Opening Bell: 05.22.13

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Bernanke Expected to Deliver Dovish Message (CNBC)
Bernanke appears before the Joint Economic Committee at 10 a.m. EDT, and at 2 p.m., the minutes of the last Fed meeting will be released. "The doves are taking back the reins. The hawks had their day in the sun," said George Goncalves, Treasury strategist at Nomura Americas. "I think the bond market is going to be happy because Bernanke's going to reiterate his dovishness, and he's still cautious, but he's constructive on the economy," said Goncalves. "I think all markets are going to be pleasantly surprised tomorrow. I think the minutes might introduce some volatility because there's definitely tension at the Fed about when to stop and when to do more."

Instant Bloomberg not going to fade away yet (FT)
The biggest challenge in persuading banks to change their messaging habits, Mr Hod admits, is that “many of their clients are talking to them on Bloomberg”. Other questions any rival chat system must answer include who will own and secure sensitive messaging data, and what regulatory oversight will it allow. ... Two rival executives said the record of failed past attempts meant they doubted that threats to Bloomberg’s messaging dominance would emerge overnight. But just as Facebook usurped MySpace, one said, Bloomberg’s community could also one day switch to a new social network.

Sony Board to Discuss Third Point Plan (WSJ)
Under pressure from an activist investor to take part of its entertainment business public, Sony Corp. said it plans to discuss the proposal with its board. "The proposal from Third Point, Dan Loeb is something that we should discuss thoroughly at a board meeting and then we'll decide Sony's stance," Chief Executive Kazuo Hirai said in a briefing Wednesday to lay out his strategic vision for the company. "Therefore, we are now going to start the discussion and we are still at the starting stage."

BoJ holds amid signs of economy ‘picking up’ (FT)
The Bank of Japan kept its monetary settings on hold on Wednesday, judging that the huge stimulus unveiled in April will be enough to spur price gains in the world’s third-largest economy. In its statement, the central bank said its decision to stand pat – which was widely anticipated by investors – came amid signs of “positive movements” in economic activity in Japan, supported by the bank’s pledge in April to double the country’s monetary base within two years to achieve a 2 per cent rate of inflation.

Buffett, With His Magic Touch, May Be Irreplaceable (DealBook)
The ability to make acquisitions on favorable terms is a testament to Mr. Buffett’s personality and skills as a deal maker. It also highlights an almost unsolvable problem for his company, Berkshire Hathaway, and its shareholders. When its 82-year-old chief executive is gone, who will negotiate such sweet deals? ... Mr. Buffett has a unique ability to not only score a low acquisition price, but he can scare off competitors and attract other investors. Boards of target companies also appear to run into his grasp.

Vatican denies claims Pope Francis performed public exorcism (AP)
Is Pope Francis an exorcist? The question has bubbled up ever since Francis laid his hands on the head of a young man in a wheelchair after celebrating Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square. The young man heaved deeply a half-dozen times, shook, then slumped in his wheelchair as Francis prayed over him. The television station of the Italian bishops' conference reported Monday that it had surveyed exorcists, who agreed there was "no doubt" that Francis either performed an exorcism or a prayer to free the man from the devil. The Vatican was more cautious. In a statement Tuesday, it said Francis "didn't intend to perform any exorcism. But as he often does for the sick or suffering, he simply intended to pray for someone who was suffering who was presented to him."

Investors Brave Loans That Fly Solo (WSJ)
Since the financial crisis, bonds backed by a single loan have been less common than securities made up of a group of unrelated loans. Investors generally have viewed a collection of loans as less risky. Issuance of single-borrower deals so far this year has reached $12.1 billion—more than the $10.1 billion issued in all of 2012, according to data from Commercial Mortgage Alert, an industry newsletter. This transformation of the market for commercial financing is the latest sign of how far income-starved investors will go to land higher-yielding securities. Also undergirding the rise of the single-loan bond market, say investors and analysts, is a tweak in how some commercial-mortgage deals are evaluated by credit-rating firm Standard & Poor's Ratings Services.

