Opening Bell: 06.05.13

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One of Wall Street's Riskiest Bets Returns (WSJ)
In a sign of how hard Wall Street is trying to satisfy voracious demand for higher returns amid rock-bottom interest rates, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Morgan Stanley bankers in London are moving to assemble so-called synthetic collateralized debt obligations. ... he interest by potential investors in new synthetic CDOs shows that demand for higher returns is intense, said Brian Reynolds, chief market strategist at brokerage firm Rosenblatt Securities Inc. "Wall Street will create new, more complex, more risky structures to satisfy that demand," he said.

F.B.I. Nominee Could Offer Peek Into the World of Ray Dalio (DealBook)
[James B. Comey left Lockheed Martin] to become Bridgewater’s general counsel in charge of the legal, compliance and security departments. ... But did he buy into the Bridgewater culture? Or was it all about the money? ... In the New Yorker profile, Mr. Comey was quoted as saying, “The mind control is working. I’ve come to believe that all the probing actually reduces inefficiencies over the long run, because it prevents bad decisions from being made.” Perhaps the F.B.I. is about to experience what “radical honesty” means for government, as well as what it means to fire people who don’t fit in.

Brazil slashes financial transactions tax (FT)
Brazil has dismantled one of the cornerstones of its so-called currency war against foreign fund inflows, by slashing a tax on overseas investments in domestic bonds. The government late on Tuesday cut the financial transactions tax, known as the IOF, from 6 per cent to zero in a move that signals its concern that Brazil’s currency, the real, is weakening too quickly against the dollar.

Ruling Blocks iPhone Sales (WSJ)
Samsung Electronics Co. won a significant legal victory against Apple Inc. that threatens to halt the sale of some iPhones and iPads in the U.S. The U.S. International Trade Commission on Tuesday ruled that Apple violated a Samsung patent covering technology used to send information over wireless networks. Unless vetoed by President Barack Obama or blocked by an appeals court, the ruling would bar the importation of certain iPhones and iPads made to work on AT&T Inc.'s network. Among them are the iPhone 4, the iPhone 3GS, the iPad 3G, the iPad 2 3G and the iPad 3.

A County in Alabama Strikes a Bankruptcy Deal (DealBook)
Jefferson County, Ala., took a big step toward resolving its historic bankruptcy case on Tuesday, saying it had reached an agreement to refinance most of the debt at the heart of its financial breakdown. The refinancing would save the county hundreds of millions of dollars and position it to emerge from bankruptcy in a matter of months, according to people briefed on the negotiations. But the terms must still be approved by a federal bankruptcy judge, and the county must clear several other hurdles before it can emerge from bankruptcy. Lawyers for the county are scheduled to present details of the agreement in federal bankruptcy court in Birmingham on Wednesday.

Domino's tests drone pizza delivery (CNN)
In perhaps the first bit of "technological research" to involve flying pepperoni, Domino's has developed a drone capable of delivering pizzas. While the idea is likely just a PR stunt, a Domino's franchise in the United Kingdom posted a video on Monday of the unmanned "DomiCopter" actually delivering two pizzas in the company's signature Heatwave bags.

Euro zone GDP contraction slows in first quarter, April retail sales worse than forecast (Reuters)
The pace of the euro zone's economic contraction slowed quarter-on-quarter in the first three months of this year, EU statistics showed on Wednesday, but retail sales in April pointed to continued weakness in household demand. The European Union's statistics office confirmed its earlier estimates that gross domestic product in the 17 countries using the euro fell 0.2 percent quarter-on-quarter in the January-March period, for a 1.1 percent year-on-year contraction. That came after a 0.6 percent decline in euro zone quarterly output in the previous three months.

Americans More Secure in Poll as 60% See No Need for Better Job (Bloomberg)
People are more upbeat about a range of financial issues -- job security, retirement savings, home values and household income -- than they were in February, the last time Bloomberg asked the question. Eight measures of financial well-being surveyed show increasing optimism among poll respondents. “The economy is doing a lot better,” Nancy Bush, 56, of San Francisco, said in a follow-up interview. “I feel very encouraged, and maybe it’s just a gut feeling, but I think we’ve made it through a four- or five-year recovery.”

