Opening Bell: 03.20.12

Bernanke Returns to Academic Roots to Justify Fed’s Existence (Bloomberg) Bernanke will lecture to about 30 undergraduate students at George Washington University in the first of four hour-long talks on the history of the Fed as part of what public relations specialist Richard Dukas called a “P.R. offensive” to buff the central bank’s tarnished image. The Fed is being attacked from both the left and the right, with liberals criticizing it for not doing enough to bring down unemployment, and conservatives blaming it for doing too much and risking faster inflation...The lecture series -- the brainchild of the Fed and the first by a sitting chairman -- will be streamed live on the central-bank’s website and on ustream.tv. Afterwards, it will be posted on the Fed’s YouTube page. The central bank said transcripts also will be available. “I understand he’s excited about coming back and being in the classroom,” said Tim Fort, the professor in charge of the half-semester class. Mets owners could actually make money in Madoff settlement (NYP) Under the deal, Mets owners have agreed to pay back $162 million in phantom profits that they withdrew from their Madoff accounts between 2002 and 2008 — the year the Ponzi pyramid collapsed. Picard also dropped his claim that the owners were “willfully blind” to the scheme — allowing them to claim up to $178 million as victims of the fraud. Goldman Sachs Cuts Staff in Annual Review Process (Reuters) Goldman Sachs has begun a new round of staff cuts in its trading and investment banking divisions, three sources familiar with the matter said, a sign of continued cutbacks on Wall Street...The latest round of cuts is part of Goldman's annual employee review process. It's unclear how many people will be affected by the job eliminations, which began two weeks ago, because different divisions have received different targets, sources said. While management has formulated an overall plan for cost-cutting, all of the job cuts may not be completed for months, said a source familiar with the matter. Deutsche Bank Cuts Board’s Pay 19% as Profit Goal Missed (Bloomberg) Jain earned 5.81 million euros ($7.67 million) in salary and bonuses for last year, down from 7.55 million euros, Deutsche Bank said today in its financial report. Jain and the board’s other six members received 26.4 million euros compared with 32.4 million euros in 2010, when there were eight members. Jefferies Net Down 12%; Revenue Tops Forecasts (WSJ) Fixed-income trading revenue came in at $339.1 million in the quarter ended Feb. 29, up 6.6% from a year earlier and more than double what the firm booked in the prior quarter. Investment-banking revenue rose to $285.8 million, up 20% from a year earlier and 9.4% from the previous quarter. Overall, Jefferies reported a profit of $77.1 million, or 33 cents a share, compared with a year-earlier profit of $87.3 million, or 42 cents a share. Revenue increased 2.2% to $758.1 million. Analysts expected a per-share profit of 29 cents on $699 million in revenue, according to a poll conducted by Thomson Reuters. The Banker And The Cabbie: When Two Worlds Collide (Reuters) The day, December 21, 2011, had started out normally as Jennings left the kind of home - sweeping curved staircase, perfectly plumped chintz pillows, backyard swimming pool and a Ferrari in the garage - that makes many New Yorkers deeply jealous, and headed to the steel-and-glass tower in midtown Manhattan where he directed the firm's bond business...Morgan Stanley has already placed him on leave. The firm's spokesman declined to comment, other than to say no decision has been made regarding Jennings' longer-term status at the firm. One top-ranking Morgan Stanley executive, though, said he "does not stand a chance of getting his job back." Deutsche Bank Sued In US Over Libor (CNBC) Deutsche Bank said it received subpoenas and requests for information from U.S. and European Union agencies as part of a global probe into interbank offered rates and that it was also being sued over alleged dollar interbank rate manipulation...The inquiries relate to periods between 2005 and 2011, the bank said, adding it was cooperating with the investigations. Geithner Warns Europe Against Draconian Austerity (Reuters) "Economic growth is likely to be weak for some time. The path of fiscal consolidation should be gradual with a multiyear phase-in of reforms," Geithner said in remarks prepared for delivery to the House Financial Services Committee on Tuesday. "If every time economic growth disappoints, governments are forced to cut spending or raise taxes immediately to make up for the impact of weaker growth on deficits, this would risk a self-reinforcing negative spiral of growth-killing austerity," he said. Wall Street Can Learn From The Goldman Flap (WSJ) Rather than extolling Goldman's "client-driven" culture, as they did in their response to Mr Smith last week, Mr Blankfein and his No. 2 Gary Cohn should have seized the opportunity to explain how the business of finance really works. Jobseekers Get Asked For Facebook Passwords (AP) Bassett, a New York City statistician, had just finished answering a few character questions when the interviewer turned to her computer to search for his Facebook page. But she couldn't see his private profile. She turned back and asked him to hand over his login information. Bassett refused and withdrew his application, saying he didn't want to work for a company that would seek such personal information. Jon Hamm sticks to his guns in calling Kim Kardashian an 'idiot (NYDN) NBC “Today” show host Matt Lauer asked the AMC retro-series actor to clarify the earlier comments he made to Elle UK about Kardashian being a famous-for-being-famous “idiot,” which the reality starlet called “careless.” “I don’t think it was careless. I think it was accurate,” he told Lauer.
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Bernanke Returns to Academic Roots to Justify Fed’s Existence (Bloomberg)
Bernanke will lecture to about 30 undergraduate students at George Washington University in the first of four hour-long talks on the history of the Fed as part of what public relations specialist Richard Dukas called a “P.R. offensive” to buff the central bank’s tarnished image. The Fed is being attacked from both the left and the right, with liberals criticizing it for not doing enough to bring down unemployment, and conservatives blaming it for doing too much and risking faster inflation...The lecture series -- the brainchild of the Fed and the first by a sitting chairman -- will be streamed live on the central-bank’s website and on ustream.tv. Afterwards, it will be posted on the Fed’s YouTube page. The central bank said transcripts also will be available. “I understand he’s excited about coming back and being in the classroom,” said Tim Fort, the professor in charge of the half-semester class.

Mets owners could actually make money in Madoff settlement (NYP)
Under the deal, Mets owners have agreed to pay back $162 million in phantom profits that they withdrew from their Madoff accounts between 2002 and 2008 — the year the Ponzi pyramid collapsed. Picard also dropped his claim that the owners were “willfully blind” to the scheme — allowing them to claim up to $178 million as victims of the fraud.

Goldman Sachs Cuts Staff in Annual Review Process (Reuters)
Goldman Sachs has begun a new round of staff cuts in its trading and investment banking divisions, three sources familiar with the matter said, a sign of continued cutbacks on Wall Street...The latest round of cuts is part of Goldman's annual employee review process. It's unclear how many people will be affected by the job eliminations, which began two weeks ago, because different divisions have received different targets, sources said. While management has formulated an overall plan for cost-cutting, all of the job cuts may not be completed for months, said a source familiar with the matter.

Deutsche Bank Cuts Board’s Pay 19% as Profit Goal Missed (Bloomberg)
Jain earned 5.81 million euros ($7.67 million) in salary and bonuses for last year, down from 7.55 million euros, Deutsche Bank said today in its financial report. Jain and the board’s other six members received 26.4 million euros compared with 32.4 million euros in 2010, when there were eight members.

