Opening Bell: 05.02.13

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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'.

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Opening Bell: 08.08.12

Standard Chartered Probe Said To Require Up To $700 Million (Bloomberg) Standard Chartered might be asked to pay as much as $700 million to resolve money laundering allegations filed by New York’s banking superintendant after his department grew impatient with inaction by federal regulators, a person familiar with the case said. Benjamin Lawsky, who heads up New York’s Department of Financial Services, tried unsuccessfully a few months ago to get U.S. regulators to punish the London-based bank for conduct involving disguised Iranian money transfers, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the matter is confidential. The transfers have been under investigation by federal agencies for more than two years, according to Lawsky’s Aug. 6 order. US Regulators Irate at NY Action Against Stanchart (Reuters) The U.S. Treasury Department and Federal Reserve were blindsided and angered by New York's banking regulator's decision to launch an explosive attack on Standard Chartered over $250 billion in alleged money laundering transactions tied to Iran, sources familiar with the situation said. ‘F-bomb’ banker fingered (NYP) The Standard Chartered Bank executive whose expletive-filled anti-US rant stands at the center of allegations that the bank improperly did business with Iran appears to be Richard Meddings. Meddings, 54, the Oxford-educated finance director at the UK bank, angrily dismissed concerns by his New York colleagues in 2006 that doing business with Iran’s despotic regime could sully the bank’s image, it is alleged. “You f—ing Americans,” Meddings shot back. “Who are you to tell us, the rest of the world, that we’re not going to deal with Iranians?” The Department of Financial Services did not identify Meddings by name in its report — but disclosed the executive’s position, which Meddings occupied at the time. Standard declined to comment. Greece Credit-Rating Outlook Lowered By S&P As Economy Weakens (Bloomberg) The outlook on Greece’s CCC rating, already eight levels below investment grade, was revised to negative from stable, S&P said yesterday in a statement. The change reflects the risk of a downgrade if Greece is unable to obtain the next disbursement from the European Union and International Monetary Fund rescue package, the rating company said. The Bonds, They Are A-Changin' (WSJ) Bob Dylan's music was the soundtrack for the counterculture of 1960s America. Now it has become a selling point for an unusual bond offering being marketed to institutional investors and wealthy individuals. A privately held Nashville, Tenn., company is preparing a $300 million bond backed by the cut it receives as a middleman between music companies and songwriters and the outlets that broadcast their music. The company, Sesac Inc., has the exclusive rights to the public broadcast or performance of the music of Mr. Dylan, pop singer Neil Diamond, Canadian rock band Rush and jazz singer Cassandra Wilson. Woman in chase fled because she was topless, deputies say (TGS) Mandy Ramsey, 35, of Fort McCoy, was speeding south on County Road 318 in a Ford F-250 pickup truck when a patrol car chased after her to pull her over, according to a Marion County Sheriff's Office report. After seeing the patrol car in pursuit, the woman turned onto Northeast 220 Street and then continued down Northeast 10th Avenue, running a stop sign and eventually hitting an oak tree. The deputy lost Ramsey during the chase in the area, but soon found the truck parked behind a mobile home with its passenger side mirror broken with an oak tree leaf in it, according to reports. Deputies made contact with the vehicle's owner, Ramsey's boyfriend, who said he hadn't driven the truck in more than two hours. Ramsey then admitted to deputies that she didn't stop because she was driving topless and wanted to surprise her boyfriend. Rival Citadel Bid For Knight (WSJ) The offer, which was considered and discussed by Knight's board, was for a $500 million loan to Knight in exchange for a controlling stake in Knight's currencies trading platform Hotspot FX, plus a minority stake in the company of less than 20%, these people said. It followed an earlier offer on Friday, which Knight also reviewed, they said. The Citadel offer represented the potential for lesser dilution to existing Knight shareholders, by giving Citadel the right to as much as a 20% stake in the company, far less than the 73% stake anticipated in the investor group's deal, according to people familiar with the discussions. But Knight and its advisers believed there wasn't enough time to complete Citadel's deal, said people familiar with Knight's thinking. Further, they said, the Knight board and advisers viewed the Citadel terms as onerous for shareholders and the company, which not only would have had to repay the loan, but also surrender control of Hotspot, a "crown jewel" asset. The board also disagreed with Citadel's