Opening Bell: 05.15.13

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Euro-Zone Recession Extends Into 2013 (WSJ)
Economic output contracted in the euro zone for a sixth-straight quarter, as a slight recovery in Germany failed to offset recessions in France and Italy. The report underlines a challenge facing European policy makers struggling to turn improved conditions in financial markets into renewed business activity. Without expanding economies, unemployment is likely to keep rising, particularly in southern Europe, weighing on business and household spending. ... Gross domestic product fell 0.2% in the first quarter from the final three months of 2012, according to a report Wednesday from the European Union's statistics office Eurostat. In annualized terms, which is how the U.S. and some other countries report output, GDP fell 0.9%, according to J.P. Morgan.

Rising revenues to shrink deficit rapidly through 2015: CBO (Reuters)
The deficit is shrinking considerably more quickly than previously thought, the Congressional Budget Office said on Tuesday in a report that could sap Congress' sense of urgency to find further budget savings. In one fell swoop, the non-partisan budget referee slashed its deficit forecast for the current fiscal year by $203 billion from estimates made in February to $642 billion - making it the smallest budget shortfall since 2008.

HSBC eyes up to 14,000 fresh job cuts (FT)
HSBC announced another round of heavy cost-cutting on Wednesday in a programme that could lead to between 4,000 and 14,000 more job losses. The bank said it would seek $2bn-$3bn of additional annual cost savings on top of the $4bn already achieved. But Stuart Gulliver, chief executive, still had to row back from a key efficiency target. The bank would in future aim for a cost-income ratio of close to 55 per cent, rather than the 48-52 per cent range previously targeted.

JPMorgan investors take heat off Dimon (FT)
Large shareholders and other people familiar with early voting patterns said an investor proposal to strip Mr Dimon, the chief executive, of his dual role as chairman was on track to gather less than 50 per cent of the vote. However, some large investors who are backing Mr Dimon are voting against the re-election of other board members, leaving in doubt the position of directors such as Ellen Futter, a lightning rod for corporate governance activists, whose qualifications to serve on the board’s risk committee have been questioned.

Subscribers Fear Bloomberg Is Becoming Their Rival (DealBook)
The most obvious business line that competes with Wall Street is Tradebook, a subsidiary of Bloomberg that is registered to trade on behalf of clients, collecting valuable commissions for each trade. It is fighting for those commissions with trading desks across Wall Street. Tradebook was originally created in 1996, 14 years after Mr. Bloomberg founded the larger company. For many years, Tradebook failed to gain much traction, but in 2010 it hired an ambitious new chief executive, Ray Tierney, from Morgan Stanley. Mr. Tierney has helped Tradebook win a greater market share in stocks and options and has developed new products. Last fall, it introduced Bloomberg Pool, which serves as a competitor to Wall Street’s dark pools, where stock trades are executed away from the public exchanges.

Newlywed, 21, busted allegedly soliciting hooker for sex on honeymoon (NYDN)
A newlywed husband solicited sex from a prostitute while on his honeymoon with his new wife, authorities say. Mohammed Ahmed, 21, allegedly left his blushing bride in their luxury suite so he could meet up with the hooker he'd spotted online — but she turned out to be an undercover cop. ... When he didn't return, his wife contacted cops to report him missing — only to find he'd been thrown in jail and booked on charges of soliciting prostitution.

Greece Bulls Charge Into Corporate Bonds (WSJ)
Months of relative calm in Europe—and the pressure to go somewhere, anywhere, for yield in a low-interest-rate world—has investors taking another look. The Athens stock market has rallied more than 80% in the past 12 months, with the Athex Composite Index rising 0.8% on Tuesday. Greek government bonds have been on a tear since June. The latest sign: Hedge funds and private banks are seeking out bonds issued by Greek companies, which are tapping credit markets in increasing numbers. Among the buyers are York Capital Management, Dromeus Capital, LNG Capital and CQS LLP. Third Point LLC, run by Daniel Loeb, is starting a hedge fund focused on buying Greek assets.