MF Global ends bankruptcy as trustee Freeh steps down (Reuters)
Collapsed brokerage MF Global Holdings Ltd on Tuesday effectively ended its bankruptcy, saying court-appointed trustee Louis Freeh will step down and hand the estate's remaining wind-down duties to a new three-member board. ... The company's liquidation plan put together by Freeh, a former FBI director, and MF Global's creditors, was approved by bankruptcy Judge Martin Glenn in April, and the plan went into effect on Tuesday. "With the plan approved and a new board in place, I am confident the liquidation process can be effectively administered to the satisfaction of the creditors," Freeh said in a statement.

Goldman Breaks Drought With Saudi Property Bond (Bloomberg)
Goldman Sachs Group Inc., whose shariah-compliant bond program was questioned by Islamic scholars in 2011, led its first sukuk in more than three years after helping a Saudi property developer raise $450 million. The bank was a lead arranger on Dar Al Arkan Real Estate Development Co.’s sukuk on May 21, reforging links with the Riyadh-based real estate company after helping arrange the sale of its $450 million five-year bonds in February 2010.

Westchester mom ran million-dollar marijuana operation out of Queens warehouse: cops (NYDN)
Meet the Scarsdale version of “Weeds” — a divorced suburban mom busted for allegedly running a multimillion-dollar pot growing operation from a Queens warehouse. ... “She seemed like every other mom,” said Scott Tarter at the Twin Lakes Farm in Bronxville, where Sanderlin rode horses and one of her daughters is in the riding academy. “I did find it odd that she hadn’t been around for a couple of weeks.” At Sanderlin’s Spanish-style home, shocked neighbors said the only red flag was the father of her younger daughter. “It was obvious that he wasn’t a dad who put on a shirt and tie and took the 7:04 to the city,” one neighbor said.

Batman Wins Condom Contest, Showing Social Media Perils (Bloomberg)
In a recent online marketing campaign, Durex asked Facebook fans to vote on what city should get SOS Condoms, a service meant to allow amorous -- but unprepared -- couples to click on a smartphone app for a rush delivery. The voters chose Batman, the capital of an oil-rich and conservative-Muslim province in southeastern Turkey, and social media experts say the contest was almost certainly decided by Internet pranksters. Batman received 1,577 votes, besting Paris and London, according to the contest’s Facebook page, which has been dormant since the two-month promotion finished in April.