valuation of Hotspot, these people said. China Reforms Fail to End Stocks’ Bad Run (FT) When Guo Shuqing became China’s top securities regulator in October, investors hoped that he would bring a reformist zeal to the job that would help break the stock market’s two-year losing streak. They were right about the zeal but wrong about the impact on the market. Barely a week has gone by without the regulator announcing another new measure to improve the functioning of the country’s beleaguered market. But after a brief climb upwards, the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index is down nearly 13 percent since Mr. Guo took office. Deutsche Bank Is Stuck on RREEF (WSJ) Deutsche Bank on-and-off effort to sell its giant real-estate fund group is taking its toll on one of the world's largest property-investment businesses. Nine months after the bank first raised the possibility of selling the business known as RREEF, investors are still wondering about its future. The bank's lack of clear direction is putting its real-estate fund group at a competitive disadvantage, some investors and consultants say. Many pension funds have been shifting to safer property funds and looking for new managers, and they may be hesitant about putting their money with RREEF because of the uncertainty, they say. Deutsche Bank's new management team is nearing completion of a companywide strategic review. That includes RREEF, which has $56 billion under management and invests primarily in commercial real estate globally. It is considered one of the jewels of Deutsche Bank's broader asset-management business, which has about $694 billion. While it isn't clear what the review will mean for RREEF, some analysts speculate that all or some of the group may be back up for sale. But some within RREEF expect the bank to keep the business, according to people who have spoken with RREEF staff. Wendy's debuts Lobster and Caviar Burger in Japan for $16-$20 (NYDN) The Lobster and Caviar Burger has lobster chunks, lobster salad and caviar. The Surf and Turf Burger features lobster and red onion. The Ocean Premium Salad has lobster, caviar, avocado, vegetables and an egg...Each seafood addition will range from $16 to $20. The current Japan Premium lineup features the Porcini Grilled Chicken Sandwich and the Foie Gras Rossini. Wendy's left Japan in 2009 but started up again in late-2011, according to Burger Business. For its returned, Wendy's reassessed its game plan and decided to situate itself as classier fast food.

Opening Bell: 08.02.12

Knight Says Glitch Cost It $440 Million (WSJ) Knight, in a press statement Thursday, said the problematic software had been removed from its systems and that the firm would conduct business making markets and trading on behalf of its clients Thursday. Knight's broker-dealer subsidiaries are in compliance with requirements to hold capital, the company said. The estimated $440 million loss disclosed Thursday by Knight follows a $35.4 million hit taken by the company in the problematic stock-market debut of Facebook. Goldman Leads Foreign Banks Accelerating Job Cuts In Japan (Bloomberg) Goldman Sachs led foreign banks in accelerating job cuts at their Japanese brokerages last fiscal year as employees relocated to other Asian financial centers and firms trimmed costs amid a global industry slump. The number of staff at nine global securities firms in Japan fell by 537, or 7.3 percent, to a combined 6,796 as of March 31, more than double the previous year’s 3.2 percent reduction, according to company regulatory filings. Wall Street and European banks have been eliminating jobs and transferring staff from Japan to Hong Kong and Singapore to reduce expenses as the euro region’s debt woes dent global investor confidence. The worst may be over as Japan recovers from last year’s nuclear crisis and some U.S. firms start hiring junior bankers for mergers advice and asset management, said Katsunobu Komizo, a Tokyo-based recruiting consultant. BNP Paribas Second Quarter Net Falls, Hits Capital Goal Early (Reuters) Second-quarter net income fell to 1.85 billion euros ($2.27 billion), beating the average of analyst estimates of 1.74 billion in a Reuters poll. Revenue dropped 8 percent to 10.10 billion, broadly in line with the poll average of 10.13 billion. The bank hit an 8.9 percent core Tier 1 ratio under stricter new Basel III methodology due to come into force from 2013. It is six months ahead of its target to hit 9 percent by end-2013. AIG Pushing Plan For Independence (WSJ) Several analysts who follow the company say the government's stake could be cut below 30% before the November elections, if asset sales expected by AIG in the coming months help the company raise a total of $10 billion to $15 billion in excess capital. The buybacks are likely to accompany one or more public share offerings of AIG stock by the Treasury, which over the past 16 months has reduced its stake from a peak of 92% through a series of at-market sales. Boulder police: Longmont man urinated on woman at bar after she rejected his advances (CD) Boulder police arrested