EU Oil Manipulation Probe Shines Light on Platts Pricing Window (Bloomberg)
The investigation by the European Commission shines a light on how price reporting companies including Platts, the energy news and data provider owned by McGraw Hill Financial Inc., help determine the cost of raw materials used in everything from plastic bags to jet fuel. The suspected violations are related to the Platts’ Market-On-Close assessment process, or so-called window, and may have been ongoing since 2002, Statoil said.

Repossessions Rise Along With Auto Industry Rebound (CNBC)
An increase in auto repossessions due to borrowers defaulting on their car loans is raising new questions about whether the auto industry is going too far selling new cars and trucks to those with subprime credit records. According to Experian Automotive, the percentage of auto repos in the first quarter jumped 16.9 percent, and the average charge-off for bad loans jumped more than $600 to $7,401.

Private-Equity Firms Build Instead of Buy (WSJ)
"You've seen a radical shift in what private equity has done these last few years," said Blackstone's president, Hamilton "Tony" James. "You're forced to cast your nets a bit wider and find things where the space isn't so crowded." ... Blackstone, Apollo, KKR and Carlyle Group—all publicly held—now have operations far afield from their traditional financial plays. Only about a third of the investor assets Apollo manages now are tied to corporate buyouts—down from about 75% in 2007. At Blackstone, the portion of managed assets that is in buyout funds is below 25%, versus twice that nearly a decade ago.

Did Thermo Fisher know about the drug cartel in its midst? (Fortune / Dan Primack)
Private equity firm OpenGate Capital is suing lab equipment giant Thermo Fisher Scientific, claiming that it was duped into buying a business whose primary manufacturing facility had been overrun by a Mexican drug cartel. ... OpenGate claims to have immediately begun to investigate the situation, and learned that Gulf Cartel incursions occurred "every day," with members having been known to brandish weapons at employees in order to gain parking lot access (at times, they allegedly left "tractor-trailers filled with unknown cargo" overnight). It also learned that on Sept. 23, 2012 -- in the middle of deal negotiations -- "armed militants entered the cafeteria at the Reynosa Facility after being followed by rivals (either opposing cartel members or soldiers). They stayed for an hour or more before leaving."

Angry Maserati owner destroys $430,000 car with sledgehammer (Wheels.ca)
A man hired “smashers” to help him pound his car to a pulp outside the Qingdao Auto Show on Tuesday in what he says was a protest against bad service by the dealership, the China Car Times reports. The owner was apparently unhappy with Furi Group, the company responsible for Maserati distribution in the Qingdao area, because they allegedly repaired his $430,000 Quattroporte with second-hand parts rather than the new parts he paid for and did not make all the repairs he requested.

