stuffed with toilet paper to stop them dripping. Cockroaches scurry across the floor of his room, which has no running water or toilet. His possessions, a few articles of clothing, are in a plastic bag under his bed next to a pink wash bowl with a sliver of soap. His only entertainment is a transistor radio. Wang counts himself lucky...The latest government census shows 178 million Chinese were over 60 in 2009. That figure could reach 437 million -- one third of the population -- by 2050, the United Nations forecasts. While the elderly were looked after in the past by their children, urbanization and the nation’s one-child policy have eroded the tradition of family care. “It’s a demographic tsunami,” says Joseph J. Christian, a fellow at the Asia Center at the Harvard Kennedy School, and former DLA Piper partner in Hong Kong, who specializes in senior housing issues in China. “The whole multi generational housing model has disappeared.”

Predictions: Greece, Italy Will Default; S&P Will Top 1400 (CNBC)
What kind of surprises are in store for 2012? If Byron Wien, vice chairman of Blackstone Advisory Partners, is correct: Italy and Greece will default on their debt but will remain in the European Union. The Standard & Poor's 500 will get above 1400. Unemployment will fall below 8 percent and GDP growth will top 3 percent. Mitt Romney will be the GOP nominee for president. He will be defeated by President Obama — providing those predictions on unemployment and GDP come true. These are some of the items on Byron Wien's annual list of "surprises." Wien told CNBC Wednesday he remains optimistic about a rising stock market in 2012, an improving U.S. economy and a Europe that manages to come up with a long-lasting plan to solve its financial problems.

Congress Presses Rating Firms (WSJ)
The chairman of the House Financial Services subcommittee on oversight and investigations sent letters to Moody's Corp. Chief Executive Raymond McDaniel and Standard & Poor's Ratings Services President Douglas Peterson seeking detailed information about the firms' procedures for determining MF Global's credit worthiness.

Multifront Attack Awaits Romney (WSJ)
Mr. Paul has the money and the organizational heft to damage Mr. Romney with television ads, and Mr. Santorum has the momentum and novelty to take advantage of any weakening in support for the New Hampshire favorite. But Mr. Gingrich promises to wield the sharpest blade. Battered for weeks by attack ads from a pro-Romney outside political group, the onetime House Speaker arrived in the Granite State full of venom for the Romney campaign. Pledging effectively to team up to undermine Mr. Romney's credibility, he said on MSNBC that he and Mr. Santorum were "going to be defining Romney out of the mainstream of the Republican Party."

Hildebrand Battles Reputation Risk as Wife’s Trades Hurt Guardian Status (Bloomberg)
Hildebrand, head of the Swiss National Bank (SNBN), will today break his silence on his wife’s purchase of dollars in August, the SNB said. That trade came three weeks before policy makers announced their biggest franc intervention since the 1970s. While an SNB probe cleared him of wrongdoing, some lawmakers and academics say the 105 year-old institution must do more to move away from a culture of bank secrecy.

Man Stabbed Due to Not Knowing of Beyonce & Jay-Z's Marriage (Fox)
A fight over a music video led to a Garfield Heights man being stabbed outside a Parma apartment on New Year Eve. Det. Marty Compton of the Parma Police Department tells Fox 8 News that Ronald Deaver, 31, of Parma, was arrested and charged with felonious assault for allegedly stabbing a 48-year-old Garfield Heights man following an argument. Det. Compton says the fight began because the victim did not know that singer Beyonce's husband is rapper Jay-Z.