a Longmont man who witnesses said urinated on a woman at a local bar after she rejected his advances Saturday night, according to a report. The woman told police she was standing next to the bar at Shooters Grill and Bar, 1801 13th St., about 11:45 p.m. Saturday when a man -- later identified as Timothy Paez, 22 -- came up behind her and put his arm around her. The woman turned around and said, "Um, really?," and Paez took his arm off her, according to the report. According to police, a few seconds later, the woman said she felt some sort of liquid hitting her leg. She initially thought Paez was spilling his beer on her, but when she turned around she told police she saw Paez with his penis exposed urinating on her leg and the front of the bar. Berkshire Benefits As Buffett Wagers On U.S. Housing (Bloomberg) “I don’t know if he’s lucky, smart or patriotic, but it’s worked out for him,” Cliff Gallant, an analyst at KBW Inc., said in a phone interview. He estimates that Berkshire will post an operating profit of $1,750 a share for the second quarter, a 6.7 percent increase from a year earlier. Bacon To Return $2 Billion (NYP) Louis Moore Bacon plans to give back $2 billion, or 25 percent of his main hedge fund, to investors, saying it may be too big for him to achieve past returns as “liquidity and opportunities have become more constrained.” Bacon, who seeks to exploit macroeconomic trends such as changes in interest rates and currencies, returned a “disappointing” 0.35 percent in the first half and a “tolerable” 6 percent in the past year, according to a letter sent yesterday to clients. He has gained on average more than 18 percent a year since starting the Moore Global Investments fund in 1989. Jobless Claims Increase (WSJ) Initial jobless claims, an indication of layoffs, increased by 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 365,000 in the week ended July 28, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had forecast 370,000 new applications for jobless benefits last week. Your 119 Billion Google Searches Now A Central Bank Tool (Bloomberg) Margo Sugarman spent months last year searching on Google for the appliances to complete her dream kitchen, scouring the Internet for information on the latest double ovens and low-noise mixers. Not only did those queries guide the Tel Mond, Israel, resident to the best deals for her 70,000-shekel ($17,680) renovation, they also helped the Bank of Israel, which looks to searches like Sugarman’s to assess the state of the nation’s $243 billion economy. The central bank stands at the forefront of the world’s hunt for new economic indicators, analyzing keyword counts for everything from aerobics classes to refrigerators -- reported by Google almost as soon as the queries take place -- to gauge consumer demand before official statistics are released. The Federal Reserve and the central banks of England, Italy, Spain and Chile have followed up with their own studies to see if search volumes track trends in the economies they oversee. For Retiring GE Executive, $89,000/Month Not to Work (WSJ) John Krenicki is giving up his General Electric paycheck. But he's going to be collecting an allowance. As part of a deal to keep the veteran executive from joining a competitor for an usually long three years, the conglomerate has agreed to pay Mr. Krenicki $89,000 a month until 2022. The payment to Mr. Krenicki, who is 50 years old, was dubbed a retirement allowance by GE and is worth $1 million a year.

Opening Bell: 03.04.13

Euro-Zone Deal Faces Hurdles (WSJ) Germany's reluctance to put its taxpayers' money at risk in other countries' banks is proving the biggest obstacle to letting the euro zone's bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism, invest directly in banks that need more capital. In Ireland, Spain, Greece and Cyprus, bailouts of struggling banks are placing heavy burdens on the state, adding to fast-rising national debts. Buffett Disappointed With Berkshire's 'Subpar' $24 Billion Gain (CNBC) Warren Buffett called 2012 "subpar" in his annual letter to shareholders as Berkshire Hathaway's per-share book value rose 14.4 percent, less than the S&P 500's 16-percent increase. It's the ninth time in 48 years this has happened. Buffett notes that the S&P has outpaced Berkshire over the past four years and if the market continues to gain this year the benchmark stock index could have its first five-year win ever. "When the partnership I ran took control of Berkshire in 1965, I could never have dreamed that a year in which we had a gain of $24.1 billion would be subpar ... But subpar it was." Buffett: Berkshire on hunt for more Heinz-like deals (Reuters) "If we get a chance to buy another Heinz, we will do that," Buffett said on CNBC. Berkshire likes the ketchup maker's business, the price of the $23 billion deal, and its partner in the transaction, private equity firm 3G Capital, Buffett said in an extended interview. HSBC Reports Declining Profit and Says Costs Are Increasing (Bloomberg) Pretax profit for 2012 dropped 5.6 percent to $20.65 billion, trailing the $23.49 billion