Jefferies Net Down 12%; Revenue Tops Forecasts (WSJ)
Fixed-income trading revenue came in at $339.1 million in the quarter ended Feb. 29, up 6.6% from a year earlier and more than double what the firm booked in the prior quarter. Investment-banking revenue rose to $285.8 million, up 20% from a year earlier and 9.4% from the previous quarter. Overall, Jefferies reported a profit of $77.1 million, or 33 cents a share, compared with a year-earlier profit of $87.3 million, or 42 cents a share. Revenue increased 2.2% to $758.1 million. Analysts expected a per-share profit of 29 cents on $699 million in revenue, according to a poll conducted by Thomson Reuters.

The Banker And The Cabbie: When Two Worlds Collide (Reuters)
The day, December 21, 2011, had started out normally as Jennings left the kind of home - sweeping curved staircase, perfectly plumped chintz pillows, backyard swimming pool and a Ferrari in the garage - that makes many New Yorkers deeply jealous, and headed to the steel-and-glass tower in midtown Manhattan where he directed the firm's bond business...Morgan Stanley has already placed him on leave. The firm's spokesman declined to comment, other than to say no decision has been made regarding Jennings' longer-term status at the firm. One top-ranking Morgan Stanley executive, though, said he "does not stand a chance of getting his job back."

Deutsche Bank Sued In US Over Libor (CNBC)
Deutsche Bank said it received subpoenas and requests for information from U.S. and European Union agencies as part of a global probe into interbank offered rates and that it was also being sued over alleged dollar interbank rate manipulation...The inquiries relate to periods between 2005 and 2011, the bank said, adding it was cooperating with the investigations.

Geithner Warns Europe Against Draconian Austerity (Reuters)
"Economic growth is likely to be weak for some time. The path of fiscal consolidation should be gradual with a multiyear phase-in of reforms," Geithner said in remarks prepared for delivery to the House Financial Services Committee on Tuesday. "If every time economic growth disappoints, governments are forced to cut spending or raise taxes immediately to make up for the impact of weaker growth on deficits, this would risk a self-reinforcing negative spiral of growth-killing austerity," he said.

Wall Street Can Learn From The Goldman Flap (WSJ)
Rather than extolling Goldman's "client-driven" culture, as they did in their response to Mr Smith last week, Mr Blankfein and his No. 2 Gary Cohn should have seized the opportunity to explain how the business of finance really works.

Jobseekers Get Asked For Facebook Passwords (AP)
Bassett, a New York City statistician, had just finished answering a few character questions when the interviewer turned to her computer to search for his Facebook page. But she couldn't see his private profile. She turned back and asked him to hand over his login information. Bassett refused and withdrew his application, saying he didn't want to work for a company that would seek such personal information.

Jon Hamm sticks to his guns in calling Kim Kardashian an 'idiot' (NYDN)
NBC “Today” show host Matt Lauer asked the AMC retro-series actor to clarify the earlier comments he made to Elle UK about Kardashian being a famous-for-being-famous “idiot,” which the reality starlet called “careless.” “I don’t think it was careless. I think it was accurate,” he told Lauer.

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Opening Bell: 01.17.13

Charges Weigh On Bank Of America's Profit (WSJ) Overall, Bank of America reported a profit of $732 million versus a profit of $1.99 billion a year earlier. On a per-share basis, which includes the payment of preferred dividends, the bank reported earnings of three cents versus 15 cents a year earlier. The most recent period included a per-share impact of 16 cents from the Fannie Mae settlement, a six cent impact from the foreclosure review and litigation expense of five cents a share, among other items. Revenue dropped 25% to $18.66 billion as noninterest income fell 41%. Excluding $700 million of debit valuation and fair value option adjustments, and $3 billion for the cost of $3 billion, revenue was $22.6 billion. Citigroup Earnings Miss Analysts’ Estimates on Litigation (Bloomberg) Net income climbed 25 percent to $1.2 billion in the fourth quarter, or 38 cents a share, from $956 million, or 31 cents, a year earlier, the New York-based lender said today in a statement. Earnings adjusted for one-time items including restructuring costs were 69 cents a share. Twenty-one analysts surveyed by Bloomberg estimated 96 cents on average, with some items Citigroup didn’t include. Chief Executive Officer Michael Corbat, 52, took over in October and last month announced plans to eliminate about 11,000 employees and pull back from some emerging markets, undoing part of the expansion strategy of his predecessor, Vikram Pandit. Litigation costs included $305 million from a settlement between U.S. banks and federal regulators, who were probing claims that lenders improperly seized homes. Goldman Profits By Going On Offensive (WSJ) The value of Goldman Sachs's investment portfolio doubled last year. Bond underwriting hit a five-year high. The firm's workforce shrank and remaining employees were paid a smaller chunk of overall revenue. Those were just some of the ingredients in a bigger-than-expected profit jump by the New York company, which said net income almost tripled to $2.83 billion in the fourth quarter from $1.01 billion a year earlier. Wednesday's results were packed with evidence of Goldman's discipline in cutting costs, taking less risk with its own money and riding out financial crises in the U.S. and then Europe. Goldman Agonized Over Pay Cuts as Profits Suffered (Reuters) Top executives at Goldman Sachs have been considering deep cuts to staffing levels and pay for at least two years, but feared too many layoffs would leave the firm unprepared for an eventual pickup in business, people familiar with the bank said. They instead chipped away at staff levels and focused on non-personnel expenses that are less painful to cut. But investors pressured the bank to cut costs further, the sources said, and on Wednesday, Goldman gave in. The largest standalone investment bank said in the fourth quarter it cut the percentage of revenues it pays to employees in half to 21 percent. That brings the ratio for the entire year to its second-lowest level since the bank went public in 1999. Fed Concerned About Overheated Markets Amid Record Bond-Buying (Bloomberg) Now, as central bankers boost their stimulus with additional bond purchases, policy makers from Chairman Ben S. Bernanke to Kansas City Fed President Esther George are on the lookout for financial distortions that may reverse abruptly when the Fed stops adding to its portfolio and eventually shrinks it. “Prices of assets such as bonds, agricultural land, and high-yield and leveraged loans are at historically high levels,” George said in a speech last week. “We must not ignore the possibility that the low-interest rate policy may be creating incentives that lead to future financial imbalances.” Estonian president’s Twitter fight with Paul Krugman becomes an opera (RS) A Twitter feud in June between the Estonian president and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman who questioned the impact of Estonia’s austerity measures, is being turned into an opera, US composer Eugene Birman told AFP on Wednesday. “Our short opera will be first performed by Iris Oja and the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra conducted by Risto Joost during Tallinn Music Week on April 7,” Birman, who moved from Riga to the US at age of six, told AFP. The piece, in two movements, uses two voices, those of Krugman and Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, reflecting their exchanges on the Twitter social network...The bow-tie loving Ilves went on a tweet-rant after Krugman, the winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize for Economics, argued in a short article entitled “Estonian Rhapsody” that while Estonia had been globally praised for its austerity measures, its recovery was in fact lukewarm. “Let’s write about something we know nothing about & be smug, overbearing & patronizing…Guess a Nobel in trade means you can pontificate on fiscal matters & declare my country a ‘wasteland,’” Ilves responded on his page on the on the micro-blogging site Twitter. “But yes, what do we know? We’re just dumb and silly East Europeans,” he added, before writing in his final tweet, “Let’s sh*t on East Europeans.” Deutsche Bank Derivative Helped Monte Paschi Mask Losses (Bloomberg) Deutsche Bank designed a derivative for Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA at the height of the financial crisis that obscured losses at the world’s oldest lender before it sought a taxpayer bailout. Germany’s largest bank loaned Monte Paschi about 1.5 billion euros ($2 billion) in December 2008 through the transaction, dubbed Project Santorini, according to more than 70 pages of documents outlining the deal and obtained by Bloomberg News. The trade helped Monte Paschi mitigate a 367 million-euro loss from an older derivative contract with Deutsche Bank. As part of the arrangement, the Italian lender made a losing bet on the value of the country’s government bonds, said six derivatives specialists who reviewed the files. BlackRock Net Jumps 24% (WSJ) The company said net inflows in long-term products totaled $47 billion at the year's end, reflecting equity, fixed income and multiasset class product net inflows of $31.2 billion, $12.4 billion and $4.1 billion, respectively. The net inflows were partially offset by alternatives net outflows of $700 million. Total assets under management were $3.792 trillion as of the end of the fourth quarter, versus $3.513 trillion a year earlier and $3.673 trillion in the third quarter. Jobless Claims Drop To 5-Year Low (Reuters) Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell 37,000 to a seasonally adjusted 335,000, the lowest level since January 2008, the Labor Department said on Thursday. It was the largest weekly drop since February 2010. Khuzami defends corp. settlements (NYP) Robert Khuzami, the Securities and Exchange Commission’s enforcement chief, is on his way out the door — but he says in an interview with The Post that the agency’s much-maligned practice of settling cases is here to stay. Khuzami, 56, defended the SEC’s policy of allowing targets to settle cases — usually without an admission of wrongdoing — despite recent criticism. “There are certain myths about SEC practices, including how ‘neither admit nor deny’ works and why we use it,” said Khuzami, who is leaving his post after heading the agency’s crackdown on big banks following the financial crisis. “I speak out against these myths in the hope of reducing the level of cynicism felt by the public, which are often fueled by mischaracterizations or misunderstandings of how we operate.” Commissioners approve regulations governing sexy coffee stands (Kitsap Sun) Owners of adult-themed coffee stands in unincorporated Kitsap County will have to post signs warning would-be customers about their scantily-clad baristas, and they'll have to do more to protect passers-by from seeing into their businesses. That's according to an ordinance passed Monday in a unanimous vote of the Kitsap County commissioners. The stands have 60 days to comply with the changes, which include a site visit by county planning staff to check the signs are posted and additional screening is added...The ordinance requires adult espresso stands — the three existing stands and any new ones — to install an 8-foot-high fence or landscape buffer, approved by the county Department of Community Development, in front of windows that face the street or other businesses, blocking views by the public. Businesses also must receive a one-time certification from DCD to guarantee the regulations are met. A boiling point was hit more than a year ago when five stands — three of them within a half-mile stretch of Highway 303 — advertised employees in pasties and lingerie. Unhappy parents demanded commissioners regulate the businesses. The health department doesn't require clothing, instead it looks at whether employees have food handler permits, said Department of Community Development associate planner Heather Adams. The state Department of Labor and Industries also has no rules dictating required clothing at coffee stands, Adams said.