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Opening Bell: 04.10.13

Trading Case Embroils KPMG (WSJ) Scott London, the partner in charge of audits of Herbalife Ltd. and Skechers USA Inc. until KPMG fired him last week, told The Wall Street Journal Tuesday that "I regret my actions in leaking nonpublic data to a third party." Mr. London said his leaks "started a few years back," adding that KPMG bore "no responsibility" for his actions. "What I have done was wrong and against everything" he believed in, said Mr. London, who was based in Los Angeles for the accounting firm...Neither KPMG nor Mr. London named the recipient of Mr. London's tips. The recipient isn't associated with a hedge fund or other professional investor, said one person familiar with the matter. Obama Proposes $3.77 Trillion Budget to Revive Debt Talks (Bloomberg) Obama’s budget for fiscal 2014 proposes $50 billion for roads, bridges and other public works, $1 billion to spur manufacturing innovation and $1 billion for an initiative to revamp higher education, according to administration officials who briefed reporters and asked to not be identified. It renews his request to raise $580 billion in revenue by limiting deductions and closing loopholes for top earners. Obama again seeks adoption of the Buffett rule, named for billionaire investor Warren Buffett, to impose a 30 percent minimum tax on households with more than $1 million in annual income. The administration projects the deficit for fiscal 2014 would be $744 billion, or 4.4 percent of the economy. That would mark the first budget shortfall of less than $1 trillion since Obama took office. Soros Tells Germany It Should Leave The Euro (CNBC) "The financial problem is that Germany is imposing the wrong policies on the euro zone. Austerity doesn't work. You can't shrink the debt burden by shrinking the budget deficit," Soros, the founder and chairman of Soros Fund Management,said during a speech in Germany's financial center of Frankfurt on Tuesday. Ackman Expected To Stick With JCPenney (NYP) The New York hedge-fund tycoon is expected to stay put as JCPenney’s biggest investor, with a nearly 18 percent stake, and back the retailer’s scramble to repair the damage done by ousted CEO Ron Johnson, sources told The Post. That’s despite the fact that it was Ackman who installed Johnson at the helm of the company 17 months ago with an ambitious but doomed plan to overhaul the aging department-store chain. “The priority right now is stabilizing the company and finding a permanent CEO,” according to an insider close to the situation, adding that Ackman appeared to be playing a key role in the process. Blackstone Solicits Partners For Dell Bid (WSJ) Blackstone Group LP is talking to several technology companies about potentially joining its bid to take computer maker Dell private, people familiar with the matter said. Any technology firm that joins the private-equity giant's potential bid for Dell would likely be involved in the company's strategic direction as well as having a financial role, the people said. Blackstone has discussed a number of scenarios with prospective partners, including an equity stake, debt financing or a combination of the two, one of the people said. City officials say they're powerless to stop Time Square's growing hoard of costume-wearing hustlers (NYP) The city used to tell the furry fiends where they could set up. But a court decision last year ruled the characters could not be treated like vendors because they are entertainers who work for tips. “Our ability to treat these characters as vendors was eliminated,” said city lawyer Gabriel Taussig. “And, absent of vending laws, there is no other law that comes close to dealing with where they can be located.” The most recent trouble came when Osvaldo Quiroz-Lopez, who was dressed as Cookie Monster, got into a tussle with the toddler son of Bollywood star Parmita Katkar after the mom said she didn’t have the money to tip for a picture. His bust followed a slew of similar cases, including a man dressed as Super Mario who was accused of groping a woman and an Elmo who went on an anti-Semitic rant. Some Fed Members Fear Monetary Policy Effects (CNBC) Minutes from the most recent Fed meeting suggest that members have grown increasingly concerned that things could get messy if it continues its policies too far into the future. Among those concerns are instability to the financial system, a sudden rise in interest rates and inflation. Bill Gross Raises Holdings of Treasuries to Highest Since July (Bloomberg) Gross raised the holdings of Treasuries held in his $289 billion flagship fund at Pacific Investment Management Co. to 33 percent of assets last month, the highest level since July. JPM On A Whale Of A Roll (NYP) Jamie Dimon is hoping another solid performance from his sprawling bank can finally sink the London Whale. JPMorgan Chase will kick off bank earnings as it nears the anniversary of the embarrassing trading scandal, which Dimon famously dismissed back on April 13 of last year as a “tempest in a teapot.” The bank is expected to benefit from the continuing stabilization of the US economy that could allow it to release capital reserves again — a move that will have the effect of helping boost its overall earnings. Barclays analyst Jason Goldberg estimates that JPMorgan will report earnings of $1.33 a share — 6 cents less than consensus estimates of $1.39 a share. Some analysts believe that the bank will beat the consensus by a few cents after buying back shares and hiking its dividend to 38 cents. Soup heist ends with Tamarac turnpike arrest (Sun Sentinel) A Florida Highway Patrol trooper tracking the rig's GPS signal arrested the driver for the alleged soup heist on Florida's Turnpike in Tamarac about 12:30 a.m. Sunday. Eusebio Diaz Acosta, 51, of Orlando, was charged with two counts of grand theft — one for the tractor trailer and one for the cargo, with a combined value of $350,000. "These are very unusual facts," Broward County Judge John "Jay" Hurley said as he read from Acosta's arrest report Monday morning. "The court has seen many things stolen. … This is the first time the court's ever seen $75,000 worth of soup stolen."

Opening Bell: 11.18.15

Yellen no fan of Fed oversight bill; Barclays faces (another) big forex fine; "Throughout the four to five hour trip, Taco Bell is encouraging fans to follow the historic relocation via a live webcam"; and more.