estimate of 26 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Revenue fell 5.4 percent to $68.33 billion from $72.28 billion, HSBC said today in a statement. Chief Executive Officer Stuart Gulliver is being thwarted in his plan to reduce costs to 48 percent to 52 percent of revenue as the London-based lender set aside $1.9 billion to settle U.S. money-laundering probes and boosted spending on compliance by $500 million. Expenses as a proportion of revenue climbed to 62.8 percent from 57.5 percent, and wage inflation in markets such as Latin America is increasing, HSBC said today. Swiss Back Executive-Pay Controls (WSJ) The plan, dubbed the "rip off" initiative by the country's media, bans so-called golden-handshake and golden-parachute severance agreements. It also requires greater transparency on loans and retirement packages for senior executives and directors. Beauty queen took my heart, then she took me for $96,000 ride: hedge-funder's suit (NYP) Rishi Bajaj, 33, says he opened his heart, then his wallet, to Miss New Mexico Teen USA 2007 Liz Kranz after she told him she was considering selling her eggs to raise cash for a relative in rehab. The sob story got the beauty a $20,000 loan from Bajaj, he claims in a Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit. Bajaj, who co-manages the $620 million hedge fund Altai Capital, then told Kranz, 24, to pick out a car for the couple to share — and was “surprised” when she selected a 2012 BMW that came with a $17,070 down payment. They met in July 2012 and dated for “several months,” even vacationing together in Italy, where, Bajaj said in court papers, he let Kranz use his American Express card. Kranz, of the Lower East Side, was also allowed to use Bajaj’s AmEx to buy a dress for a wedding they attended. Bajaj and Kranz, who lived briefly in LA, eventually broke up. There were “disagreements about their remaining obligations to each other,” Bajaj said in court papers. He claims the pageant queen kept her hands on his credit card and racked up tens of thousands in charges...In all, Bajaj claims Kranz spent $58,860 on his credit card over three months last year. In a November letter, his lawyer accused her of “theft, fraud and other egregious misconduct” and demanded she repay the full $58,860 in credit-card purchases. NYC to be hit hard by sequester: Merrill Lynch economist (NYP) Two months’ worth of job gains are about to vanish nationwide, warns a Merrill Lynch economist — and New York City, whose unemployment rate is already at an eye-popping 8.8 percent, will be hit exceptionally hard in this employment carnage as Washington begins to enact a series of controversial spending cuts known as the sequester. “It will set the economy back a few months in the job market,” Ethan Harris, co-head of global economics research at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, told The Post. “The national job market recovery has been modest, and it has been weaker locally in New York.” Nationally, Harris calculated a loss of about 300,000 jobs, roughly two months of average job gains, if the sequester is enacted untouched. Job-Hunt Time Shrinks in U.S. From Record High (Bloomberg) For 13 million out-of-work Americans, record spells of joblessness are abating. The median duration fell to 16 weeks in January from 25 weeks in June 2010, Labor Department data show. Fewer people compete for each opening as hiring expands, and persistent long-term unemployment is starting to mend. The progress supports Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke’s view that America’s labor market remains flexible and isn’t succumbing to hysteresis, or permanently higher joblessness, similar to Europe in the 1980s, said Dale Mortensen, a professor of economics at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and 2010 Nobel laureate. That suggests continued monetary stimulus can bring about a faster healing. Slim Risks Losing World’s Richest Person Title as Troubles Mount (Bloomberg) Slim’s lead over the next-wealthiest man, Bill Gates, narrowed last week to about $4.8 billion -- the closest spread in almost a year. The Lebanese immigrant’s son, who acquired Mexico’s phone monopoly and turned it into a pan-Latin American powerhouse, lost almost a 10th of his net worth last month, winnowing his fortune to $71 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Dennis Rodman: Kim Jong Un Wants President Obama to ‘Call Him’ (ABC) In his first interview since returning to the U.S. from an unprecedented visit to North Korea last week, former NBA star Dennis Rodman said he bears a message for President Obama from the country’s oppressive leader, Kim Jong Un. “He wants Obama to do one thing: Call him,” Rodman told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on “This Week.” “He said, ‘If you can, Dennis – I don’t want [to] do war. I don’t want to do war.’ He said that to me.” The athlete also offered Kim some diplomatic advice for potential future talks with President Obama. “[Kim] loves basketball. And I said the same thing, I said, ‘Obama loves basketball.’ Let’s start there,” Rodman said.