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Opening Bell: 11.27.12

Greece's Creditors Reach Aid Deal (WSJ) struck a deal in Brussels to cut Greece's debt to a level below 124% of gross domestic product by 2020, officials said. To satisfy IMF concerns that Greece's debt must fall even more to be considered "sustainable," euro-zone ministers agreed to bring the government's debt to under 110% of GDP in 2022. The deal will allow Greece to receive loan payments of about €44 billion ($57 billion) to be paid in three installments early 2013, tied to Greece's implementation of the continuing measures, said Eurogroup president Jean-Claude Juncker. The deal will lower Greece's debt through a mix of interest-rate cuts on loans to Athens, a buyback of Greek debt at sharply discounted prices and the European Central Bank returning profits linked to its holdings of Greek bonds to the Greek government. London Bankers Bracing for Leaner Bonuses Than New York (Bloomberg) nvestment bankers and traders at European banks should expect at least a 15 percent cut in pay this year, while U.S. lenders may leave compensation unchanged, three consultants surveyed by Bloomberg said. That’s because bonus pools at European banks may be reduced by as much as half, while those at U.S. firms, which can cushion the impact of falling fees in the region with earnings from home, may fall 20 percent, they said. “The real split is coming, and we will see the quantum divide this year,” said Tom Gosling, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP in London, referring to the difference in pay between the two financial centers. “U.S. regulators don’t have the same obsession with pay structures that European regulators have.” Dimon Would Be Best to Lead Treasury in Crisis, Buffett Says (Bloomberg) “If we did run into problems in markets, I think he would actually be the best person you could have in the job,” Buffett said in response to a question about Dimon from Charlie Rose, according to the transcript of an interview that was scheduled to air yesterday on PBS. “World leaders would have confidence in him.” [...] Dimon, once dubbed Obama’s “favorite banker” by the New York Times, said in a 2011 CNBC interview that he could never work as Treasury secretary and was “not suited to politics.” Carney Abondons A Haven, Leaping Into British Storm (WSJ) Philipp Hildebrand, the former head of the Swiss National Bank, described Mr. Carney as one who "speaks bluntly and politely." The son of a professor and a teacher, Mr. Carney grew up in Edmonton, the capital of Canada's western province, Alberta. He played hockey as an undergraduate at Harvard. Mr. Carney has close links to Britain, having studied in Oxford University in the early 1990s. He worked for a time in Goldman Sachs' London office...Known as a diplomat, Mr. Carney, who supports the Edmonton Oilers NHL team, in his Ottawa office displays a mock street sign alluding to one of Canada's other pro teams, the Ottawa Senators. He cultivates an everyman image, recently discussing his musical tastes—from AC/DC to the hip-hop group Down with Webster—in local media interviews. Fiscal Cliff Compromise Elusive as Congress Returns (Bloomberg) “There’s still a great deal of ground that has to be covered before they get anywhere near a budget deal, and time is running” short, said Phil English, a former Republican congressman from Pennsylvania and now a lobbyist at Arent Fox LLP in Washington. The Secret Powers Of The Son-In-Law (WSJ) In couples where the husband initially reported being close to his wife's parents, the risk of divorce over the next 16 years was 20% lower than for the group overall. Yet when the wife reported being close to her in-laws, that seemed to have the opposite effect: The risk of divorce with these couples was 20% higher. Dr. Orbuch has a possible explanation: The wife who feels close with her husband's parents may find it difficult to set boundaries and over time may come to see their close relationship with her as meddling. "Because relationships are so important to women, their identity as a wife and mother is central to their being," says Dr. Orbuch, author of the 2012 book "Finding Love Again: 6 Simple Steps to a New and Happy Relationship." "They interpret what their in-laws say and do as interference into their identity as a spouse and parent." Men, for the most part, don't have this problem. Their identity as a father and a husband is often secondary to their identity as a provider, Dr. Orbuch says. As a result, they don't tend to take what their in-laws do so personally. Chicago, Illinois charges woman $105,761 for parking infractions she did not commit (TN) Jennifer Fitzgerald is fighting back against the city, her ex-boyfriend and United Airlines with a lawsuit filed November 2 in Cook County Circuit Court. According to the complaint, the somewhat confusing story starts when her former boyfriend Brandon