Opening Bell: 08.28.12

Greece Plans 'Special Economic Zones' to Boost Growth (Reuters) Greece plans to set up "special economic zones" to attract private investment and help lift its debt-laden economy out of depression, the government said on Tuesday. The zones would offer investors tax and administrative advantages. Athens is already in talks with the European Commission to get approval for the move, Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis told a news conference. "We believe these zones will boost the real economy by creating a special regime to attract investment and generate exports," Hatzidakis said. Spain's Catalonia to Ask for Aid From Madrid (WSJ) Catalonia, Spain's most indebted region, said Tuesday it will ask for €5.02 billion ($6.27 billion) in financial assistance from the Spanish government's liquidity program, as it struggles to pay for basic services such as hospitals, schools and care homes. Catalan government spokesman Francesc Homs said at a news conference that the government will ask for the funding to "face debts maturing in the coming months." ECB's Draghi Stuck At The Office, To Skip Jackson Hole Symposium (WSJ) "ECB President Mario Draghi had hoped to attend the annual economic symposium in Jackson Hole organized by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, but has decided not to go to Jackson Hole, due to the heavy workload foreseen in the next few days," an ECB spokesperson wrote in an email. Leonardo DiCaprio To Bare All In 'Wolf Of Wall Street' (NYDN) “There will be some pretty illicit sex scenes coming up,” said a set insider. “It involves four guys and two girls.” And there’ll even be a little guy-on-guy action in one of the orgies — but DiCaprio won’t be in those. Not that there would be anything wrong with that. Scorsese’s film follows the rise and eventual imprisonment of drugged-out real-life former stockbroker Jordan Belfort, who is now a motivational speaker and says he has been sober since his life imploded in the go-go late ’90s and he went to prison. The movie started shooting in the Financial District over the weekend and there’ll be more filming in midtown this week. Later this month, the action will move to a Hamptons estate. DiCaprio was spotted rehearsing at Bank of America with co-star Jonah Hill. Matthew McConaughey also stars, as Belfort’s mentor. “They were incognito and Leo didn’t take his sunglasses off the entire time,” said a Merrill Lynch source. There are some scenes you can bet will be shot strictly behind closed doors. “We have a scene in an office with a troupe of hookers during a coffee break,” the set insider told us. “They are in the process of casting a ton of beautiful models, who are willing to bare it all, to portray escorts and strippers,” our source said. “The girls have to be incredibly hot.” Connecticut Homes Biggest Losers As Wall Street Cuts (Bloomberg) Connecticut, for 25 years the state with the highest per capita income in the U.S., is now leading the nation in home-price declines as Wall Street trims jobs and bonuses that had driven multimillion-dollar property sales. Prices in the Fairfield County area, home of the banker bedroom communities of Greenwich and New Canaan, tumbled 12.9 percent in the second quarter from a year earlier, the biggest decline of the 147 U.S. metropolitan areas measured by the National Association of Realtors. Hero Reagan’s Compromise Would Collide With Tea Party Certitude (Bloomberg) Ronald Reagan remains the modern Republican Party’s most durable hero. His memory will be hailed as The Great Uncompromiser by those who insist the GOP must never flag in its support for smaller government, lower taxes and conservative social values. His record tells a different story. During Reagan’s eight years in the White House, the federal payroll grew by more than 300,000 workers. Although he was a net tax cutter who slashed individual income-tax rates, Reagan raised taxes about a dozen times. His rhetoric matched that of many of today’s most ardent Christian conservatives, yet he proved to be a reluctant warrior on abortion and other social issues. Perhaps most tellingly, he was willing to cut deals, working closely with Democratic leaders such as House Speaker Tip O’Neill of Massachusetts to overhaul Social Security and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dan Rostenkowski of Illinois to revamp the tax code. Ann Romney Takes Biggest Stage Yet To Humanize Husband (Bloomberg) Mitt Romney’s likability gap was evident in a Washington Post/ABC News poll released yesterday. The poll, taken Aug. 22-25, showed 27 percent of registered voters find Romney to be more friendly or likable among the two candidates, compared with 61 percent for the incumbent. Kidney for Ohio patient's transplant put in trash (AP) A nurse accidentally disposed of a kidney from a living donor this month at an Ohio hospital, and doctors tried unsuccessfully for at least two hours to resuscitate the organ in what medical experts describe as a rare accident, health officials said. "Human error rendered the kidney unusable," University of Toledo Medical Center spokesman Toby Klinger said Saturday, but he declined to give more details, citing the hospital's investigation into what happened and its respect for the privacy of the patients involved. But one of the doctors involved told Dr. David Grossman, a Toledo-Lucas County health commissioner, that a nurse disposed of the kidney improperly. Two nurses have been placed on paid administrative leave while the hospital reviews what happened, Klinger said.

