Opening Bell: 01.23.12

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Lagarde Says Europe Must Boost Firewall (WSJ)
The global economy faces a depression-era collapse in demand if Europe doesn't quickly act to dramatically boost the size of its debt-crisis firewall, implement pro-growth policies and further integrate the euro zone, the head of the International Monetary Fund warned Monday. "It is about avoiding a 1930s moment, in which inaction, insularity, and rigid ideology combine to cause a collapse in global demand," IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said in prepared remarks before the German Council of Foreign Affairs in Berlin. "A moment, ultimately, leading to a downward spiral that could engulf the entire world," she said.

A Sears Wager Stings At Goldman (WSJ)
Clients of Goldman invested about $3.5 billion in Eddie Lampert's hedge fund through a special deal more than four years ago. Goldman invested about $75 million of its own money as part of the arrangement. At the beginning of this year, that investment was down several hundred million dollars, in large part due to a 57% plunge in Sears stock in 2011. Sears is one of the largest investments of Mr. Lampert's fund, ESL Investments Inc., according to the most recent securities filings. A sudden rebound in Sears this year has put Goldman and its clients in the black on the deal, although ESL still trails the average return of rival hedge funds since the Goldman money was invested. Goldman and its investors need to see the Sears rally continue. The reason: They can't withdraw their money until the end of this year, according to terms of the investments. And some analysts are skeptical about whether the recent gains will last.

Former Minister: Greece Won't Abandon Euro (CNBC)
FYI.

Wall Street Pay Gets Even Trickier To Figure (WSJ)
Since the financial crisis, banks have lessened short-term incentives. Base salaries have risen, while bonuses have fallen. And a bigger portion of incentive compensation is now paid in stock that typically vests over three years. While positive for investors, it poses new risks. Higher base salaries mean firms have less flexibility on pay. And by deferring more bonus pay, usually with restricted stock units that are charged over several years as they vest, firms may be locking in compensation expense that isn't matched by future performance. That is a worry since Wall Street is in a state of flux and revenues have been falling. If that continues, expenses from deferred compensation could limit banks' room to maneuver. Firms are paying out an ever-larger share of compensation in deferred-stock—Morgan Stanley in 2010 changed the percentage from 40% of bonuses to about 60%. For 2011, it capped the cash portion of bonuses at $125,000.

French front-runner pledges to cut his pay by 30 per cent as he aims to become next president (Telegraph)
"I like people while others are fascinated by money … I will be the president of the end of privileges," Francois Hollande said, accusing Mr Sarkozy of presiding over the "degradation" of France just days after the country lost its coveted triple A credit rating for government loans. "My real adversary has no name, no face, no party ... it's the world of finance."

Buffett Sings for China, With A Year’s Delay (China Real Time Report)
Warren Buffett sang after all on the online version of China’s annual Spring Festival gala — though the audience wasn’t the one he originally intended. Earlier this month, the gala’s organizers said Mr. Buffett, would sing as part of a new year’s greeting to China’s fast-growing Internet community. On Sunday, the gala’s website featured a video of Mr. Buffett, wearing a dark sweatshirt and sitting in front of what looked like a model train set, playing his ukulele and singing the American folk song “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.” But Mr. Buffett didn’t originally record the song for the gala. Instead, he recorded it for a charity event from a year ago, said Wu Zheng, a Chinese media executive and friend of Mr. Buffett. Originally — as Mr. Wu told China Real Time earlier this month — Mr. Buffett objected to repurposing the video for the new year’s audience. Mr. Buffett appears to have changed his mind: Mr. Wu said Sunday that Mr. Buffett later gave his assent to use the video in the gala.

Bull with flaming balls of wax attached to head fatally gores man in eastern Spain (AP)
A flaming-horned bull trampled and fatally gored a man early Saturday during a festival in eastern Spain, an official said. Large balls of flaming wax are traditionally affixed to the beasts’ heads before they are let loose to rampage through squares and narrow streets in such festivals...Many towns in east and northeastern Spain celebrate feasts with “toros embolados,” or “flaming bulls,” which feature the animals racing around and shaking their heads as a reaction to flames or fireworks attached to or close to their horns. At these regional festivals, flaming-horned bulls are taunted and teased by rowdy crowds in bullrings, town squares or down streets.