Opening Bell: 07.19.12

Morgan Stanley Misses Estimates As Trading Revenue Plunges (Bloomberg) Morgan Stanley reported a 50 percent drop in earnings that was bigger than analysts estimated as revenue from trading stocks and bonds declined the most among Wall Street banks. Second-quarter profit was $591 million, or 29 cents a share, compared with $1.19 billion, or a loss of 38 cents, a year earlier, the New York-based company said today in a statement. Excluding accounting adjustments tied to the firm’s own credit spreads, profit was 16 cents a share, below the 29- cent average estimate of 20 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Feeding Frenzy Seen If Wall Street Sues Itself Over Libor (Bloomberg) Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley are among financial firms that may bring lawsuits against their biggest rivals as regulators on three continents examine whether other banks manipulated Libor, said Bradley Hintz, an analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Even if Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley forgo claims on their own behalf, they oversee money-market funds that may be required to pursue restitution for injured clients, he said. Big Banks Prepare Another Round Of Cuts (WSJ) Bank of America and Credit Suisse announced plans Wednesday for new cost cuts following hefty belt-tightening at both institutions last year. Citigroup is on pace to cut an added 2% of securities and banking jobs this year, or about 350 people, after announcing 900 job cuts at the unit last year, said people familiar with the situation. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. GS -0.29% said this week that it aims to save $500 million this year on top of $1.4 billion of reductions since last spring, in large part by keeping younger, cheaper workers at the expense of older, costlier ones. KKR To Launch Two Funds For Individual Investors (WSJ) On Thursday morning, KKR filed registration documents to introduce two funds, each investing in various types of debt, a fitting focus for a firm that has relied on junk bonds for many of its most lucrative leveraged buyouts. For Morgan Stanley's Chief, Brokerage Bet Comes to Fore (WSJ) "I wake up every day delighted that we did" the deal with Citigroup, Mr. Gorman said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. "I certainly haven't lost any conviction." A Sleepy German Town Is Owed Trillions (TCSM) The sleepy hamlet of Mittenwalde in eastern Germany could become one of the richest towns in the world if Berlin were to repay it an outstanding debt that dates back to 1562. A certificate of debt, found in a regional archive, attests that Mittenwalde lent Berlin 400 guilders on May 28 1562, to be repaid with six percent interest per year. According to Radio Berlin Brandenburg, the debt would amount to 11,200 guilders today, which is roughly equivalent to 112 million euros ($136.79 million). Adjusting for compound interest and inflation, the total debt now lies in the trillions, by RBB's estimates. Town historian Vera Schmidt found the centuries-old debt slip in the archive, where it had been filed in 1963. Though the seal is missing from the document, Schmidt told Reuters that she was certain the slip was still valid. Blackstone Swings to Loss as Performance Fees Drop (WSJ) Total revenue fell 52% to $627.2 million as performance fees slumped 80% to $135.4 million. Management and advisory fees edged down 2% to $488 million. Analysts expected $605 million in total revenue...Blackstone is preparing to unload its portfolio of U.S. office buildings, which analysts have valued as high as $22 billion. The exit could come as early as next year and signals that Blackstone, one of the property sector's most active buyers, is moving into a selling phase as top office markets recover. Peregrine's Struggle to Stay Airborne (WSJ) When the end came for Russell Wasendorf Sr.'s futures brokerage last week, it was quick. But interviews with current and former employees, regulators and others close to the situation, point to increasing signs of strain in Peregrine Financial Group Inc. and Mr. Wasendorf, its founder and chief executive, in the months leading up to the firm's collapse. The company cut back on perks, cut salaries and defaulted on the terms of state loans used to build its $18 million headquarters in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Mr. Wasendorf's behavior became at times erratic, and he got rid of the luxury box he had leased at Chicago's Soldier Field since 2003. Portland's airport stripper John Brennan convinces judge nudity was protest against TSA (OL) ...a Multnomah County judge Wednesday acquitted 50-year-old John E. Brennan of an indecent exposure charge after he stripped naked at Portland International Airport. Brennan's friends packed into the courtroom and erupted in applause andcheers upon hearing the verdict. As they filed into the hallway, they heartily embraced a smiling Brennan. One friend stuck a sticky note on Brennan's chest. It read: "Sir Godiva" -- a reference to the legend of a noblewoman who rode naked on a horse through the streets of England to protest oppressive taxation. Brennan famously shed all his clothes April 17 at an airport security checkpoint. It was 5:30 p.m. and gawkers didn't hesitate to take smart phone photos and offer them up to the media as Brennan stood for about five minutes before police arrived. During a two-hour trial, Brennan testified that he undressed because he was fed up with what he sees as invasive Transportation Security Administration procedures -- including body scans and pat downs. Prosecutors charged Brennan with violating a city ordinance that forbids people from exposing their genitalia in public and in the presence of the opposite sex. The judge sided with the defense, which cited a 1985 Oregon Court of Appeals ruling stating that nudity laws don't apply in cases of protest. "It is the speech itself that the state is seeking to punish, and that it cannot do," Circuit Judge David Rees said.