Opening Bell: 07.16.12

Citigroup Profit Beats Analysts’ Estimates On Investment Bank (Bloomberg) Citi reported a 12 percent drop in second-quarter profit that beat analysts’ estimates on revenue from advising on mergers and underwriting stocks and bonds. Net income declined to $2.95 billion, or 95 cents a share, from $3.34 billion, or $1.09, a year earlier, the New York-based bank said today in a statement. Excluding accounting adjustments and a loss from the sale of a stake in a Turkish bank, earnings were $1 a share, compared with the average estimate of 89 cents in a Bloomberg survey of 18 analysts. HSBC Seeks To Evict Occupiers In Hong Kong (WSJ) HSBC said Monday it is seeking the right to evict an encampment of protesters that has been occupying the ground floor of the bank's Hong Kong headquarters since October, drawing inspiration from the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York last year. Libor Flaws Allowed Banks To Rig Rates Without Conspiracy (Bloomberg) FYI: “It is far easier to manipulate Libor than it may appear,” Andrew Verstein, a lecturer at Yale Law School, said in a paper to be published in the Winter 2013 issue of the Yale Journal on Regulation. “No conspiracy is required.” States Join Libor Probe (WSJ) Prosecutors in New York and Connecticut are investigating whether their states incurred losses as a result of interest-rate manipulation by banks, a probe that could lead to a wider multistate enforcement action, according to New York officials. The joint probe by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen could lead to civil enforcement action, including possible breaches of antitrust and fraud laws, the officials said. Libor Probe May Yield Criminal Charges By September (Bloomberg) Barclays traders involved in allegedly manipulating Libor rates between 2005 and 2007 may be charged by U.S. prosecutors before the Labor Day holiday on Sept. 3, said a person familiar with the Justice Department investigation in Washington. Zuckerberg’s Loan Gives New Meaning To The 1% (Bloomberg) The Facebook founder refinanced a $5.95 million mortgage on his Palo Alto, California, home with a 30-year adjustable-rate loan starting at 1.05 percent, according to public records for the property. Missteps Doomed Barclays Leaders (WSJ) Mr. Diamond's downfall may have been hastened because the U.S.-born investment banker, who became chief executive at the start of 2011, had never won acceptance by Britain's political and financial establishment. When the rate-fixing scandal erupted, Mr. Diamond had few allies. It wasn't for lack of trying. Mr. Diamond enthusiastically embraced British culture and tried to overcome his reputation as a brash American. Mr. Diamond, a native of Concord, Mass., supported the Chelsea Football Club, handing out trophies himself when the team won England's premier soccer league in 2010. A month before the Libor settlement, Mr. Diamond hosted British aristocrats and Barclays' clients at the annual Chelsea Flower Show, providing Champagne and canapés as his guests inspected elaborate gardens and floral arrangements...But Mr. Diamond, age 60, was criticized for his lofty pay packages, as well as perceived risks in the investment-banking business he built. He sometimes appeared tone deaf in a country still angry about the role of banks in the financial crisis. "There was a period of remorse and apology," he told Parliament last year. "That period needs to be over." Activists Go After Big Game (WSJ) William Ackman's $2 billion bet that he can boost the value of consumer-products giant Procter & Gamble Co. reflects a new era of activist investing, in which no company is too big a target and restless institutional investors are more willing to rock the boat. Mr. Ackman's Pershing Square Capital Management