Business Leaders Air Their Grievances (WSJ)
Complaints about perceived obstacles thrown up by U.S. politics, regulation and even its legal system were aired by corporate and finance leaders who lunched together at a Wall Street Journal CEO Council event here in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday. Barry Silbert, chief executive of SecondMarket, said Mr. Obama gave the country "nothing to rally behind." Daniel Loeb, founder of hedge fund Third Point, counted himself as one falling away from previous support of the president. Mr. Loeb insisted President Obama was engaging in "class warfare." He said business people such as himself "get sick and tired" of constantly being criticized for "engaging in the capitalist system."
Economic Gains Aid Obama (WSJ)
Partial results from the poll, released Wednesday, found voters feeling more positively about the economy and of Mr. Obama's handling of it. Some 30% believed the country was headed in the right direction, up eight percentage points from a month ago. Some 60% said the country was on the wrong track, down from 69% in December and from 74% in October. The question is considered an important measure of voters' mood. For the first time in seven months, the poll found that more people approve of Mr. Obama's job performance than disapprove, 48% to 46%. Some 45% said they approve of his handling of the economy—up six points from mid-December.
Greek Debt Talks Resume in Athens as Policy Makers Squabble Over Haircut (Bloomberg)
Charles Dallara and Jean Lemierre, negotiating on behalf of private creditors, return to Athens after European finance ministers insisted bondholders take bigger losses on their Greek debt. The International Monetary Fund further roiled the discussions by suggesting that public holders of Greek bonds might also have to increase support. The parties are groping for a solution three months after private bondholders agreed with European officials to implement a 50 percent cut in the face value of more than 200 billion euros ($262 billion) of debt by voluntarily swapping bonds for new securities. Since then, an economic contraction that exceeded estimates has made the goal of cutting Greece’s debt to 120 percent of gross domestic product by 2020 harder. An accord is tied to a second bailout for the country, which faces a 14.5 billion-euro bond payment on March 20.
Dimon: Impact of Greek Default on US Banks Almost Zero (CNBC)
"The direct impact of a Greek default is almost zero," Dimon said. "The effect it has on the global economy will obviously filter down to the American banks too,” he added, but although “there may be a surprise somewhere," he expressed little concern over such a development. “There’s a teeny chance of a catastrophic outcome, which is why the muddle-through is the only good strategy. There is no other good strategy."
Buffett Defends Proposed Tax Rate Change (Reuters)
"The question is what is fair when you have to raise multi-trillions to fund the United States of America," Buffett said in a joint interview with his long-time secretary, Debbie Bosanek, on ABC News. "Raising taxes will not change my behavior. I have paid all different kinds of rates and I've always been interested in making money. I believe this should be a defining issue. Debbie works just as hard as I do and she pays twice the rate I do," said Buffett, a Democrat and Obama supporter. Bosanek pays a tax rate of 35.8 percent on her income, ABC said. She attended Tuesday's State of the Union address as a guest of first lady Michelle Obama. "I just feel like an average citizen. I represent the average citizen who needs a voice," Bosanek told ABC. "Everybody in our office is paying a higher tax rate than Warren."
Bonus Grinches At Bloomberg (NYP)
The company, founded by Mayor Mike Bloomberg, said revenue rose $720 million, or 10.5 percent, to $7.59 billion during a tough year for its biggest Wall Street clients, according to an internal memo...Bloomberg, known for its ubiquitous financial terminals on trading floors, said it fell short of its own internal sales targets, to which employee pay is tied. According to the employee memo from Chairman Peter Grauer and CEO Dan Doctoroff, employee pay based on terminal sales, known as “certs,” will be below expectations because of the terminal shortfall.
Newt: America WILL Have A Permanent Lunar Base By End Of My Presidency (TPM)
By the end of my second term we will have the first permanent base on the moon and it will be American,” he said. According to Newt, the base would be used for “science, tourism, and manufacturing” and create a “robust industry” modeled on the airline business in the 20th century. From there, Gingrich suggested moving towards a Mars mission by the end of the next decade. He proposed setting aside 10% of NASA’s budget in prize money for private research into interplanetary exploration. “I accept the charge that I am grandiose,” he said. “Because Americans are instinctively grandiose.”
Pandit: Costs will come down $2.5-3 billion (Bloomberg TV)
"We're going to take out $2.5 or $3 billion dollars in costs verses what we had in 2011…At the same time we are going to invest. But how we are going to invest is going to be related to how we create savings. Some of our re-engineering savings are going to go into investment. The process of rebuilding Citi since the crisis has been a very steady process. Last year was an important year, and having said that we are completely focused on expenses, completely focused on execution. We do think our costs are going to be $2.5 to $3 billion dollars lower next year."
James Gorman: 'Room For Optimism' On Economy (CNBC)
"The year has started a little firmer," he said during the Davos World Economic Forum. "The U.S. is in a little better shape than the markets have appreciated, and the markets are catching up."
Fed Expects Low Rates Through 2014 (WSJ)
Federal Reserve officials said they expect to keep short-term interest rates near zero for almost three more years and signaled they could restart a controversial bond-buying program in yet another campaign to rev up the disappointing economic recovery.
Greenspan: Battle for Capitalism 'Far From Won' (FT)
According to Greenspan, the “unforgiving market competition” that defines market capitalism “clashes with the inbred human desire for stability and, for some, civility." He believes the "often-assailed greed and avarice associated with capitalism" are "characteristics of human nature, not of market capitalism" and said “I was particularly distressed by the extent to which bankers, previously pillars of capitalist prudence, had allowed their equity buffers to dwindle dangerously as the financial crisis approached."
Hamptons Home Prices Fall 13% on Weakness (Bloomberg)
Home prices in New York’s Hamptons, the beachside retreat of financiers and celebrities, declined 13 percent in the fourth quarter from a year earlier as buyers opted for less-expensive properties. The median price of homes that sold in the three months ended Dec. 31 fell to $780,000 from $900,000 in the fourth quarter of 2010, appraiser Miller Samuel Inc. and broker Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate said in a report today.
Nagging: Meet The Marriage Killer (WSJ)
Ken Mac Dougall bit into the sandwich his wife had packed him for lunch and noticed something odd—a Post-it note tucked between the ham and the cheese. He pulled it out of his mouth, smoothed the crinkles and read what his wife had written: "Be in aisle 10 of Home Depot tonight at 6 p.m." Mr. Mac Dougall was renovating the couple's Oak Ridge, N.J., kitchen, and his wife had been urging him to pick out the floor tiles. He felt he had plenty of time to do this task. She felt unheard. "I thought the note was an ingenious and hysterical way to get his attention," says his wife, Janet Pfeiffer (whose occupation, interestingly enough, is a motivational speaker), recalling the incident which occurred several years ago. Her husband, a technician at a company that modifies vehicles for handicapped drivers, didn't really see it that way. "I don't need a reminder in the middle of my sandwich," he says.