ECB Cuts Key Interest Rate to Record Low as Recession Lingers (Bloomberg)
Policy makers meeting in Bratislava today lowered the main refinancing rate to 0.5 percent from 0.75 percent, a move predicted by 45 of 70 economists in a Bloomberg News survey. The ECB kept the deposit rate at zero and reduced the marginal lending rate to 1 percent from 1.5 percent to preserve a symmetrical rate corridor. President Mario Draghi holds a press conference in the Slovakian capital at 2:30 p.m. Since Draghi said last month that he stood ready to act if Europe’s economic outlook worsened, inflation plunged, economic confidence slumped and unemployment rose. Today’s cut, the first since July last year, takes the ECB closer to exhausting its conventional policy tools, raising the prospect of a negative deposit rate or new non-standard measures.
Fed Presses Ahead With Bond Buys as Inflation Slows (WSJ)
The Federal Reserve said it would press forward with an $85 billion-a-month bond-buying program and hinted it might even dial it up if the job market or inflation figures fail to meet the Fed's expectations. The Wednesday pronouncement after a two-day policy meeting marked a shift in the U.S. central bank's public tone.
Bank of Japan reveals concerns over easing policy (FT)
Board members at the Bank of Japan voiced fears over the consequences of the “massive” monetary easing unleashed by governor Haruhiko Kuroda last month, minutes published on Thursday showed. ... There were concerns, too, that the bank’s “financial soundness” could be threatened by ramped-up purchases of bonds and risky assets such as exchange traded funds and real estate investment trusts, with one member proposing that the BoJ consider “an arrangement” with the government to cover potential losses.
Clubby London Trading Scene Fostered Libor Rate-Fixing Scandal (WSJ)
Brokers and traders interviewed by The Wall Street Journal said brokers routinely reward valued traders by returning a percentage of their commissions in the form of entertainment. Brokers have paid for traders to spend weekends in the Alps and Saint-Tropez, and on occasion, have even bought them cocaine or prostitutes, according to people who witnessed such activity. A few years ago, U.S. and British regulators allege, some brokers were so eager to please bank traders that they helped with an illegal Libor-rigging scheme.
Obama picks Pritzker for Commerce, Froman for USTR (Reuters)
President Barack Obama on Thursday will nominate Mike Froman and Penny Pritzker for the last two vacant Cabinet slots on his economic team, turning to a law school classmate who is already one of chief advisors and a billionaire businesswoman who helped put him in the White House. ... Pritzker, tapped to become the U.S. Commerce secretary, is an heir to the Hyatt Hotel fortune, runs her own real estate and investment companies, is ranked 271st on Forbes Magazine's list of the wealthiest Americans and eighth on Chicago Magazine's list of the city's most powerful people.
Derby’s Falling Sky Shows Goldman Sachs’s Covello Spreading Risk (Bloomberg)
Goldman Sachs Inc. partner James Covello says that when it comes to race horses, his work on Wall Street has taught him it’s all about spreading the risk. ... Falling Sky will go off at 50-1 in the Derby, the first leg of thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown. Since Covello and his partners bought the colt, he has won the Sam F. Davis on Feb. 2, come in third at the Tampa Bay Derby on March 9 and fourth in the Arkansas Derby, the longest of his races at 1 1/8 miles, to earn $205,000 so far in 2013. ... “He’s going to be a longshot; he should be a longshot,” Covello said. “Honestly, there are 20 horses running and I don’t think any horse has more than 5 percent chance to win.”
Lindsay Lohan to bring lots of baggage to rehab: 270 outfits for 90 days (Today)
The troubled actress, who will start her court-mandated 90-day rehab sentence on Thursday at the Morningside Recovery Center in Newport Beach, Calif., won't be traveling lightly. On Tuesday night, she posted a photo on her Instagram account of herself surrounded by luggage and clothing, along with the caption "90 days and 270 looks." Lohan's rehab wardrobe, which would give her three separate outfits per day, will be put to good use at the rehab facility, which boasts group activities such as bowling, sporting events and even supervised barbecues on the beach.