Opening Bell: 10.25.12

Credit Suisse Profit Falls (Reuters) The Swiss bank said on Thursday third-quarter net profit fell 63 percent to 254 million francs, missing analysts' average forecast of 370 million. The quarter was hit by 1.05 billion francs in charges, mainly linked to its own debt. Brady Dougan: More Tough Times Ahead For Financials (CNBC) More aggressive cost cutting will be necessary in the coming years, Credit Suisse CEO Brady Dougan told CNBC Thursday, adding that he expects the financial services industry to continue to operate in a volatile market environment. The bank is targeting cost savings of a billion Swiss francs ($1.07 billion) by next year with further cuts in the years after that. “We believe we should be in mode of driving business more efficiently. We have cut 2 billion Swiss francs in the last year and we can take another billion in 2013 and [we have] set further targets for 2014 and 2015. We want to drive that efficiency and we are in a volatile revenue environment and that’ll be the case for the industry for some time,” Dougan said. CEOs Call For Deficit Action (WSJ) Chief executives of more than 80 big-name U.S. corporations, from Aetna to Weyerhaeuser Co. are banding together to pressure Congress to reduce the federal deficit with tax-revenue increases as well as spending cuts. The CEOs, in a statement to be released on Thursday, say any fiscal plan "that can succeed both financially and politically" has to limit the growth of health-care spending, make Social Security solvent and "include comprehensive and pro-growth tax reform, which broadens the base, lowers rates, raises revenues and reduces the deficit." The CEOs who signed the manifesto deem tax increases inevitable no matter which party succeeds at the polls in November. "There is no possible way; you can do the arithmetic a million different ways" to avoid raising taxes, said Mark Bertolini, CEO of Aetna. "You can't tax your way to fix this problem, and you can't cut entitlements enough to fix this problem." Crew Of Argentine Ship Seized By Hedge Fund Elliot Associates Returns Home (AP) They were supposed to sail the Argentine military's signature tall ship into the port of Buenos Aires in full glory after a goodwill tour asserting the South American country's place in the world. Instead, hundreds of sailors had to abandon their frigate, evacuated on orders from President Cristina Fernandez, after the ARA Libertad was detained by a Ghanaian judge in a debt dispute. Frustrated and disheartened but determined to go back as soon as possible to retrieve their three-masted ship, the sailors arrived home early Thursday on an Air France charter. The Argentine government couldn't send one of its own planes, for fear that it, too, could be seized as collateral. China Surpasses US as Top Foreign Investment Venue (Reuters) China overtook the U.S. as the world's top destination for foreign direct investment in the first half of 2012, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. China absorbed $59.1 billion in foreign direct investment (FDI) in the first six months, down slightly from $60.9 billion a year earlier, the agency said in a report. The United States attracted $57.4 billion in 2012's first half, down 39 percent from a year earlier, it said. Stephen Colbert Makes Donald Trump An Offer (Mediaite) Reality star Donald Trump yesterday offered to donate $5 million to a charity of Barack Obama‘s choosing if the President “opens up and gives his college records and applications, and if he gives his passport applications and records.” Stephen Colbert, touched by Trump’s generosity, made an offer of his own last night. He is vowing to pledge $1 million from his Super PAC to any charity Trump wants if: “…you let me dip my balls in your mouth.” Fed Steady On Policy (WSJ) The Fed expanded bond purchasing at its September meeting and plans to do its next major evaluation of its bond-buying programs at its final meeting of the year on Dec. 11-12. Policy makers are still gathering evidence on whether their programs are working. "The Committee remains concerned that, without sufficient policy accommodation, economic growth might not be strong enough to generate sustained improvement in labor market conditions," the Federal Open Market Committee, the Fed's policy-making committee, said in a statement issued at the end of its two-day meeting. Jobless Claims Show Moderate Labor Progress (Bloomberg) Jobless claims decreased by 23,000 to 369,000 in the week ended Oct. 20 from a revised 392,000 the prior period, the Labor Department reported today in Washington. Lazard Profit Drops As Merger-Advisory Revenue Falls (Bloomberg) Lazard, the largest independent merger-advisory firm, posted a 33 percent drop in third-quarter profit as revenue from advising on mergers declined. The firm said it would implement a cost-cutting plan. Earnings fell to $35.4 million, or 26 cents a share, from $52.9 million, or 39 cents, a year earlier, the Hamilton, Bermuda-based firm said today in a statement. The average estimate of 11 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg was for per-share profit of 21 cents. Japanese man pays $780K for virginity of 20-year-old Brazil woman, who’ll use money for charity housing project (NYDN) A Brazilian student is set to sell her virginity for a staggering $780,000 after she put it up for auction online. A man called Natsu, from Japan, fended off strong competition from American bidders Jack Miller and Jack Right, and a big-spender from India, Rudra Chatterjee, to secure a date with 20-year-old Catarina Migliorini. The auction ended at 4 a.m. EST this morning, and the physical education student — who said she will use the cash to build homes for poverty-stricken families — was the subject of 15 bids. “The auction is just business, I'm a romantic girl at heart and believe in love. But this will make a big difference to my area,” she told Folha newspaper. “If you only do it once in your life then you are not a prostitute, just like if you take one amazing photograph it does not automatically make you a photographer.