Preveau, bought a 1999 Chevy Monte Carlo from Fitzgerald's uncle for $600 in 2008. Despite paying all the fees associated with owning a vehicle (registration, title and insurance) he put the vehicle's registration in Fitzgerald's name -- something the West Side Chicago resident claims was done without her knowledge...the couple broke up at the start of 2009 and Preveau took the car with him after their split. He used the Monte Carlo to drive to work at O'Hare Airport where he was employed by United Airlines. Preveau would leave the vehicle in O'Hare parking lot E, a secured outdoor lot surrounded by high chain link fencing, that is open to the flying public but also utilized by airport employees. The parking lot is owned by the city of Chicago and operated by Standard Parking Corporation, but according to the complaint, United Airlines leases spaces in the lot for use by airline employees. Unbeknownst to Fitzgerald, Preveau abandoned the vehicle. According to the complaints, "On or before November 17, 2009, Brandon drove the automobile into the parking lot and never drove it out again." While the car Preveau drove began receiving parking tickets at the O'Hare lot as early as May 23, 2009, the key date for this story is November 17, 2009. On that day the vehicle was issued seven different parking tickets including being in a hazardous and dilapidated condition, no city sticker, broken headlights, missing or cracked windows, expired plates, being an abandoned vehicle and most importantly a violation for parking a vehicle for more than 30 days in a city-owned lot. Intrade, Facing Charges, Won't Take U.S. Bets (WSJ) The online-predictions exchange Intrade—known for offbeat markets on presidential politics and the Academy Awards—said it would no longer accept bets from U.S. residents. The move came just hours after U.S. regulators filed a civil complaint against the firm over its commodities-focused markets. "We are sorry to announce that due to legal and regulatory pressures, Intrade can no longer allow U.S. residents to participate in our real-money prediction markets," the Dublin-based company said in a statement on its website. Intrade said that existing customers must exit their trades and close their accounts. In China, Hidden Risk of 'Shadow Finance' (WSJ) Shadow finance in China totals about 20 trillion yuan, according to Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., or about a third the current size of the country's bank-lending market. In 2008, such informal lending represented only 5% of total bank lending. The sector is lightly regulated and opaque, raising concerns about massive loan defaults amid a softening economy, with ancillary effects on the country's banks. Harvard Doctor Turns Felon After Lure of Insider Trading (Bloomberg) Today, Joseph F. "Chip" Skowron III, 43, is serving a five-year term for insider trading at the federal prison at Minersville, Pennsylvania. At FrontPoint, Skowron lied to his bosses and law enforcement authorities, cost more than 35 people their jobs and stooped to slipping envelopes of cash to an accomplice. FrontPoint is gone. Morgan Stanley, which once owned FrontPoint, is seeking more than $65 million from Skowron, whose net worth a year ago was $22 million. Until he’s a free man, his wife of 16 years will have to care for their four children and Rocky, their golden retriever, on her own...Health care has become America’s sweet spot for insider traders like Skowron. Among researchers, physicians, government officials and corporate executives, the lure of easy money in health-care insider trading has become epidemic. Since 2008, about 400 people were sued by regulators or charged with insider trading; of those, at least 94 passed or received tips involving pharmaceutical, biotechnology or other health-care stocks. Man Arrested For Saying He Had Dynamite in His Luggage at Miami International Airport (NBC) A man was arrested for telling a TACA ticket agent that he had dynamite in his luggage, which prompted the partial evacuation of Concourse J at Miami International Airport on Monday, Miami-Dade Police said. Alejandro Leon Hurtado, 63, a doctor from Guatemala, faces a charge of false report bomb/explosives at airport, the arrest affidavit said. It wasn't immediately known if Hurtado had an attorney. The ticket agent had just accepted Hurtado luggage, when he asked him about whether it contained hazardous materials. Hurtado answered that he had dynamite in the baggage, and the ticket agent asked him again if he had dynamite in his bag, and he replied that he did and started laughing, the affidavit said. "Once the Defendant was told that police were going to be called the Defendant stated that he was joking," the affidavit said. Hurtado admitted he did say he had dynamite in his bag, but that it was a joke. Hurtado was in custody on an immigration hold Monday night, according to online Miami-Dade Corrections records.