Opening Bell: 11.02.12

Economy Adds 171,000 Jobs (WSJ) U.S. payrolls increased by a seasonally adjusted 171,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department said Friday. The politically important unemployment rate, obtained by a separate survey of U.S. households, rose one-tenth of a percentage point to 7.9%. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires expected a gain of 125,000 in payrolls and a 7.9% jobless rate. Hedge Fund Cashes In On Greek Bonds (Reuters) London-based hedge fund Adelante Asset Management has made a 70 percent gain on a sale of Greek bonds, showing the potential for big profits from betting on a recovery in the fortunes of a country effectively off-limits to investors a few months ago...Since the restructuring, Greek government bond prices have strengthened, allowing Adelante to sell them for around 24 cents on the euro, having bought them for around 14 cents in June, the company said. A Greek government bond maturing in 2042, for example, is currently trading at around 20.8 cents on the euro, Thomson Reuters data shows. Other hedge funds have made similar bets. Third Point, a high profile New York hedge fund, for example, has been a significant buying of cut-price Greek bonds. RBS Eyes Libor Settlement Soon (WSJ) RBS wants to seal a settlement with regulators over its alleged rigging of key interest rates in the coming months, as the partstate-owned bank looks to draw a line under the scandal. Speaking to reporters at the bank's third-quarter results presentation, Chief Executive Stephen Hester said he would be "disappointed" if he couldn't provide details on a settlement by February. "We are up for settling with all and everyone as soon as they are ready. But each regulator has to satisfy itself that it has all the facts," he said. Deutsche Bank Faces Top Surcharge as FSB Shuffles Tiers (Bloomberg) Deutsche Bank would be required to hold more capital and Bank of America Corp.’s burden stands to be reduced as global regulators shuffled the competitive balance among the world’s biggest banks. Citigroup, HSBC and JPMorgan join Deutsche Bank as firms that will be targeted for a capital surcharge of 2.5 percent, according to an updated list published yesterday by the Financial Stability Board. The change means Bank of America already exceeds requirements, while Deutsche Bank would be more than 2 percentage points below the new minimum of 9.5 percent. “That limits earnings potential for Citigroup, JPMorgan and Deutsche Bank compared to Bank of America, all other things being equal, so it’s certainly a competitive advantage for them,” said David Kass, a professor at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. Short-Sellers of Europe Set to Be Unmasked (CNBC) The European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA), the EU regulator, has issued new rules on the short-selling of securities indicating that anyone with short positions of greater than 0.2 percent in an EU company’s shares must report it to regulators. Positions of more than 0.5 percent will be publicly released, naming both the company and the short-seller. Public disclosure is triggered any time that level is hit with each 0.1 percent increase or decrease after that. NYSE Open For Business Shows Wall Street Still Vulnerable (Bloomberg) The Securities and Exchange Commission may consider whether exchanges’ emergency regimens need to be bolstered, according to a person familiar with the regulator’s thinking who asked not to be named because the matter is private. The industry’s decision to halt equities and bond trading shows the challenge of maintaining markets when a catastrophe threatens New York City, home to 168,700 securities industry workers. “One of the purposes of having electronic exchanges and basing them away from New York City is for the market to be more robust and stay open,” Charles Jones, a finance professor at Columbia Business School in New York, said in a phone interview. “This is what the back-up plans were designed for. But the markets didn’t open.” David Blaine Entertains New Yorkers After Hurricane Sandy (NYP) When a backup generator at Old Homestead Steakhouse sputtered, the restaurant started serving hundreds of pounds of steaks, burgers, lobster tails and shrimp on the street outside for downtown denizens. David Blaine, the modern-day Harry Houdini who spent days recently being shocked in a steel suit, pitched in to provide spontaneous street entertainment. “David was rumbling by on his motorcycle, and he stopped to see why there was a line on 14th Street,” said a spy, adding 800 chowed down. Blaine then asked restaurant co-owner Greg Sherry if there was a deck of cards in the house. Blaine used the full deck and some spare silverware to perform magic tricks outside for an hour and a half. The magic man, an Old Homestead regular, was offered a doggie bag but said he’s on a special diet in preparation for his next stunt. Romney Faces Sale With A Win (WSJ) Mr. Romney's assets, valued at between $190 million and $250 million, include investments in hedge funds, private-equity funds and partnerships at Bain Capital, which he ran for 15 years. These entities have ownership stakes in dozens of companies that could be affected by government action, such as radio firm Clear Channel Communications Inc. and a video-surveillance firm based in China. Many businessmen and wealthy individuals have entered government service and sold off holdings. But a Romney sale would be especially complicated. Investments in private-equity funds can be difficult to value and seldom change hands. Any sale would have to be handled carefully to avoid any appearance that the incoming president was getting favorable treatment from a buyer. What Do Asia Markets Fear? Romney As President (CNBC) At a time of heightened uncertainty, with the ongoing European debt crisis and the upcoming leadership transition in China, a new president in the world’s largest economy will cause additional nervousness among Asian investors, experts told CNBC. “Asian traders don’t like change in leadership. You would see weakness in the markets if Romney won, because people would question how well he would deal with the impending doom of the ‘fiscal cliff.’ Obama would be a safer bet, as investors would enjoy continuity at a time of a lot of uncertainty,” said Justin Harper, market strategist, at IG Markets...Besides, Romney’s stance on China is particularly worrying feels Harper. The presidential hopeful has said he will name China a “currency manipulator,” which could lead to more tensions with the mainland, including on the trade front. “You would expect trade between the two nations to suffer, this would have a knee-jerk reaction on trade in the region,” he added. Fed Up With Fees (NYP) The manager of a large public pension’s private-equity program said for the last 24 months he has not committed money to any new private-equity fund that doesn’t give all fees it charges its companies back to investors. He is doing this because he wants an alignment of interest where he and the private-equity firm only make money by reselling a business. PE firms, he believes, will stop charging their companies fees if there is little in it for them. So, KKR, for example — responding to pressure — has agreed to give all fees it charges its companies in its new fund back to investors, the pension manager said. KKR is not the only firm making this change. Apax Partners, Blackstone Group, Centerbridge Partners, Providence Equity and TPG Capital are among those making the same concessions, the pension manager said. Local shelter mistakenly euthanizes family pet (WRCB) After waiting 10 days to be reunited with his dog, a local college student learned the family's pet had been euthanized by mistake. The Lab mix was being held at McKamey Animal Center, where administrators say a paperwork mix up led to the dog's death. Matt Sadler adopted the three-year-old Lab mix when he was just a puppy. "That was my best friend," Sadler says. "He was there for me through my parents' divorce and a lot of really hard tough times in my life." It was hard for Matt when Zion was quarantined last week, after jumping on a pizza delivery driver. "The lady didn't want to press charges, it wasn't anything serious, but the law has a 10-day quarantine period," he says. Because Zion was a month past due on his yearly rabies vaccine, he was held for the full 10 days at McKamey Animal Center. Thursday, Matt eagerly returned to the facility to take Zion home. "She says, ‘I'm sorry, Matt, we accidentally euthanized your dog'," Sadler says...McKamey has offered to cremate Zion, and allow Matt to adopt any dog he chooses.

Opening Bell: 08.03.12

JPMorgan London Whale Was Prodded (WSJ) A JPMorgan executive encouraged the trader known as the "London whale" to boost valuations on some trades, said a person who reviewed communications emerging from the bank's internal probe of recent trading losses. After reviewing emails and voice-mail messages, the bank has concluded that Bruno Iksil, the J.P. Morgan trader nicknamed for the large positions he took in the credit markets, was urged by his boss to put higher values on some positions than they might have fetched in the open market at the time, people familiar with the probe said. The bank's conclusion is based on a series of emails and voice communications in late March and April, as losses on his bullish credit-market bet mounted, the people said. The bank believes they show the executive, Javier Martin-Artajo, pushing Mr. Iksil to adjust trade prices higher, according to people close to the bank's investigation. At the time, Mr. Martin-Artajo was credit-trading chief for the company's Chief Investment Office, or CIO. RBS Loss Widens (WSJ) The 82%-government-owned bank reported a net loss of £1.99 billion ($3.09 billion), wider than the loss of £1.43 billion a year earlier. However, the result was hit by a £3 billion accounting charge for the fair value of the company's debt and a number of provisions for misselling financial products. Analysts focused on the more-positive underlying figures for the half, helping to make its shares the leading gainer on the FTSE 100. Excluding the own-debt charge, RBS would have posted a net profit of £287 million. It posted an operating profit of £1.83 billion, down from the £1.97 billion a year earlier. Nevertheless, RBS warned that it faces a number of lawsuits. The bank is cooperating with regulators in the U.S., Japan and the U.K., who are probing whether banks colluded to try and rig benchmark rates including the London interbank offered rate. RBS said that it had fired a number of traders following the investigations but said it was too early to estimate the fines the bank may have to pay. RBS’s CEO Blames Libor-Manipulation On ‘Handful’ Of Individuals (Bloomberg) RBS dismissed four employees for trying to influence the individual responsible for