Opening Bell: 01.30.13

MF Global's Bankruptcy Nears Happy Conclusion (NYT) On Thursday, a bankruptcy court will review a proposal that would return 93 percent of the missing money to customers like Mr. Desai, who lost his $580,000 nest egg in the brokerage firm's chaotic final days. And the trustee who has submitted the proposal, James W. Giddens, has quietly identified a way that, if sent to the judge and approved, could plug the remaining shortfall for customers in the United States, according to people involved in the case. The broad push to make MF Global customers nearly whole, a goal now surprisingly within reach, is a remarkable turnaround from the firm's 2011 bankruptcy filing when such a recovery seemed impossible. "I'm surprised that, magically, the money has shown up," said Mr. Desai, a software account executive who, like most customers in the United States, has only 80 percent of his money. "I feel very relieved." Deutsche Bank Seen Missing Goldman-Led Gains on Cost Rise (Bloomberg) Europe’s biggest bank by assets may post a loss of 210 million euros ($282 million) compared with a profit of 147 million euros in the fourth quarter of 2011, when it reports earnings tomorrow, according to the average estimate of nine analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Goldman Sachs and three other leading U.S. investment banks saw their combined net income jump 92 percent annually to $9.73 billion in the period. Co-Chief Executive Officers Juergen Fitschen and Anshu Jain are eliminating staff and bolstering capital levels, the lowest among Europe’s biggest investment banks, in their first year in charge to help meet stricter capital rules. The costs countered a surge in trading revenue, spurred by the European Central Bank’s measures to stem Europe’s sovereign debt crisis. “Deutsche Bank is trying to look forward and hoping no one can really blame fourth-quarter losses on the new management as they only took over mid-year,” Andreas Plaesier, an M.M. Warburg analyst who recommends investors buy the shares, said by telephone from Hamburg. “It would rather see its earnings wrecked in one quarter and show it’s making progress on building capital.” Chesapeake CEO To Exit (WSJ) Chesapeake Energy Corp. Chief Executive Aubrey K. McClendon is leaving the company he built into the country's second-biggest natural-gas producer, citing "philosophical differences" with a board of directors largely installed by shareholders to curb his risk-taking and free-spending ways. Paul Singer Is a Backer of 'Les Miserables' (CNBC) Singer writes in his investor note: "December marked the end of the 'Beverly Boulevard II' film slate submission period. We accepted the final two additional film submissions during the quarter, bringing our remaining funding commitment to seven films set for release in 2013 and 2014. One film in the slate, 'Les Miserables,' was released during the quarter. It will be several more weeks before we begin to have any reliable idea of the ultimate economic performance and value of the big-screen version of this huge stage hit, but early indications are promising and the film just garnered three major awards at this year's Golden Globe Awards." "Beverly Boulevard II" is run by Relativity Media and Elliott Management appears to be a large investor in the company, at least according to this 2010 article from Institutional Investor. JPMorgan Bet Against Itself In 'Whale' Trade (Reuters) It was widely known that a group of about eight credit-focused hedge funds, such as BlueMountain Capital Management and Saba Capital Management, were on the other side of the trades that JPMorgan's London-based Whale team made on an index tied to corporate default rates. But the role JPMorgan's own investment bank may have played in the messy unwinding of the derivatives trade has not come out until now. One of the three people familiar with the matter claimed that JPMorgan managers discussed merging the two sets of trades in an attempt to offset some of the CIO's losses. Those talks ended about a month before Bloomberg News first reported the CIO trades on April 5 last year, the source said. JPMorgan's Kristin Lemkau said that this "never came up in our exhaustive internal investigation." Police Say Man Steals Ambulance, Then Tries to Steal Horses (WHNT) Police say it all began when Todd was arrested for DUI after a car crash. He was taken to Marshall Medical Center South for treatment. Police say while at the hospital, he walked out, got into a running ambulance and drove away. They say he later got the ambulance stuck on Barnard Street, but that was just the beginning. “He walked across a pasture and got into a barn where he tried to saddle up two horses,” says Boaz Assistant Chief Todd Adams. “One was two wild for him and the other he appeared to be too intoxicated to properly saddle the horse.” Police say Anderson then stole a car, which he crashed. They say he then stole another car and got away. However, on Saturday police say Anderson started bleeding from his original injuries. He sought treatment back at the hospital, was recognized and then arrested. Fed Risks Losses From Bonds (WSJ) The Federal Reserve could be charting a course that leaves the highly profitable central bank with no extra income to hand over to the U.S. Treasury for several years. That is the conclusion of five Fed staff economists who examined how the central bank's bond-buying programs will affect its profitability over the long run. Right now the Fed is earning large returns on its bond portfolio and sending most of its profits to the Treasury. Several years from now, when the economy is stronger, the Fed is expected to sell bonds and raise short-term interest rates to tighten credit and restrain inflation. The group found the Fed might have to sell bonds at a loss and incur higher expenses on interest it pays to banks on the reserves they hold at the Fed. Italy Scours Deals Abroad for Elusive Tax Revenue (WSJ) Italy, which has one of the biggest tax-cheating problems in the developed world, is cracking down on suspect offshore investments as part of an unprecedented drive to find new sources of tax revenue and ease concerns about its €2 trillion ($2.69 trillion) in debt. The country just added a new property tax and is boosting its sales taxes to narrow its fiscal gap. In an effort to claw back an estimated €120 billion a year in unpaid taxes, it has limited cash payments to €1,000 so that untaxed money can't slosh around the economy without leaving a paper trail and is hunting down people who buy luxury yachts yet report little income. One of the brightest spotlights is on companies suspected of earning money or shifting it abroad to avoid paying Italian taxes. Italy netted €600 million in additional taxes last year after prosecutors pursued two cases involving money stored illicitly to Switzerland. NBA Union Chief Hunter Fires Family After Nepotism Report (Bloomberg) Billy Hunter purged family members from roles in the National Basketball Association players union that he runs after a report that criticized nepotism at the organization. The moves dismissing personnel including his daughter and daughter-in-law were disclosed in a letter from Hunter to members of a special committee of players established prior to the investigation by the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. A copy of the letter, dated Jan. 23, was obtained by Bloomberg News. No Twinkies 'Til September? (NYP) While bankrupt Hostess Brands is expected to select a preferred bidder for its snacks business today, regulatory approval, time needed to close the deal and then the firing up of the Twinkies manufacturing process means it’ll be early September before the spongecake treats are available at retailers, experts said. Leon Black’s Apollo Global Management and co-bidder C. Dean Metropoulos, a veteran food exec, are expected to be named the preferred bidder for Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Donettes and other Hostess snacks. Zimbabwe has $217 in the bank: finance minister (AFP) After paying public workers’ salaries last week, the balance in cash-strapped Zimbabwe’s government public account stood at just $217, Finance Minister Tendai Biti said Tuesday. “Last week when we paid civil servants there was $217 (left) in government coffers,” Biti told journalists in the capital Harare, claiming some of them had healthier bank balances than the state. “The government finances are in paralysis state at the present moment. We are failing to meet our targets.” Biti said that left no choice but to ask the donors for cash. “We will be approaching the international community,” he said.