EU to Ban Iran Oil Imports Over Nuclear Program (Bloomberg)
European Union foreign ministers agreed to ban oil imports from Iran starting July 1 as part of measures to ratchet up the pressure on the Persian Gulf nation’s nuclear program, the 27-nation bloc said in a statement. The EU will freeze assets of the Iranian central bank in Europe as well as of eight other entities and ban the trade in gold, precious metals, diamonds and petrochemical products from Iran, the EU said.

RIM CEOs Give Up Top Posts In Shuffle (WSJ)
RIM announced that Mr. Lazaridis, who in 1984 co-founded the company using a loan from his parents, and Mr. Balsillie, who joined him in 1992, had stepped down as executives and had relinquished their roles as co-chairmen. The board named Thorsten Heins, previously one of two chief operating officers, to be chief executive, the company said.

Goldman’s O’Neill Sees Investors Adopting His Bullish US Stance (CNBC)
“I spent most of this past week in New York, and to my slight surprise, there appears to be some shift in the mood about the state of life,” wrote O’Neill in his ‘Viewpoints’ letter to clients. “Whether this is because it is the start of the year, asset prices have been perkier or there is some recognition that the U.S. economy and other parts of the world are not as bleak as the second half of 2010 is not so clear. It was certainly quite nice to hear and, in my judgement, is more reflective of what is going on.”

Obama Paying Bush Interest Limits Debt Debate (Bloomberg)
The U.S. bond market is neutralizing budget deficits as an election-year campaign weapon. Interest payments will cost the government 3.1 percent of gross domestic product this year, according to Office of Management and Budget and International Monetary Fund data compiled by Bloomberg. That’s down from 4.8 percent in 1991, the highest in the past 50 years, during George H.W. Bush’s presidency. Since 1980, the only incumbent with a lower ratio than Barack Obama was George W. Bush in 2004.

Carnival offers survivors of doomed cruise Costa Concordia 30% off future cruise (NYDN)
Survivors of the Costa Concordia wreck are being offered 30% off future cruises with the company — a sales pitch that was not received with much gratitude Sunday. “It is a ridiculous and insulting offer,” survivor Brian Page, a retired British accountant, told The Telegraph of London, which first reported the discount offer. “The company is not only going to refund everybody, but they will offer a 30% discount on future cruises if they want to stay loyal to the company,” said a spokesman for Costa Cruises, a subsidiary of industry leader Carnival Cruise Lines. But survivors want considerably more than a third off another cruise. They plan to file a class-action suit Wednesday in Miami, where Carnival is based, seeking $160,000 a passenger — or almost $513 million if all 3,206 passengers were to be paid. The cruise line blames hapless Capt. Francesco Schettino for running the luxury liner on to rocks off the Tuscan coast on Jan. 13, holding him fully responsible for killing at least 30 people. But Schettino told a judge last week that his bosses not only knew he was going to sail perilously close to the island of Giglio — they told him to do it as a form of “advertising” for the cruise line.