LP owns a little more than 1% of P&G's shares. A few years ago, that would have been considered too small a stake in too big a company to exert much influence on management, the board or other investors. Tax Cuts Perpetuate Inequality, Should End: Summers (CNBC) The United States should not extend Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans even as the so-called ‘fiscal cliff’ looms because it will perpetuate income inequality, says Larry Summers, former U.S. Treasury Secretary. Instead, these revenues should go towards strengthening public education and ensuring that low-income students are presented with equal opportunities as their wealthy counterparts so that they can participate in the economy. Tax breaks for the wealthy cannot continue to exist because it leads to a “perpetuation of privilege”, Summers said in the editorial in the Financial Times on Sunday. Unless steps were taken to “responsibly” increase the burden on those with high income and redistribute the proceeds, the trend toward inequality will continue, he said. Devils On The (B)rink (NYP) New Jersey Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek is talking to private-equity firms and hedge funds about buying into his financially strapped team, according to sources close to the situation Vanderbeek is looking to sell a majority stake, but keep operating control, sources said. The talks, coming three weeks after the 55-year old former Wall Street executive seemed close to inking a deal with an investor to save the team, are leading some in the financial world to believe the deal has fallen apart. If that’s so, it would be a terrible break for Vanderbeek, who is facing an Aug. 14 deadline to get the Devils’ financing in order...Creditors are owed $80 million. Downgrade Anniversary Shows Investors Gained Buying U.S. (Bloomberg) When Standard & Poor’s downgraded the U.S. government’s credit rating in August, predictions of serious fallout soon followed. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney described it as a “meltdown” reminiscent of the economic crises of Jimmy Carter’s presidency. He warned of higher long-term interest rates and damage to foreign investors’ confidence in the U.S. U.S. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan said the government’s loss of its AAA rating would raise the cost of mortgages and car loans. Mohamed El-Erian, chief executive officer of Pacific Investment Management Co., said over time the standing of the dollar and U.S. financial markets would erode and credit costs rise “for virtually all American borrowers.” They were wrong. Almost a year later, mortgage rates have dropped to record lows, the government’s borrowing costs have eased, the dollar and the benchmark S&P stock index are up, and global investors’ enthusiasm for Treasury debt has strengthened. Woman tells police man sucked her toe at Grovetown Walmart (AC) The 18-year-old said she was shopping when a man, who looked to be in his late 30s or early 40s, walked up and asked if her toenails were painted, according to a Columbia County Sheriff’s Office incident report. After replying yes and questioning why he wanted to know, the woman was asked if she’d watched America’s Funniest Home Videos. The man told her he was with the TV show and if she complied with his requests, everything she purchased that day would be free. She said she reluctantly agreed to let him take a photo of her foot. He asked if he could kiss her foot as part of the prank and she agreed. The man guided her to an area behind a clothing rack, dropped to the floor, grabbed her ankle and told her, “Don’t worry. I don’t bite.” He then started sucking on her big toe. The woman said she screamed at him to stop. Before the man ran from the store, he told her, “It tasted so good, though.”