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Opening Bell: 08.01.12

Hope For MF Global Clients (WSJ) A bankruptcy trustee sifting through the remains of MF Global Holdings Ltd. expressed confidence that the failed securities firm's U.S. customers will get all their money back. In written testimony submitted to the Senate Agriculture Committee for a hearing Wednesday, trustee Louis J. Freeh said farmers, ranchers, traders and other investors still owed an estimated $1.6 billion "eventually will be made whole," according to a copy of the testimony reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. UBS Facing Battle On Facebook After Nasdaq Set Aside Cash (Bloomberg) Nasdaq OMX’s creation of a $62 million pool to pay brokers that lost money in Facebook’s public debut shows how far apart the exchange owner is from UBS on who is to blame for losses in the botched deal. Switzerland’s biggest bank said yesterday that its second- quarter profit fell 58 percent in part because of losses that exceeded $350 million in the May 18 initial public offering. UBS is among brokers including Knight Capital Group that have said they’ll seek compensation after a design flaw in Nasdaq’s computers delayed orders and confirmations just as the shares were about to start changing hands. UBS promised legal action to get back more than five times as much money as Nasdaq has set aside. Greeks Can No Longer Afford Paying Expensive Bribes (Reuters) Greeks, whose country is facing bankruptcy, can no longer afford the expensive customary cash-filled "fakelaki" or "little envelope" bribes paid to public sector workers, according to an official. Greece, dependent on international aid to remain solvent, has struggled for years with rampant corruption that has hampered efforts to raise taxes and reform its stricken economy. The health sector and the tax authorities topped the country's corruption rankings for 2011, said a report by Leandros Rakintzis, tasked with uncovering wrongdoing in the public sector...As the crisis deepens, more and more Greeks find themselves no longer able to pay expensive bribes, Rakintzis said. "There are no longer serious corruption offences. There is no money for major wrongdoings," he was quoted as saying by Proto Thema newspaper. Oakland Leaders Enter Battle With Goldman Sachs (Reuters) Oakland is trying to get out of a Goldman-brokered interest rate swap that is costing the cash-starved city some $4 million a year. The swap, entered into 15 years ago as part of a bond sale to hedge against rising interest rates, has turned sour for Oakland now that interest rates are near zero. "I hope that other cities will follow our lead," said Oakland city council member Desley Brooks, addressing about 30 protesters outside Goldman's San Francisco offices. Société Générale Profit Hit by Write-Downs (WSJ) Revenue fell 3.6% to €6.27 billion from €6.50 billion a year earlier. Weak capital markets weighed on corporate and investment bank revenue, which dropped 33% to €1.22 billion in the quarter. French retail bank operations were flat at €2.04 billion while international retail bank revenue fell 1.7% to €1.24 billion. ADP: Private Hiring Jumps (WSJ) Private-sector jobs in the U.S. increased 163,000 last month, according to a national employment report calculated by payroll processor Automatic Data Processing Inc. and consultancy Macroeconomic Advisers. The gain was far above economists' median expectation of 108,000 contained in a survey done by Dow Jones Newswires. The June data were revised to show an advance of 172,000 instead of the 176,000 increase reported earlier. Olympics badminton: Eight players disqualified (BBC) The Badminton World Federation has disqualified eight players after accusing them of "not using one's best efforts to win." Four pairs of players - two from South Korea and one each from China and Indonesia - are out of the Olympics after their matches on Tuesday. The eight were charged after a stream of basic errors during the match. All four pairs were accused of wanting to lose in an attempt to manipulate the draw for the knockout stage. The federation met on Wednesday morning to discuss the case. As well as the "not using best efforts" charge, the players were also accused of "conducting oneself in a manner that is clearly abusive or detrimental to the sport." Speaking before the verdict, Korea's coach Sung Han-kook said: "The Chinese started this. They did it first." Regulate, Don't Split Up, Huge Banks (NYT) Steven Rattner: "We need a Dodd-Frank do-over to create the right oversight apparatus for huge banks. Regulators will always be outnumbered by bankers, and they will never find every problem. But, like prison guards, regulators are essential, even if they are outnumbered. In a world of behemoth banks, it is wrong to think we can shrink ours to a size that eliminates the “too big to fail” problem without emasculating one of our most successful industries." Poker Site Pays $731 Million Fine (WSJ) PokerStars agreed to pay $731 million to end a Justice Department lawsuit alleging bank fraud, money laundering and violations of gambling regulations against it and a another poker website. Under the terms, PokerStars, based in the Isle of Man, will pay $547 million to the Justice Department and $184 million to poker players overseas owed money by it and rival website, Full Tilt Poker. As part of the arrangement, Pokerstars will acquire the assets of Full Tilt, once a fierce rival. Stocks Perform Better If Women Are On Company Boards (Bloomberg) Shares of companies with a market capitalization of more than $10 billion and with women board members outperformed comparable businesses with all-male boards by 26 percent worldwide over a period of six years, according to a report by the Credit Suisse Research Institute, created in 2008 to analyze trends expected to affect global markets. “Companies with women on boards really outperformed when the downturn came through in 2008,” Mary Curtis, director of thematic equity research at Credit Suisse in Johannesburg and an author of the report, said in a telephone interview. “Stocks of companies with women on boards tend to be a little more risk averse and have on average a little less debt, which seems to be one of the key reasons why they’ve outperformed so strongly in this particular period.” ‘High’-end LI coke shuttle (NYP) A Bronx-based drug crew used secret car compartments activated by air conditioning and wiper buttons to deliver up to four kilograms of cocaine to the East End of Long Island each week, Suffolk County authorities said yesterday. Two Bronx men and a Riverhead distributor were busted after a seven-month investigation into the coke operation that flooded the Hamptons with $60 one-gram bags of the white powder. Suffolk DA Thomas Spota said the crew transported the product in cars with secret stash areas that opened when basic car-function buttons were pressed in sequence.