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Opening Bell: 06.26.12

China's Officials Forced To Sell Luxury Cars (FT) Cash-strapped local governments in China have begun auctioning off fleets of officials’ luxury cars as part of efforts to bolster revenues hit by the country’s slowdown. Wenzhou, a south-eastern coastal city hit hard by the cooling economy, sold 215 cars at the weekend, fetching Rmb10.6 million ($1.7 million). It plans to sell 1,300 vehicles – 80 percent of the municipal fleet – by the end of the year. Moody’s Downgrades 28 Spanish Banks On Sovereign Risk (Bloomberg) While Santander and BBVA remained investment grade, at least a dozen lenders were lowered to junk status, Moody’s said yesterday in a statement. The ratings company downgraded six banks by four levels and 10 by three grades, with the rest getting one- and two-tier declines. Report Suggests ECB Bank Supervision (WSJ) Euro-zone countries should transfer oversight of their banks to a European supervisor, possibly the European Central Bank, in return for allowing the bloc's bailout fund to help insure deposits and wind down failing lenders, the European Union's top officials proposed in a report that will be debated at their summit Thursday. Facebook Analysts To Click 'Like'...Or Not (WSJ) On Tuesday, a 40-day quiet period will conclude for analysts at banks that were underwriters of Facebook's initial public offering, including lead underwriters Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan, and Goldman Sachs. The analysts are expected to publish their initial research early on Wednesday, people at the firms said. Kanye, Kim Kardashian Sued For Al Qaeda Ties (PM) Kanye West and Kim Kardashian have been sued for their alleged ties to Al-Qaeda. "Alleged" is the operative adjective here, especially when discussing the plaintiff, one Jonathan Lee Riches. He's the Guiness World Record holder as "The World's Most Litigious Man," filing over 5,000 suits in the past eight years. The reason behind this latest suit? All American citizens are in eminent danger of the defendants. Take it way, Mr. Riches: “On 6/17/2012 I was in West Virginia, deep in the hills and I stumbled upon the defendants who were all at a Al-Qaeda secret training camp." He then went on to claim that Kanye and Kim pleaded their allegiance to Al-Qaeda, burned the U.S. flag and stomped their feet on Barack Obama’s picture, performed a concert for all Al-Qaeda members, and shot AK-47s in the air. Banks Preparing For The End (WSJ) Nine of the largest financial institutions must submit their initial living wills to the FDIC and Federal Reserve by July 1. The early group includes top U.S. financial institutions as well as Deutsche Bank, Barclays, Credit Suisse, and UBS. Smaller companies have longer to craft their plans, with all due by the end of 2013. Margaritaville memo: Execs may walk plank (NYP) The boat that sank one of Warren Buffett’s top execs has been identified, and some of his crew may still get thrown overboard. Denis Abrams — who was canned as CEO of Berkshire Hathaway’s Benjamin Moore unit this month — chartered an extravagant cruise off Bermuda in a yacht called The Lady Charlotte, The Post has learned. “Abrams had a lot of his ‘yes men’ on that cruise who were responsible for a lot of what has gone wrong,” one former exec groused. “They can’t turn it around without clearing those ranks.” KKR Raises $4 Billion For Deals In Infrastructure, Energy (Bloomberg) KKR completed raising about $1 billion for infrastructure investments and $1.25 billion for natural resources, the New York-based firm said today in a statement. That’s combined with $1.3 billion in separate accounts for infrastructure, and $350 million for natural resources contributed by affiliates of KKR. Nasty Elmo Is Gone, And Other Ones Are Just Tickled (CityRoom) On Monday, the day after the police ejected a man wearing the furry, red costume from Central Park for exploding into an obscenity-laced rant, other Elmos around New York said they recognized the man from previous clashes and expressed hope that his brush with the law would help their trade’s reputation. In between posing for photos and harassing tourists for tips, the offending Elmo would often treat tourists and fellow Sesame Street impersonators alike to xenophobic and anti-Semitic tirades. The man in the costume, whose name was not released because he was not arrested, was taken to Metropolitan Hospital Center for a psychological evaluation, the police said on Monday. The man would shout “crazy stuff” about the other impersonators, said Luis, 25, a Peruvian immigrant who has been donning an Elmo suit for about six months. He often worked the pedestrian plaza on Broadway between 42nd and 43rd Streets, where Luis and a few other men in furry suits ambled from street corner to street corner Monday afternoon, keeping a wary distance from one another.

Opening Bell: 5.8.15

UBS wants to be an investment bank again; Flash crash trader likely headed to Chicago; Who wants to buy Yelp?; "Calgary Airbnb 'Orgy' Was Financed With Stolen Credit Cards"; and more.