Opening Bell: 02.13.12

Société Générale to Restructure (WSJ) Société Générale said Wednesday it will roll out a restructuring plan to cut costs and boost revenue, as the French bank posted a larger-than-expected fourth-quarter loss and painted a stark picture of the outlook for retail banking in France against the backdrop of a stagnant economy...The Paris-based lender, France's second-largest publicly listed bank by market capitalization, reported a €476 million net loss ($640 million) in the three months ended Dec. 31, compared with €100 million net profit last year, well below analysts' expectations. Apple's Cook Calls Einhorn Lawsuit 'Silly Sideshow', Says Company's Not Tight-Fisted (CNBC) Wading into a controversy that was bought to a head last week by fund manager David Einhorn, Cook touted his company's investment in product development and research. The CEO rejected the basis of a lawsuit filed by Einhorn that the fund manager asserts will restrict Apple's ability to distribute its excess cash to its investors. "Frankly I find it bizarre that we would find ourselves being sued for doing something that's good for shareholders," Cook told the Goldman Sachs' Technology and Internet Conference. Apple checkmate: Another big investor backs company vs. Einhorn (NYP) The California State Teachers’ Retirement System, a $157.8 billion pension fund that owns 1.6 million Apple shares, told The Post they are siding with Apple against Einhorn. CalSTRS supports the proposal because “blank check” preferred stock “can be used as anti-takeover defenses and entrench a board,” said Anne Sheehan, the director of corporate governance. SAC Probe Said to Be Hampered by Auto-Deleted E-Mails (Bloomberg) The federal investigation of insider trading by SAC Capital Advisors LP and its founder, Steven A. Cohen, has been hampered by a lack of extensive e-mail evidence. One reason: During the period of time at the heart of the probe, July 2008, SAC automatically deleted its e-mails. Unluckily for the U.S. government, SAC changed its policy just months later, requiring preservation of electronic communications. By then, most messages relevant to the $700 million in alleged illegal trades had been erased, according to a person familiar with the matter. Until the fall of 2008, SAC e-mails were deleted from employee electronic mailboxes every 30 or 60 days, according to SAC General Counsel Peter Nussbaum. Comcast Buys Rest Of NBC's Parent (WSJ) Comcast Corp, in a bullish bet on traditional entertainment, is buying General Electric Co.'s stake in NBCUniversal for $16.7 billion, giving the cable operator full ownership of the film and television giant much sooner than expected. Kate Upton on Antarctic shoot for SI: 'My body was shutting down' (NBC) The theme of this year’s issue, which hit newsstands Tuesday, put models in exotic settings on all seven continents. Upton was sent to the most forbidding one of them all, Antarctica, to endure with frigid temperatures in skimpy outfits, including the parka top and bikini bottom she is wearing on the magazine's cover. “I was very surprised by the news that that’s where my shoot was going to be located,’’ she said on TODAY Tuesday in her first interview since making the cover. “It was freezing. I’m from Florida, so it wasn’t great for me. When I came back I was losing hearing and eyesight because my body was shutting down, it was working so hard to keep warm. I was thinking warm thoughts." Eurozone Worries Intensify (WSJ) Industrial production in the euro zone fell at its sharpest quarterly rate in more than three years at the end of last year, despite rising in December, stoking fears of a third consecutive quarterly economic contraction. But data released on Wednesday suggested the euro-zone economy reached a low point in November and could be showing early signs of recovery, as production in Germany, the currency bloc's biggest single economy, rose in December after falling for four consecutive months. Russia Says It Is Moving Away From Currency Manipulation (CNBC) FYI. ING To Cut 2,400 More Jobs (WSJ) The Netherlands' biggest bank by assets, which had about 85,000 employees world-wide at the end of the fourth quarter, is cutting costs in response to the weak European economy and tougher regulations for banks. As US Gasoline Prices Soar, Hedge Fund Oil Bets Near Record (Reuters) U.S. motorists searching for someone to blame for the highest gasoline prices ever at this time of year have an easy target: hedge funds who have been quietly amassing winning bets on hundreds of millions of barrels of oil. At a filling station in Midtown New York last week, several people were prepared to blame traders on Wall Street as they paid more than $4 per gallon to fill up their cars. "It really is not supply and demand. It's definitely speculation," said John Keegan, an exterminator with pest control company Terminate Control, who was filling up his van. A cab driver said he was convinced the price would be just $1 a gallon if the government "stopped Wall Street trading oil." No Ordinary Affenpinscher, Banana Joe Is Named Best in Show (NYT) Banana Joe, a black dog with a monkeylike face, became the first affenpinscher to win Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on Tuesday night. He defeated six dogs, one a Portuguese water dog on the same night that Bo, who is the same breed, watched his master, President Obama, deliver the State of the Union address. “He’s won a lot of big, big shows, but none like this one,” said his handler, Ernesto Lara, who held onto Joey, as he calls him, during a postshow news conference. Joey sat calmly, as if he could have gone back onto the floor of Madison Square Garden and taken on his challengers again. He stuck his tongue out as Lara answered questions. He didn’t appear to need any celebratory drinks or snacks. “I don’t think he has anything to prove,” Lara said. “I’m not bragging, this is just the way he is. The best thing is that I was in cue with him.” He added: “This isn’t a breed you train. He’s like a human. You befriend him.”