Opening Bell: 05.24.12

Europe Plans Girds Greece Exit (WSJ) Emerging from Wednesday night's informal European Union summit, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti said most leaders had backed issuing common debt, or euro-zone bonds, to help support troubled members. But Germany and others opposed them and demanded Greece do more. "We want Greece to remain in the euro zone," German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters after nearly eight hours of talks. "But the precondition is that Greece upholds the commitments it has made." Citi: Greek To Exit Euro, New Currency To Fall 60% (CNBC) Greece will leave the euro zone next year and the country's new currency will "immediately fall by 60 percent," according to Citi chief economist Willem Buiter. "The elections (on June 17th) will not produce a viable government that can follow the troika plan, leading to a stalemate between the Greek government and official creditors, and to the suspension of EFSF-IMF funding,” Buiter wrote in Citi's latest Global Economic Outlook. Slim Family Sees European Crisis As Good Time To Invest (Bloomberg) Carlos Slim sees Europe’s debt crisis as a “good moment” to apply his strategy of investing in times of turmoil, said the billionaire’s son, America Movil SAB Co-Chairman Carlos Slim Domit. America Movil, controlled by the elder Slim, announced a $3.4 billion bid to increase its stake in former Dutch phone monopoly Royal KPN NV earlier this month. While the acquisition would be Slim’s first major European foray, it follows a longstanding pattern, his son said. America Movil tries to stay as efficient and financially sound as possible so that it can quickly capitalize on fresh opportunities, he said. “When hard times come, you can look at opportunities in a very agile way,” Slim Domit, 45, said in an interview this week in Mexico City. “Europe is in a good moment.” After Facebook Fiasco, NYSE-Nasdaq Rivalry Heats Up (WSJ) "In the short term, if I'm deciding which platform to go with, I'd think twice at this point" before choosing Nasdaq, said Sang Lee, managing partner with Aite Group, a consultancy that researches exchanges. Investors Leery Of Paulson's Big Gold Bet (NYP) Investors are upset over Paulson’s huge gold positions — specifically, his outsize holding of AngloGold Ashanti, down 20 percent this year. That has dragged down two of Paulson’s funds. “I would be happier if he cut the gold position in half,” says one investor who put in a notice to take his money out of the fund in June. “He would have been up 4 percent in the first quarter if it weren’t for the goddamned gold.” Auction Of Ronald Reagan's Blood Stirs Debate (WSJ) Since his death in 2004 at age 93, President Ronald Reagan's popularity has only increased. Republican candidates invoke his name and policies. About 400,000 visitors a year flock to his hilltop museum outside Los Angeles, where a gift shop sells biographies, photos and his favorite jelly beans. Many people, it seems, want a piece of Mr. Reagan. But now, the sale of a very personal effect of the late president is stirring a controversy. Bidding for a vial purported to hold Mr. Reagan's blood topped $14,000 Wednesday in an online auction scheduled to end Thursday—if the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation doesn't try to block the sale first. PFC Auctions, based in the British Channel Islands, is offering the vial, said to have been obtained from a Maryland laboratory after the failed assassination attempt on Mr. Reagan in 1981. The sample was sent to the lab to test Mr. Reagan's blood for lead. A lab employee kept the vial as a memento and later passed it on to her adult child, according to the auction site. The head of the Reagan Foundation, a nonprofit group, called the sale "a craven act" and is fighting to stop it. It is uncertain what claims, if any, the foundation may have on the vial, which appears to contain dried blood residue, as depicted in a picture on the auction site...The seller, an admirer of Mr. Reagan's free-market policies, said in comments on the auction page, "I was a real fan of Reaganomics and felt that Pres. Reagan himself would rather see me sell it rather than donating it." Morgan Stanley, Others Make Profit of $100 Million Stabilizing Facebook (WSJ) These gains are expected to be offset somewhat by losses associated with reimbursing clients who lost money because of technology snafus at the Nasdaq Stock Market in Facebook's first day of trading, one of these people added. The Next Treasury Secretary (NYT) On the Democratic side, possibilities include Laurence D. Fink of BlackRock, the asset manager; Erskine Bowles, who served on President Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform; Daniel K. Tarullo, a member of the Federal Reserve Board; and Roger C. Altman, the investment banker. For the Republicans, the front-runners include Robert B. Zoellick, the head of the World Bank; John B. Taylor, the Stanford economist; Glenn Hubbard, the head of Columbia Business School and a Mitt Romney adviser; and Kevin Warsh, a former member of the Federal Reserve Board. Spain To Recapitalize Bankia (WSJ) The Spanish government will provide about €9 billion ($11.4 billion) to cover Bankia SA's provisioning needs, Finance Minister Luis de Guindos said Wednesday, in the latest sign that Spain's economic deterioration is forcing authorities to inject more public funds to bail out ailing banks. Since Bankia won't be able to meet provisioning and capital needs, Spain's Fund for Orderly Bank Restructuring will be ready to inject capital into Bankia's unlisted parent company, Banco Financiero & de Ahorros SA, which holds the company's most toxic real-estate assets, Mr. de Guindos told legislators in Parliament. Indian State OKs Shooting Tiger Poachers On Sight (AP) A state in western India has declared war on animal poaching by allowing forest guards to shoot hunters on sight in an effort to curb rampant attacks on tigers and other wildlife. The government in Maharashtra says injuring or killing suspected poachers will no longer be considered a crime. Forest guards should not be "booked for human rights violations when they have taken action against poachers," Maharashtra Forest Minister Patangrao Kadam said Tuesday. The state also will send more rangers and jeeps into the forest, and will offer secret payments to informers who give tips about poachers and animal smugglers, he said.