Opening Bell: 06.15.12

Forthcoming Facebook Motion Said to Discuss Nasdaq’s Role in I.P.O. (NYT) Facebook is preparing for battle. One month after its botched initial public offering, the social network is set to file a motion to consolidate all the shareholder lawsuits against the company, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. The lead underwriters, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, and JPMorgan Chase, are expected to join the motion, which could be filed in the Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York as early as Friday. The motion will represent the first time Facebook has publicly addressed the lawsuits and the performance of its highly anticipated, but ultimately lackluster, IPO on May 18. Facebook Is Not The Worst IPO (Deal Journal) Thursday marked the 4-week anniversary of the pricing of the IPO at $38 and today marks the anniversary of the innocuous opening and subsequent turmoil. Through Thursday’s close the stock was down about 26%, losing some $27 billion in market capitalization. That is ugly, but not as bad as the Halloween 2007 debut of Giant Interactive Group. The Chinese online-gaming company raised just over $1 billion in an IPO that started out well, rising about 18% on day one, but then promptly tumbled 30% through its first month, according to Dealogic. Draghi Hints ECB Is Ready To Act (WSJ) Providing liquidity "is what we have done throughout the crisis, faithful to our mandate of maintaining price stability over the medium term, and this is what we will continue to do," Mr. Draghi said. The Eurosystem, the ECB and the 17 national central banks that use the single currency "will continue to supply liquidity to solvent banks where needed," he added. Greeks Return To Ballot Box As Crisis Nears Decisive Moment (Bloomberg) The June 17 vote will turn on whether Greeks, in a fifth year of recession, accept open-ended austerity to stay in the euro or reject the conditions of a bailout and risk the turmoil of becoming the first to exit the 17-member currency. World leaders have said they’d prefer a pro-euro result, underscoring concern over global repercussions. Moody's Downgrades Dutch Banks (WSJ) In a statement, Moody's said it had cut the ratings by two notches each of ABN Amro Bank NV and ING Bank NV to A2, LeasePlan Corp. NV to Baa2 and Rabobank Nederland to Aa2. It also cut the rating of SNS Bank NV by one notch to Baa2. Giselle Is World's Highest Paid Model (Forbes) Just like last year, the Brazilian bombshell Bündchen leads the pack with a stunning $45 million in earnings (all estimates from May 1st, 2011 to May 1st, 2012). Even in her early thirties, Bündchen remains an unparalleled force within the fashion world. As the world’s most powerful supermodel, she racks up modeling gigs, spokesperson deals, and independent licensing ventures at every turn...Bündchen’s success combining business with modeling is influencing young, ascendant models. “The ones that are coming up, their model for excellence is Gisele. They’re looking at her and saying ‘that’s what I want to shoot for,’” Razek said. Fed Loans Backing AIG, Bear Repaid (WSJ) On Thursday, the regional Federal Reserve bank said it has been repaid, with interest, on $53.1 billion in loans it made to two crisis-era vehicles that held complex subprime mortgage bonds, home loans, commercial-property loans and other unwanted assets from Bear and AIG. The New York Fed earlier recouped a separate $19.5 billion loan that financed the purchase of mortgage-backed securities from AIG. Warren Buffett fired Benjamin Moore CEO after Bermuda cruise (NYP) “[Abrams] kept asking what he’d done wrong,” according to an insider briefed on the ouster. “[Berkshire officials] told him to clear his stuff out while they stood and watched every move he made.” Gupta Hopes Family Guy Image Will Help (NYP) The 63-year-old former Goldman Sachs director — facing 25 years in prison on charges of leaking inside information to his hedge fund pal Raj Rajaratnam — has surrounded himself with family and friends throughout the four-week trial. Gupta’s four Ivy League-educated daughters, his wife, Anita, and sister, Kumkum, in-laws and colleagues — roughly a dozen daily attendees — were in the courtroom each day, taking up the first two rows of the gallery. As the jury today starts its second day of deliberations, the fallen Wall Street star hopes the family vibe helps push the panel toward an acquittal. In the Facebook Era, Reminders of Loss if Families Fracture (NYT) The Times just found out that one of the weird things about Facebook is that you can find out things about people you haven't spoken to in years: Not long ago, estrangements between family members, for all the anguish they can cause, could mean a fairly clean break. People would cut off contact, never to be heard from again unless they reconciled. But in a social network world, estrangement is being redefined, with new complications. Relatives can get vivid glimpses of one another’s lives through Facebook updates, Twitter feeds and Instagram pictures of a grandchild or a wedding rehearsal dinner. And those glimpses are often painful reminders of what they have lost.