UBS Shareholder Calls for Split with Investment Bank (WSJ)
Knight Vinke Asset Management, a New York-based activist investor, published an open letter in which it said that UBS's investment bank is risky and threatens the bank's core business of managing assets for wealthy clients. "We question the merits of keeping the investment bank under the same roof as the wealth management and Swiss banking businesses," Knight Vinke Chief Executive Eric Knight wrote. Knight Vinke owns about 1% of UBS, according to a spokeswoman for the investment firm.
Kass, Berkshire's Bear, is ready to "surprise" Buffett (Reuters)
Hedge fund trader Doug Kass had his first brush with fame at the age of 10, when he appeared on a television quiz show, Tic-Tac-Dough, and won every day for a week. More than five decades later, Kass might find another sort of celebrity this Saturday when he will have the opportunity to quiz billionaire investor Warren Buffett at Berkshire Hathaway Inc's annual meeting in Omaha, Nebraska. Buffett in March handpicked Kass, founder of hedge fund Seabreeze Partners Management Inc, to be Berkshire's first "credentialed bear" to attend the meeting, and "spice things up."
Cheap money bankrolls Wall Street's bet on housing (Reuters)
The once-beleaguered Las Vegas housing market has been on fire since investment firms led by Blackstone Group LP, Colony Capital and American Homes 4 Rent began buying homes here some eight months ago, backed by $8 billion in investor cash to spend nationally. These big investors and a handful of others have bought at least 55,000 single-family homes across the U.S. in the past year. In the Vegas area alone, they have accounted for at least 10 percent of the homes sold since January 2012, according to a Reuters analysis of housing transactions.
U.S. Finds Porn Not Secrets on Suspected China Spy’s PC (Bloomberg)
A Chinese research scientist suspected of spying on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration - -- and pulled from a plane in March as he was about to depart for China -- is set to plead to a misdemeanor charge of violating agency computer rules. Bo Jiang, who was indicted March 20 for allegedly making false statements to the U.S., was charged yesterday in a separate criminal information in federal court in Newport News, Virginia. Jiang unlawfully downloaded copyrighted movies and sexually explicit films onto his NASA laptop, according to the court filing.
Glencore seen still hungry after swallowing Xstrata (Reuters)
"In terms of hunger, ambition, I can't see any reason why Ivan Glasenberg's ambition has been diminished as a consequence of this deal. He has a greater awareness of his ability to get deals of this scale done," said analyst Paul Gait at Sanford Bernstein in London. Anglo American, one of the most frequently quoted of Glencore's larger potential targets, has been in team Glasenberg's sights before. He was a key shareholder when Xstrata made a move for Anglo in 2009, only to be rebuffed.
Chris Kelly of rap duo Kris Kross dead: authorities (NYP)
Chris Kelly, half of the 1990s kid rap duo Kris Kross who made one of the decade's most memorable songs with the frenetic "Jump," died at an Atlanta hospital on Wednesday of an apparent drug overdose at his home, authorities said. He was 34. ... Kelly, known as "Mac Daddy," and Chris Smith, known as "Daddy Mac," were introduced to the music world in 1992 by music producer and rapper Jermaine Dupri after he discovered the pair in an Atlanta mall. The duo wore their clothes backwards as a gimmick, but they won over fans with their raps.
Is this the most sexist TV programme in history? Chat show where women strip off as two men critique their naked bodies (Daily Mail)
The women walk on in a bath robe and then stand in front of the two men who are seated on an empty set with one harsh light. Each model then removes her robe as host Thomas Blachman, who also created the concept, and his guest appraise their figures. ... Some of the most puerile moments have included comments such as 'How's that p****' working out for you?' and 'Very animated nipples.' Blachman, who is a Danish X-Factor judge, today defended his idea insisting he was actually doing women a favour as the 'female body thirsts for the words of a man'.