Brokerage Firm to Pay $7.5 Million Fine to Regulators (DealBook)
LPL, with headquarters in San Diego and Boston, has been fined by several state and national regulators in recent years. Critics have said that the problems were a result of the firm’s decentralized business model and its difficulty supervising the company’s fast-growing network of more than 13,000 brokers, which ranks it behind only Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo. ... Finra said that LPL had numerous lapses in its efforts to monitor and retain e-mails. That resulted in problems like 80 million corrupted e-mails, and the failure to review 28 million messages sent by LPL brokers working as independent contractors.

Fannie Mae: Zombie Stock Turns Cash Cow (CNBC)
[Ed Mills of FBR Capital Markets] said investors are weaving an exciting tale, but one unlikely to have a happy ending. At first it was small individual investors, but now larger hedge funds, like Paulson and Co and Perry Capital, are getting in, according to several published reports. While members of Congress have yet to pass any legislation toward dismantling Fannie and Freddie or returning them to private companies, with or without a government backstop, the idea that they would just give them back to shareholders is, again, unlikely.

SAP seeks programmers with autism (FT)
SAP announced on Tuesday that it hoped people with autism – a developmental condition that can impair a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others – would ultimately account for 1 per cent of its 64,000 strong workforce. ... SAP is not alone in targeting autistic people as potential employees. Auticon, a Berlin-based consultancy, exclusively hires people with the condition as software testers. Four of its consultants were recently employed by Vodafone for a project in Düsseldorf. “[People with autism] have strong attention to detail and an ability to identify mistakes. If they look at a program code they are able to see very quickly if there’s a mistake,” Auticon said. “Our people like IT and programming. They have an unbelievable focus and motivation.”

Disgraced ex-congressman Weiner announces candidacy for NYC mayor (Reuters)
"I made some big mistakes and I know I let a lot of people down, but I also learned some tough lessons," Weiner said in the video. "I'm running because I've been fighting for the middle class and those struggling to make it my entire life."

Police: Man wore ankle monitor during 20+ break-ins in Ohio (UPI)
Akron police Lt. Rick Edwards said Kilmire allegedly conducted more than 20 break-ins in multiple jurisdictions while wearing the monitor, which was placed on his ankle when he was released on bond April 11 following an April 3 breaking and entering arrest. "This rises to the level of not the most brilliant person," Edwards said.