Opening Bell: 11.29.12

Blankfein: Seems Like "Fiscal Cliff" Deal Could Be "Reachable" (CNBC) Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein described President Barack Obama's plan for Washington to reach an agreement on the "fiscal cliff" as detailed and "very credible." However, he cautioned that marginal income tax rates may have to rise to seal a deal. In an interview with CNBC after meetings between the president and several CEOs, Blankfein said, of course, it's hard to tell if a deal will be reached but "if I were involved in a negotiation like this, and everybody was purporting to be where they are, I would say that an agreement was reachable." Blankfein said he thought concessions on both the revenue and entitlement sides would be necessary to reach a final deal to avert the fiscal cliff, when large spending cuts and tax increases are slated to take effect on Jan.1. “Look, at the end of the day, the most important value is to get the economy moving forward," Blankfein said. "That’s not going to happen if our budget deficit keeps widening.” He added that the marginal income tax rate may have to rise in order to reach a deal. “I would prefer as low of a marginal rate as possible because it’s the marginal rate that provides the incentive to do incremental work by people, but I’m not dogmatic — I wouldn’t go to the end for that,” he said. Blankfein: "We Can All Be Winners Here" (CNBC) "The most important thing is that we increase the wealth pie of the United States and that we don't reduce it. If we don't sort out our economy people will be fighting over their slice of a shrinking pie. I think we can all be winners here, even those pay a marginally higher rate, or a bigger proportion of revenue, if they are winners, as we all will be, because the economy is improving." Krugman: Fiscal Cliff Is No Way To Run A Country (HP) The Nobel Prize-winning economist expressed his frustration with the government's endless budget wrangling, especially over the so-called fiscal cliff, during a Wednesday interview with WNYC. "It's no way to run a country," Krugman said, referring specifically to the prospect of going over the cliff, a decision that would trigger a series of tax hikes and spending cuts next year, which would probably slow the economy. Given the options though, Krugman admits going over the cliff might be preferable to the likely alternatives. "There is nothing in there [the fiscal cliff] that is going to cause the economy to implode," Krugman said. "Better to go a few months into this thing if necessary than to have a panicked response or to give in to blackmail, which is certainly the question that's facing President Obama." In Krugman's view, the fiscal cliff "has nothing to do with the budget deficit," he added. "This is about a dysfunctional political process. It's about kind of a self-inflicted wound here." Krugman's not alone in his view that jumping over the cliff may be preferable to giving in to Congressional Republicans' demands. Peter Orszag, a former economic adviser to President Barack Obama, and Robert Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, have both said recently that the jumping off the cliff may end up the country's best option. Foreign Banks Rebuffed By Fed (WSJ) Daniel Tarullo, who is responsible for shaping banking policy at the Federal Reserve, said in a speech Wednesday that the central bank will require foreign banks with large U.S. operations to house their U.S. arms in corporate structures that comply with requirements under the Dodd-Frank Act. Mr. Tarullo didn't specify which foreign banks would need to adhere to the new structure. But the change would bring Germany's Deutsche Bank and the U.K.'s Barclays back under a regulatory regime they tried to escape through corporate restructurings. EU Clears Spanish Bank Rescue (WSJ) European Union regulators gave the green light to €37 billion ($47.9 billion) in euro-zone funding for Spain's stricken banking sector on Wednesday, setting in motion a long-term cleanup. In exchange, four nationalized banks agreed to make sharp cuts in their balance sheets and payrolls—a retrenchment that carries the risk of intensifying Spain's credit crunch in the midst of a deep recession. Argentina wins debt reprieve, default averted for now (Reuters) Argentina has won a reprieve against having to pay $1.33 billion next month to "holdout" investors who rejected a restructuring of its defaulted debt and have waged a long legal battle to be paid in full. A U.S. appeals court granted an emergency stay order on Wednesday that gives Argentina more time to fight a debt ruling favoring the holdout creditors and eases investor fears of a new default as early as next month. Last week, U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa ordered Argentina to deposit the $1.33 billion payment by December 15 for investors who rejected two restructurings of bonds left over from its massive 2002 default. Drunk ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ singer wears Viking hat to court (Canada) The man who became a YouTube viral sensation for singing “Bohemian Rhapsody” from the back seat of an police cruiser, has been convicted of impaired driving and for refusing to take a breathalyser test. He went to court wearing a Viking hat, sunglasses and NASA T-shirt proclaiming, “I need my space.” He is being forced to pay a $1,400 fine and will be barred from driving for one year. The video footage was originally capture on the cruiser’s built-in camera. His passionate performance was used as evidence during his trial. Because his friends told him to, Robert Wilkinson, posted the video to YouTube where it gained nine million people watched it. Fed Likely To Keep Buying Bonds (WSJ) Three months after launching an aggressive push to restart the lumbering U.S. economy, Federal Reserve officials are nearing a decision to continue those efforts into 2013 as the U.S. faces threats from the fiscal cliff at home and fragile economies elsewhere in the world. Groupon CEO Says He Remains Right Person To Run Company (WSJ) FYI. World Economy in Best Shape for 18 Months, Poll Shows (Bloomberg) So that's nice. Actor Tim Allen’s Car Stolen By Man Claiming To Be Son (Fox2) To the untrained eye, actor Tim Allen’s 1996 Chevy Impala may not look like much, but with its custom engine and one of a kind interior, it’s worth a lot of money. America’s funnyman Tim Allen loved his car so much, he featured it in a YouTube commercial. The car was special, expensive, upgraded, and was also one of the superstar’s favorites. He even drove it to the People’s Choice Awards and mentioned it on stage when he won his award...So how did Allen’s prized possession make its way from his Los Angeles garage to a corner in Northeast Denver? Faustino Ibarra is facing charges for stealing it. “It’s a priceless vehicle.” Ibarra said to Fox 31 Denver’s Justin Joseph in an exclusive jailhouse interview. “I`m trying to make it simple for you to understand. I didn’t break into (Allen’s) garage. He left the door open and he left me the keys so I could get the car and take it to Denver.” Ibarra claims Allen adopted him years ago and that Allen had allowed him to take the car. “I emailed my dad the morning that I got the car in and everything is fine and I’ve got the car and it`s ready for you and we need to talk about me coming to live with you,” said the inmate. “What you say sounds a little crazy.” Joseph said. “I don`t care how it sounds, I know who I am. He knows who I am. He knows who he is,” Ibarra said. He denies that he has mental health issues and says no matter what anyone thinks, his alleged father, a superstar, will not pursue charges. “My dad loves the heck out of me. He’s ultra-proud of me and he wants to see the best for me in every way,” Ibarra told Joseph. FOX 31 Denver reached out to Allen’s publicist but did not hear back from Allen’s team. FOX 31 Denver also found no independent evidence that Ibarra was ever adopted by Allen.