Opening Bell: 11.30.12

Germany Approves Greek Aid (WSJ) German parliamentarians approved with an overwhelming majority a package of new aid measures for Greece Friday, clinching support for a plan to close a €14 billion ($18.17 billion) gap in the heavily indebted nation's finances and to ready a near €44 billion tranche of promised aid. The vote shows that German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been able to consolidate the support of her center-right coalition of Christian Democrats and Free Democrats, many of whom have expressed skepticism that Greece can be saved without significant costs to German taxpayers. Her coalition voted 90% in favor of the measures. Leave "fairy world" behind, Draghi tells euro zone (Reuters) "We have not yet emerged from the crisis," Draghi told Europe 1 radio. "The recovery for most of the euro zone will certainly begin in the second half of 2013." "The crisis has shown that we were living in a fairy world," the ECB chief later added at a conference with top financial officials, pointing to the unsustainable debts, weak banks and poor policy coordination that gave birth to the crisis three years ago. Obama Takes ‘Fiscal Cliff’ on the Road; Republicans Stew (CNBC) President Barack Obama, reapplying his re-election campaign theme of protecting the middle class, heads to Pennsylvania on Friday suggesting that Republicans could spoil Christmas by driving the country over the "fiscal cliff." The president's road trip, visiting a factory that makes Hasbro's [HAS 38.60 --- UNCH] Tinkertoys, is infuriating Republicans. House Speaker John Boehner called it a "victory lap" as he rejected Obama's proposals to avoid the cliff, the combination of tax increases and spending cuts set to start taking effect in January. Berkshire Hathaway, CaixaBank Agree to Reinsurance Deal (WSJ) Berkshire Hathaway will pay CaixaBank SA million €600 million ($778.7 million) for the future cash flow from a portfolio of life insurance policies, the Barcelona-based bank said Friday, a rare dip into a fiscally stressed euro-zone country for the investment firm run by Warren Buffett. If You Like Late Nights, Try Being an Analyst in Hungary (WSJ) As the clock ticked toward midnight on a recent night, stock analyst Gergely Gabler sat sleepily in his pajamas at the small desk in his bedroom, waiting. Then, just after 12, he sprang into action, evaluating the newly released earnings report of Hungary's largest bank. For the next two hours, Mr. Gabler worked on a report about OTP Bank's performance for clients of his firm, Hungarian brokerage Equilor Investments, before catching some shut eye, only to awake about 3½ hours later so he could be in his office to field questions by 7 a.m. Burning the midnight oil is a painful quarterly tradition for analysts and financial journalists in Hungary, where the country's biggest blue-chip companies publish their results in the wee hours, after markets in New York have closed and long before they open anywhere in Europe. "I'm a night owl, so I don't mind staying up," Mr. Gabler said. The hard part, the 28-year-old said, is getting out of bed the next day. That morning, he grabbed a red-and-black can of Hell, a caffeine-laden Hungarian energy drink, to fuel his workday. Moody's Puts Aston Martin on Watch for Downgrade (NYT) “The review was prompted by a significant deterioration in Aston Martin’s liquidity profile as per end September 2012, caused by a much weaker cash generation and operating performance in the third quarter than anticipated by the company and compared to Moody’s expectations,” Falk Frey, a Moody’s analyst, said in a statement. Harvard Approves BDSM Group (Crimson) It started last October with a meal in Currier dining hall with a handful of friends who shared something in common: an affinity for kinky sex. More than a year after the group first began informally meeting over meals to discuss issues and topics relating to kinky sex, Harvard College Munch has grown from seven to about 30 members and is one of 15 student organization that will be approved by the Committee on Student Life this Friday. Michael, who was granted anonymity by The Crimson to protect his privacy, is the founder of Munch, an informal lunch or dinner meeting for people across the kink community. For him, the recognition will provide a sense of ease for current and future members, knowing they are receiving institutional support. “It’s a little hyperbolic for me to get teary-eyed and paternal about