Libor submissions following an internal investigation, the bank said today, without identifying the staff involved. Hester said it is too early to estimate the potential cost of fines and litigation linked to rate-rigging. “The Libor issue is more to do with the wrongdoing of individuals than it is to do with a systemic problem,” Hester, 51, said on a call with journalists today after the Edinburgh- based bank reported a 22 percent drop in second-quarter operating profit. “It’s hugely regrettable that the actions of a relatively small number of wrongdoers, which seems to be the key issue here, has such a tainting effect on the industry.” Knight Said To Open Books To Suitors As Loss Pressure Grows (Bloomberg) Bank of America Corp. was among several potential partners that was in talks with Knight yesterday, said a person with knowledge of the matter. John Yiannacopoulos, a Bank of America spokesman, declined to comment. Loss Swamps Trading Firm (WSJ) Knight wouldn't comment on the status of the rescue talks. But market participants said the firm is running out of time. In the span of two days, the company's market value has plunged to $253.4 million from $1.01 billion, and its shares continued their nosedive in after-hours trading. "If they don't get an investor within the next 48 to 72 hours, I think Knight's going to have trouble surviving," said David Simon, chief executive of hedge fund Twin Capital Management LLC. Mt. Sinai urologist busted on charges he used spy cam to peek up subway riders’ skirts (NYDN) Dr. Adam Levinson, an assistant professor of urology at the hospital’s school of medicine, allegedly clipped a pen camera to a folded newspaper so he could peek up a woman’s skirt on a southbound 4 train about 5 p.m. Tuesday, authorities and a witness said. Sheldon Birthwright, 46, a construction worker who once worked for the Transportation Security Administration, said he sensed something wrong almost immediately after Levinson stepped on the train at E. 59th St. The doctor — a New York Medical College grad who twice won a national Patients’ Choice Award — held the newspaper at his side as he inched toward a woman wearing a knee-high dress and reading a Kindle. “He’s leaning on the pole right next to the door,” Birthwright told the Daily News. “He has a paper in his hand. But what’s mysterious about it, there’s a pen attached to the paper...He has it down in a very unsuspicious way. But every time the woman would move, he would move.” Catholic Fund Fails To Convince Believers (FT) JPMorgan Asset Management had hoped to attract investors who wanted exposure to investments that would not clash with tenets on issues such as birth control and civil rights. It also eschewed investments in governments of countries that have the death penalty. The aim was to replicate the success of funds compliant with Shariah law which have been in strong demand with Muslim investors. However, JPMorgan is to liquidate the Global Catholic Ethical Balanced Fund just over a year since it was launched. At May 31, it had net assets of just 4.3 million euros ($5.24 million), far short of a $30 million threshold outlined in its prospectus. Fake-bookers (NYP) Facebook admitted that some 83 million of the social network’s 955 million total users are fakes — meaning duplicates, spam or silly pages for pets. That represents nearly 9 percent of profiles on the site. The rash of fakes — equal to the population of Egypt — has shot up since Facebook’s rocky public debut in May, when it estimated “false” profiles accounted for 5 percent to 6 percent of its users. “These estimates are based on an internal review of a limited sample of accounts, and we apply significant judgment in making this determination, such as identifying names that appear to be fake or other behavior that appears inauthentic,” the company said in a recent regulatory filing. The spike is a major cause for concern, with advertisers and investors questioning Facebook’s effectiveness in reaching consumers. In particular, Facebook has been under scrutiny for slowing ad sales growth. Economy Adds 163,000 Jobs (WSJ) U.S. employers stepped up hiring in July as the economy continued its uneven recovery heading into this fall's presidential election. U.S. payrolls increased by a seasonally adjusted 163,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department said Friday, but the unemployment rate, obtained by a separate survey of U.S. households, ticked up one-tenth of a percent to 8.3%. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires expected a gain of 95,000 in payrolls and an 8.2% jobless rate. Family kept grandparents' deaths secret from Chinese diver until she won gold medal (YS) Chinese diver Wu Minxia's celebrations at winning a third Olympic gold medal were cut short after her family revealed the details of a devastating secret they had kept for several years. Wu's parents decided to withhold news of both the death of her grandparents and of her mother's long battle with breast cancer until after she won the 3-meter springboard in London so as to not interfere with her diving career. "It was essential to tell this white lie," said her father Wu Yuming...Wu's mother defended the decision to keep her situation private and admitted she only broached the subject of her breast cancer at this point because she is now in remission. Both of Wu's grandparents died more than a year ago, but the diver knew nothing of their passing until this week.