Opening Bell: 07.27.12

Barclays Faces New Scrutiny (WSJ) n what could turn out to be a new black eye for the bank, Barclays said the U.K. financial regulator has started an investigation into four current and former senior employees, including Chris Lucas, Barclays's finance director. The issue centers on the "sufficiency of disclosure" in relation to fees paid when Barclays conducted an emergency £7.3 billion ($11.45 billion) capital increase with Middle Eastern investors in 2008. The cash injection likely saved Barclays from being bailed out by the government and part-nationalized. The Financial Services Authority and Barclays declined to elaborate further the issue. Barclays said in a statement that it was confident it had satisfied disclosure obligations. In a separate debacle, Barclays said it put aside £450 million to cover the misselling of derivatives products to small businesses. Merkel, Hollande Vow to Do Everything to Defend Euro (Reuters) FYI: "Germany and France are deeply committed to the integrity of the euro zone. They are determined to do everything to protect the euro zone," they said in a joint statement. Treasury Eyes Funds Hidden Overseas (WSJ) he Treasury Department released new details Thursday of a plan to ferret out Americans' global tax dodging, though some lawmakers and banks remain concerned about the initiative's scope and regulatory costs. Treasury officials said they hope to finalize the system's basic rules by the fall and expressed confidence it would be on track for implementation by 2014 as scheduled. Congressional experts said the new system would recover $8.7 billion in tax revenues over 10 years. Facebook Growth Slows Again (WSJ) The company swung to a second-quarter loss largely weighed down by expenses from compensating employees with stock upon its initial public offering in May. Revenue in the second quarter was $1.18 billion, up 32% from $895 million a year ago. That revenue growth was the lowest percentage since at least the first quarter of 2011, when Facebook was more than doubling the amount of money it brought in from advertising, and to a lesser extent, the cut of fees it takes from payments on its platform. Facebook Falls After Report Fails To Quell Growth Concerns (Bloomberg) “It took a long time for the TV market and advertising to be truly understood, it took a long time for search, and I think we’re still in that learning curve with a lot of our clients,” COO Sheryl Sandberg said. The Guy In The Clown Nose? He's An Olympian (WSJ) Terry Bartlett is a world-class gymnast who leapt, tumbled and swung for the glory of Great Britain in three Olympic Games. Today, he is also a world-class clown. Ten times a week, he dons a red nose and floppy shoes to elicit chuckles at "O," a Las Vegas water-themed circus run by Cirque du Soleil. "It's better than having a real job," says the 48-year-old Bartlett...A few months after Bartlett's audition, Cirque hired him as an acrobat for a new show in Las Vegas. At first, he says, he had to confront some stigma about joining a circus. "Some people were like, whoa, that's not much of a move from what you've done," he says. But today, he says Cirque is so well-known that he gets few smirks. Spanish Banks Hit By Real Estate Woes (WSJ) Caixabank SA, Spain's third-largest lender by market value, number five bank Banco Popular Español SA, and smaller Banco Español de Credito SA, all said they had set aside most of their profit to bolster their buffers against property sector losses, after the government twice this year raised the minimum required provisioning level for banks. Caixabank said quarterly net profit tumbled 78% to €118 million ($145.1 million) and Popular's profit fell 37% to €75.4 million. Smaller Banesto, which is owned by banking giant Banco Santander SA, said quarterly profit sank 97% to €14.4 million. Goldman PR Guru's Charm School (NYP) Under Siewert, the bank has scheduled weekly roundtable meetings between the media and executives including Goldman President Gary Cohn and CFO David Viniar. In one of those meetings yesterday, rising-star Treasurer Elizabeth “Liz” Beshel Robinson met the press for the first time. Not everyone’s keen on the changes. Goldman’s financial rock star Viniar, sources said, has sworn off appearing on TV. JPMorgan Revamps Business Units (WSJ) The bank said Frank Bisignano, who was tapped in early 2011 to lead J.P. Morgan's transformation of its mortgage banking group, will become co-chief operating officer for the entire company, in addition to continuing as chief administrative officer of the firm. He will transition the mortgage business to Gordon Smith in early 2013. Matt Zames will serve as co-COO, and will remain head of the chief investment office and mortgage capital markets...J.P. Morgan said its investment banks, treasury and securities services and global corporate banks businesses are being combined into the corporate and investment bank unit, to be chaired by Jes Staley, CEO of the investment bank business. Mike Cavanagh, head of treasury and securities, will become co-CEO of the new unit, along with Daniel Pinto, who currently heads EMEA and global fixed income. Romney Riles Londoners With Comments On Olympics Games (Bloomberg) It was supposed to be Mitt Romney’s flawless world stage debut. Instead, the Republican presidential candidate spent the start of his overseas trip fending off a furor over his London Olympics comments and scrutiny of a fundraiser with bankers linked to the Libor rate-fixing scandal. “There’s a guy called Mitt Romney who wants to know whether we’re ready,” London Mayor Boris Johnson told 80,000 cheering people gathered at Hyde Park for the arrival of the Olympic torch last night. “Are we ready? Are we ready? Yes, we are!” Romney worked to put the controversy behind him today, scheduling an interview at Olympic Park to quell the storm of criticism over his comment that the city was unprepared to host the games. “After being here a couple of days, it looks to me like London’s ready,” he told NBC’s “Today” program. “What they’ve done that I find so impressive is they took the venues and put them right in the city.” In the July 25 NBC interview, Romney described reports of difficulties recruiting enough security staff for the games, which begin today, as “disconcerting” and said, “It’s hard to know just how well it will turn out.”

Opening Bell: 04.18.12

IMF Says Recovery Remains Fragile (WSJ) "An uneasy calm remains," IMF chief economist Olivier Blanchard said. "One has the feeling that any moment, things could well get very bad again." Worst Yet to Come as Crisis Rescue Cash Ebbs, Deutsche Bank Says (Bloomberg) The worst may be yet to come in the global financial crisis as the central bank spending that kept defaults low runs out, according to Deutsche Bank AG. Credit-default swap prices imply that four or more European nations may suffer so-called credit events such as having to restructure their debt, strategists led by Jim Reid and Nick Burns said in a note. The Markit iTraxx SovX Western Europe Index of contracts on 15 governments including Spain and Italy jumped 26 percent in the past month as the region’s crisis flared up. “If these implied defaults come vaguely close to being realised then the next five years of corporate and financial defaults could easily be worse than the last five relatively calm years,” the analysts in London said. “Much may eventually depend on how much money-printing can be tolerated as we are very close to being maxed out fiscally.” BNY Mellon Profit Falls as Record-Low Rates Cut Returns (Bloomberg) Net income fell to $619 million, or 52 cents a share, from $625 million or 50 cents, a year earlier, BNY Mellon said today in a statement. Analysts (BK) had expected the New York-based company to report a profit of 51 cents a share, according to the average of 15 estimates in a Bloomberg survey. Flat BlackRock Profit Tops Forecasts (WSJ) BlackRock reported a profit of $572 million, or $3.14 a share, compared with a year-earlier profit of $568 million, or $2.89 a share. Stripping out one-time items, per-share earnings rose to $3.16 from $2.96 a year ago. Revenue slipped 1.4% to $2.25 billion. Analysts expected earnings of $3.04 a share on $2.23 billion in revenue, according to a poll conducted by Thomson Reuters. Paulson Goes Short on German Bunds (FT) Paulson told investors in a call on Monday that he was betting against the creditworthiness of Germany, regarded in markets as among the safest sovereign borrowers, because he saw the problems affecting the euro zone deteriorating severely, said a person familiar with his strategy. Guy With Spreadsheet of Match.com ‘Prospects’ Says He Was Just Trying to Be Organized (Jezebel, earlier) "I work with spreadsheets a lot," he said. "It's a great additional tool. I work long days, go to the gym, go out on a couple of midweek dates or what not, get home late...how am I going to remember them? I'm not. So I made the spreadsheets. My comments aren't malicious or mean. This was an honest attempt to stay organized." He said he sent the spreadsheet to his date because "she works with spreadsheets a lot too" and she "seemed like a very sweet girl." Italy Puts Back Balanced Budget Goal by a Year (Reuters) Italy will delay by a year its plan to balance the budget in 2013 due to a weakening economic outlook, according to a draft document due to be approved by the cabinet of Prime Minister Mario Monti on Wednesday. The draft Economic and Financial document (DEF), which has been obtained by Reuters, raises the budget deficit forecasts for 2012-2014 and slashes this year's economic growth outlook. Bank of America Faces Bad Home-Equity Loans: Mortgages (Bloomberg) Bank of America, whose home- equity mortgage portfolio exceeds its stock market value, probably will say about $2 billion of junior loans are bad assets tomorrow even as some borrowers are still paying on time. That’s what Barclays Capital estimates the bank will report in its first-quarter results, following decisions by JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Citigroup to reclassify $4.1 billion of junior liens as nonperforming. In Facebook Deal For Instagram, Board Was Little Involved (WSJ) On the morning of Sunday, April 8, Facebook Inc.'s youthful chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, alerted his board of directors that he intended to buy Instagram, the hot photo-sharing service. It was the first the board heard of what, later that day, would become Facebook's largest acquisition ever, according to several people familiar with the matter. Mr. Zuckerberg and his counterpart at Instagram, Kevin Systrom, had already been talking over the deal for three days, these people said. Negotiating mostly on his own, Mr. Zuckerberg had fielded Mr. Systrom's opening number, $2 billion, and whittled it down over several meetings at Mr. Zuckerberg's $7 million five-bedroom home in Palo Alto. Later that Sunday, the two 20-somethings would agree on a sale valued at $1 billion.