sophomores, but it’s really a joy to see the experience they will have now,” Michael said. Michael said there are many benefits to being officially recognized on campus such as being able to poster for events and promote Munch’s presence...But for Michael, the biggest advantage to being recognized comes with “the fact of legitimacy,” he said. “[Our recognition] shows we are being taken seriously.” Mae, a member of the organization who asked to be identified by her middle name, said since its formation the group has provided her with a comfortable space to discuss her interests. “I didn’t think that anyone was even remotely interested [in kink] on campus,” Mae said. “It’s a community where you can feel safe, and you can feel comfortable talking about [kink].” Cohen's Damage Control (NYP) Beleaguered hedge fund honcho Steve Cohen held a conference call yesterday for his roughly 1,000 employees to explain potential civil charges against his firm, SAC Capital Advisors. The call with SAC’s employees went over similar talking points as the call with investors the previous day, according to a person familiar with the call. In the latest call, officials notified employees that last week, the $14 billion Stamford, Conn., hedge fund received a Wells Notice from the Securities and Exchange Commission tied to trading by a former portfolio manager who was arrested Nov. 20 on insider trading charges. McDonald’s Starved for Ideas as Burger King Lures Diners (Bloomberg) Burger King has been excelling at a game McDonald’s worked to perfect years ago, introducing a steady stream of new menu items, such as snack wraps and gingerbread sundaes for the holidays. McDonald’s has “not had anything to talk about of substance,” Michael Kelter, a New York-based analyst at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., said in an interview. “People are going elsewhere.” Hong Kong IPOs Generate Little Excitement (WSJ) Hong Kong appears unlikely to regain its position as the world's top venue for initial public offerings anytime soon. In recent days, the city's biggest IPO in two years drew only lukewarm support, while another deal ran up against insufficient demand and a third was postponed. Recession Left Baby Bust as U.S. Births Lowest Since 1920 (Bloomberg) The country’s birth rate fell 8 percent from 2007 to 2010, according to a Pew Research Center report. The rate dropped 6 percent for U.S.-born women and plummeted 14 percent for foreign-born females since 2007, the onset of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. The decline continued last year to the lowest point since records began in 1920. Rogue caviar fugitive Mario Garbarino admits his guilt in fishy egg smuggling scheme (NYDN) Isidoro (Mario) Garbarino, 69, who went on the lam 23 years ago pleaded guilty Thursday to smuggling $10 million worth of Russian and Iranian savruga and beluga to New York more than two decades ago. Garbarino’s plea deal requires him to pay $3 million in restitution. He also faces up to four years in prison when he is sentenced in January. Garbarino, a supplier to fancy gourmet shops including Zabar's, was indicted in 1987 for cheating the government on import duties. Feds say his Bronx company, Aquamar Gourmet Imports, engaged in an elaborate scheme to smuggle more than 100,000 pounds of the expensive delicacy from 1984 to 1987. As part of the plot, Garbarino switched the high-quality caviar with much cheaper American caviar which he then sold to Pan Am, other airlines and cruise ships operators as the real thing. In 1989, Garbarino fled. He was nabbed two months ago in Panama and extradited to New York. "Isidoro Garbarino ran his high-end importation business in a low-end way — cheating the government out of millions of dollars in tax revenues and defrauding his international clients who paid top dollar for exotic caviar they did not receive," said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara...Garbarino admitted he “occasionally misrepresented the nature of the caviar” to avoid paying the required taxes.

Opening Bell: 9.28.15

Market has trust issues with Fed; Dudley sees hike in 2015; "Wall Street banks are tracking everything employees do"; Why Warren Buffett was suited up for the Dolphins game; "Man Tries To Kill Spider With Lighter, Starts Gas Station Blaze"; and more.

FuturesTrading

Opening Bell: 8.7.18

Futures pop; funds about to have a big day either way; Gross divorce still gross; old metal heads escape nursing home to bang; and more!