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In a letter to Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Schapiro, Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.) prodded the agency to revamp rules for pricing and disclosure in IPOs. Mr. Issa, who wrote the letter on behalf of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said the social-networking company's steep share-price decline since its May 18 offering is a sign that investment banks are able to "dictate pricing while only indirectly considering market supply-and-demand." Separately, the Democratic chairman of a subcommittee of the Senate Banking Committee said regulatory changes are needed to bolster investor confidence sapped by Facebook's botched debut. Facebook’s 22% Rally Helps Stock Avoid Worst IPO Return In U.S. (Bloomberg) So that's something! Riskier Bets Pitched To Asia's Rising Rich (WSJ) In Japan, brokers are dangling what they claim is a tasty product in front of wealthy investors: a "triple-decker" that uses options to squeeze higher returns from stocks, "junk" bonds or other assets. If a triple-decker doesn't suit an investor's fancy, there is the increasingly popular—and slightly less complex—"double-decker." Elsewhere in Asia, so-called hybrid bonds and other high-yield varieties can be had. Investors in Singapore recently could buy so-called perpetual bonds through ATMs. Across Asia, brokers are pushing to sell increasingly complex products to the region's expanding ranks of investors, especially wealthy ones. These types of products appeal to those hungry for yield who normally focus on stocks and real estate but are worried about falling equity markets and the sudden shortage of initial public offerings. BlueMountain Said To Help Unwind JPMorgan’s Whale Trades (Bloomberg) A hedge fund run by a former JPMorgan Chase executive who helped create the credit- derivatives market is aiding the lender as it unwinds trades in an index at the heart of a loss of more than $2 billion. BlueMountain Capital Management LLC, co-founded by Andrew Feldstein, has been compiling trades in Series 9 of the Markit CDX North America Investment Grade Index in recent weeks, then selling the positions to the New York-based bank, according to three people outside the firms who are familiar with the strategy. JPMorgan tapped BlueMountain as a middleman after trades in its London chief investment office grew so large that the bank was creating price distortions that hedge funds sought to exploit, said the market participants, who asked not to be identified because they weren’t authorized to discuss the trades. BlueMountain was one of the funds that benefited from the price dislocations, the people said. US Olympic committee send cease and desist letter to knitting Olympics (TNT) The US Olympic committee has sent a cease and desist letter to the social networking group Ravelry, who had organised a Ravelympics in which contestants would compete in events such as ‘scarf hockey’ while watching the actual Games on TV...The US Olympic Committee has said that “the athletes of Team USA have spent the better part of the entire lives training for the opportunity to compete at the Olympic Games and represent their country in a sport that means everything to them” and that “using the name ‘Ravelympics’ for a competition that involves an afghan marathon and sweater triathlon tends to denigrate the true nature of the Olympic Games”. Romney Campaign Said To Ask Scott To Downplay Job Gains (Bloomberg) Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign asked Florida Governor Rick Scott to tone down his statements heralding improvements in the state’s economy because they clash with the presumptive Republican nominee’s message that the nation is suffering under President Barack Obama, according to two people familiar with the matter. Scott, a Republican, was asked to say that the state’s jobless rate could improve faster under a Romney presidency, according to the people, who asked not to be named. Lonely Hedge Fund Bullish On Greece Tries To Woo Investors (Bloomberg) In March, Elliott met with the investment chief of a family office in London who said within seconds of sitting down that the firm had no interest in giving money to a hedge fund wagering on Greece. The executive merely wanted to hear his story, Elliott, the founder of Naftilia Asset Management Ltd., said in a telephone interview from his office in Athens. Elliott, 39, responded by asking a few questions of his own, including whether the executive had invested in Russia after its 1998 currency crisis, in Argentina 10 years ago after the nation defaulted on its debt or in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (SPX) in March 2009, when the benchmark plunged to its lowest point in 13 years. Finally, Elliott questioned whether the family office’s investment chief had ever bought shares of Apple. In all cases, the answer was no. “Then you are not qualified to be discussing Greece with me because you have missed the best investment opportunities over the past 20 years,” Elliott retorted. National Bank Of Greece To Sell Luxury Resort As Slump Bites (Bloomberg) If you know anyone who's interested: The 3.3 million-square-foot (307,000 square-meter) Astir Palace complex has already drawn investors’ interest, according to Aristotelis Karytinos, general manager of real estate at the lender. The Athens-based bank and Greece’s privatization fund, which owns part of the property, will put out a public tender in coming months, he said. Fed Warns Of Risk To Economy (WSJ) Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke made clear in a news conference after the policy makers' meeting that he is prepared to take further action if he doesn't see progress on bringing down unemployment, which was 8.2% in May. "I wouldn't accept the proposition though that the Fed has no more ammunition," Mr. Bernanke said. He added, "if we don't see continued improvement in the labor market we'll be prepared to take additional steps." Australian mega-brothel gets go-ahead (AP) A Sydney brothel has received the green light for a multi-million-dollar expansion which will see it become Australia's largest sex premises, with rooms featuring multiple beds and pool tables. Plans to double the number of rooms at inner Sydney's "Stiletto" into a mega-brothel complex were knocked back late last year by the city council on the grounds that it was too big. But the owners won an appeal to the Land and Environment Court this week, with Commissioner Susan O'Neill ruling the Aus$12 million ($12.2 million) development, including a wing for group bookings, should go ahead...Stiletto promotes itself as "the world's finest short-stay boutique hotel and Sydney brothel". Its standard hourly rate of Aus$370 includes room, lady of choice and beverages.

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