Opening Bell: 10.18.12

Morgan Stanley Posts Loss (WSJ) "The rebound in fixed income and commodities sales and trading indicates that clients have re-engaged after the uncertainty of the rating review in the previous quarter," Chief Executive James Gorman said, referring to Moody's Investors Service's move over the summer to downgrade the credit rating on more than a dozen banks. "We are beginning to unlock the full potential of the Global Wealth Management franchise, having increased our ownership of, and agreed on a purchase price for the rest of, Morgan Stanley Wealth Management." For the quarter, Morgan Stanley reported a loss of $1.02 billion, compared with a year-earlier profit of $2.2 billion. The per-share loss, which reflects the payment of preferred dividends, was 55 cents compared with a profit of $1.15 a year earlier. Stripping out the impact of debt-valuation changes, the per-share profit was 28 cents versus two cents a share a year ago. Revenue fell 46% to $5.29 billion, including a negative impact of $2.3 billion from the tightening of credit spreads related to debt. Stripping out debt-valuation changes revenue was up 18% to $7.55 billion. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected earnings of 24 cents, excluding gains related to debt, on revenue of $6.36 billion. Morgan Stanley Reduces Investment-Bank Pay to $5.2 Billion (Bloomberg) The ratio of compensation to revenue in the unit fell to 44.9 percent, compared with 48.4 percent in the same period a year earlier, when excluding accounting gains and losses related to the firm’s credit spreads. That’s still higher than Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan’s investment bank. Compensation and benefits for all of Morgan Stanley totaled $12 billion in the first nine months, down 4 percent. Goldman Ex-Employee Says Firm Pushed Europe Bank Options (Bloomberg) Goldman Sachs sought to profit last year by persuading clients to buy and sell stock options on European banks such as BNP Paribas SA and UniCredit SpA, according to former employee Greg Smith’s new book. “We must have changed our view on each of these institutions from positive to negative back to positive ten times,” Smith writes in “Why I Left Goldman Sachs: A Wall Street Story,” scheduled for release on Oct. 22. “I remember thinking, ‘How can we be doing this with a straight face? No thinking client could believe that conditions on the ground could change that frequently.”’ [...] Smith also describes being disappointed with his $500,000 bonus at the end of 2006. “By any measure, I should have felt exceptionally lucky and grateful,” he writes. “But by the warped logic of Goldman Sachs and Wall Street, I was being screwed.” U.S. to Get Downgraded Amid Fiscal ‘Theater,’ Pimco Says (Bloomberg) “The U.S. will get downgraded, it’s a question of when,” Scott Mather, Pimco’s head of global portfolio management, said today in Wellington. “It depends on what the end of the year looks like, but it could be fairly soon after that.” Asian Scion's Trades Draw Scrutiny (WSJ) A federal probe into an alleged multimillion-dollar insider trading scheme is focusing on the son of a deposed Central Asian autocrat once courted by the U.S. as a key ally in the war on terror, according to people involved in the investigation. The globe-spanning criminal case marks a turnabout by the U.S. against a ruling family it once relied on to keep open military supply lines to Afghanistan. For years, the U.S. maintained good relations with then-Kyrgyzstan President Kurmanbek Bakiyev. Now, the U.S. has prepared charges against the former strongman's son, Maksim Bakiyev, who officials say spent some of his exile in London profiting from illegal tips on stocks trading on the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq. On Friday, the younger Mr. Bakiyev, 35, was arrested in England on an extradition request from the U.S. Mr. Bakiyev's U.K. attorney, Michael O'Kane, declined to comment. Computer programmer 'quadruples productivity' after hiring a woman to slap him in the face every time she catches him looking at Facebook (DM) Maneesh Sethi placed an advert on Craigslist to recruit someone willing to monitor what he was looking at on his laptop. The computer expert and writer, from San Francisco, now pays a female employee £5 ($8) an hour to strike him in the face if she spots him wasting time on social media. Mr Seethi claims the unusual motivational system has helped him boost his productivity from just 35 percent to around 98 percent during the working day...Mr Seethi published details on his blog of his Craigslist advert, which was entitled '(Domestic gigs) Slap me if I get off task'. In it he wrote: 'I'm looking for someone who can work next to me at a defined location (my house or a cafe) and will make sure to watch what is happening on my screen. 'When I am wasting time, you'll have to yell at me or if need be, slap me. 'You can do your own work at the same time. Looking for help asap. Mr Seethi said he was inundated with offers from potential slappers and quickly hired a volunteer he names only as Kara. He wrote: 'Within minutes, my inbox began blowing up. Up to 50% of Greek Workforce Strikes; Tipping Point Nears (CNBC) As European Union leaders prepare to meet in Brussels on Thursday, Greece’s workers aim to make their voices heard by holding a 24-hour strike bringing the country to a halt. With the economy in the fifth year of a recession, the lost production could prove counterproductive and cost the economy 100 million euros ($131 million), according to one expert. Most business and public sector activity is expected to grind to a halt during the strike called by the ADEDY and GSEE unions that represent around 2 million people — half of Greece’s workforce. A protracted news blackout is also expected as television and radio broadcasters and newspapers shut for the day, according to Reuters. Spain Banks Face More Pain as Worst-Case Scenario Turns Real (Bloomberg) Spain’s request for 100 billion euros of European Union financial aid to shore up its banks is increasing concern about the nation’s growing liabilities. Standard & Poor’s downgraded the country’s debt rating by two levels to BBB-, one step above junk, from BBB+ on Oct. 10, saying it wasn’t clear who will bear the cost of recapitalizing banks. It cut the ratings of 11 lenders including Banco Santander SA and Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA, Spain’s largest, two days ago, citing the sovereign downgrade. Brothels Rescue Cash-Strapped Greek Soccer Team (AP) Players on a cash-strapped Greek soccer team now wear pink practice jerseys with the logos "Villa Erotica" and "Soula's House of History," two bordellos it recruited as sponsors after drastic government spending cuts left the country's sports clubs facing ruin. Other teams have also turned to unconventional financing. One has a deal with a local funeral home and others have wooed kebab shops, a jam factory and producers of Greece's trademark feta cheese. But the amateur Voukefalas club — whose players include pizza delivery guys, students, waiters and a bartender — has raised eyebrows with its flamboyant sponsorship choice. Prostitution is legal in Greece, where brothels operate under strict guidelines. Though garish neon signs advertising their services are tolerated, the soccer sponsorship has ruffled some feathers in the sports-mad city of Larissa. League organizers have banned the pink jerseys during games, saying the deal violates "the sporting ideal" and is inappropriate for underage fans...Brothel owner Soula Alevridou, the team's new benefactor, has already paid more than 1,000 euros ($1,312) for players to wear her jerseys. The team is appealing the game ban, but that doesn't worry the 67-year-old Alevridou, who says she's only in it because she loves soccer. "It's not the kind of business that needs promotion," she said, dressed all in white and flanked by two young women in dark leggings at a recent game. "It's a word-of-mouth kind of thing."