Opening Bell: 04.24.13

Credit Suisse Profit Rises (WSJ) Zurich-based Credit Suisse said its bottom line was flattered by a favorable comparison with last year's result, when an accounting charge weighed on performance. Revenue at the bank rose 19% following several quarters of reported declines. The report from Switzerland's second-largest bank comes amid a cost-cutting program started in 2011 that has it eliminating thousands of jobs. The program has resulted in 2.5 billion Swiss francs ($2.6 billion) in savings, and is on track to cut costs by 4.4 billion francs by the end of 2015, the bank said. Credit Suisse said its number of full-time employees fell to 46,900 in the first quarter, from 48,700 in the same period last year. Barclays Profit Buoyed By Investment Banking Unit (WSJ) Investment banking, headed by departing executive Rich Ricci, accounted for 74% of Barclays' pretax profit, or £1.32 billion of the £1.79 billion total. The high proportion of profits in part reflected weakness in other areas, such as retail banking in Europe and Africa, but was underpinned by a strong quarter for underwriting stock offerings and servicing hedge fund clients...The bank as a whole posted a £839 million net profit, compared with a £598 million net loss in the first quarter of 2012. Both figures are distorted by accounting charges that reflect the market cost of Barclays' own debt. The £1.79 billion pretax profit was down 25% from £2.4 billion in first-quarter 2012 and slightly lower than analysts had expected. Citigroup Says Debt Beats Peers in Advance of ‘Bail-In’ Rule (Bloomberg) Citigroup, the bank that took the most U.S. aid during the credit crisis, said it’s better- prepared than some rivals to withstand the impact of new anti- bailout rules that could force lenders to sell more debt. Citigroup’s so-called bail-in plan -- a rescue that makes debt investors and stockholders absorb losses instead of taxpayers -- shows the bank already has issued more long-term debt than some of its largest rivals, Treasurer Eric Aboaf said during an April 22 investor presentation. That leaves the New York-based bank in a better position as regulators decide how much more debt lenders should add to their buffers, Aboaf said. Wall Street Jobs Plunge As Profit Soars (Bloomberg) “The desire is to drive the cost of executing a trade to its lowest point -- this means automating the system and getting rid of the traders,” Richard Bove, a bank analyst with Rafferty Capital Markets LLC, said in a telephone interview. “All they do today is hit buttons on computer screens. Twenty-five years ago they would be calling their buddies at different firms. It was a highly labor intensive effort.” New York’s “inhospitable” climate for commercial banks, along with falling demand for financial services and increasing automation is driving the decline in jobs, Bove said. Woman could face death penalty for killing man by crushing testicles (NYDN) A 42-year-old woman is on trial for allegedly grabbing a man's genitals after he told her not to park her electric bike in front of his store. He later died from shock, according to reports. "I'll squeeze it to death, you'll never have children again," witnesses reported her as saying as she called on her brother and husband for back-up. The woman, who could face the death penalty if convicted, got into the row - in the Meilan District of Haikou City, Hainan - more than a year ago on April 19, 2012. IBTimes reports that her 41-year-old victim went into a state of shock and died before paramedics could treat him. The final outcome of the trial, it adds, depends largely on the interpretation of the woman's statement of "squeeze it to death." Dr Irwin Goldstein, urologist and director of San Diego Sexual Medicine, has previously told Gizmodo it is "quite plausible" the squeeze had killed the man. "Yes, the testicles are exquisitely sensitive to touch and there is a huge release of adrenalin when there is excessive force applied to these organs," he told the site. He added that it could have brought on a heart attack. Hazy Future for S.E.C.’s Blossoming Whistle-Blower Effort (NYT) Already, a whistle-blower program has bolstered an investigation into a trading blowup that nearly toppled Knight Capital, the largest stock trading firm on Wall Street, according to lawyers briefed on the case. With help from another whistle-blower, the lawyers said, the government discovered that Oppenheimer & Company had overstated the performance of a private equity fund. And after pursuing a Texas Ponzi scheme for more than a year, a cold trail heated up in 2010 when a tipster emerged. The breakthroughs—previously undisclosed—show the promise of the agency's 20-month-old whistle-blower program. Yet, the program faces challenges on many fronts. Some Wall Street firms are urging employees to report wrongdoing internally before running to the government, and one hedge fund, Paradigm Capital Management, was accused in a lawsuit of punishing an employee who had cooperated with the S.E.C., according to court and internal documents. Another financial firm, the documents show, pressured an employee to forfeit potential "bounties or awards"—a possible violation of S.E.C. rules. Apple’s $145 Billion in Cash Fails to Win AAA Debt Rating (Bloomberg) Apple, which has $145 billion of cash, said yesterday it plans to use debt to help finance a $100 billion capital reward for shareholders after a 42 percent stock plunge. Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s responded by ranking the company a level below their top grades, with Gerald Granovsky of Moody’s citing “shifting consumer preferences” in a statement as a risk to Cupertino, California-based Apple’s business. ECB Rate Cut Could Bring Big Disappointment (CNBC) Expectations are rising that the European Central Bank will announce a rate cut when it meets next week. But according to analysts the move is likely to have a limited impact and could in fact end up being a disappointment.