Opening Bell: 06.05.12

Germany Pushes EU Bank Oversight (WSJ) Though Berlin has resisted a banking union, Ms. Merkel's initiative shows Germany is willing to talk about an overhaul and is trying to focus the debate on Europe's biggest banks. "We will discuss to what extent we need to put systemically relevant banks under a specific European supervisory authority so that national interests do not play such a large role," Ms. Merkel told reporters ahead of a meeting in Berlin with European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, referring to the June 28-29 summit. Citi Bets That Proof Leads To Profits (WSJ) Seeking a shot in the arm for the ailing banking business, Citigroup Inc. C -2.30% is expanding into a little-known but fast-growing field known as identity proofing—the tedious and time-consuming task of proving people are who they say they are. The third-biggest U.S. bank by assets later this month will begin issuing digital-identity badges to the employees of Defense Department contractors, ranging from makers of high-tech engineering parts to the janitors who clean the bathrooms. Citigroup is the only financial institution that has clearance to sell the identity cards and grab a piece of a market whose annual sales could reach into the billions of dollars. But the badge business is just the beginning. Citigroup's hope is that the contractors will eventually use the plastic on which the badges are issued for more than just identity verification. If companies adopt the technology, their employees will be able to collect paychecks and pay business expenses using the cards—enabling Citigroup to collect fees on all of those transactions. John Paulson Buys Saudi Prince’s $49 Million Aspen Palace (CNBC) The lavish ranch, sold by Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan, was once the most expensive estate ever listed in the U.S., with a price tag in 2006 of $135 million. The property includes a main house with 15-bedrooms, 16-baths, and 56,000-square-feet. It also includes several side buildings, as well as a water treatment plant, gas pumps and other high-tech features. Mr. Paulson’s $49 million purchase included two properties — the 90-acre main property as well as a 38-acre property nearby called Bear Ranch. Bear Ranch and Hala Ranch together might have once fetched more than $150 million in 2006 or 2007, according to Aspen real-estate experts. Blankfein: Nyet to Petersburg leaks (NYP) Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein yesterday squarely disputed his former director Rajat Gupta’s claim that Gupta was permitted to speak about details of a 2008 board meeting with his alleged co-conspirator, hedge-fund titan Raj Rajaratnam. “Did you authorize Mr. Gupta to reveal any of the confidential information discussed at the board meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia?” prosecutor Reed Brodsky asked the CEO. “No,” Blankfein said. The details included directors discussing the possibility of Goldman buying a commercial bank or insurance company, including AIG, in the early days of the mortgage crisis. MF Global Trustee Sees $3 Billion in Potential Claims (Reuters) MF Global Holdings could have more than $3 billion in claims against its former affiliates, Louis Freeh, the trustee overseeing the wind-down of the parent company of the collapsed broker-dealer, said in his first status report. The potential recoveries for the parent company's creditors will come primarily from such claims, Freeh said in his 119-page report that was submitted to the bankruptcy court. Former bath-salts addict: 'It felt so evil' (CNN) The man is strapped onto a gurney and restrained, yet he is singing, making faces and twitching. "You know where you're at?" a paramedic asks him, but Freddy Sharp can't answer. He was, he explained later, off in his own world after overdosing on the synthetic drug known as "bath salts." "I'd never experienced anything like that," Sharp told CNN's Don Lemon. "It really actually scared me pretty bad." He said he was hallucinating about being in a mental hospital and being possessed by Jason Voorhees, the character from the "Friday the 13th" movies. "I just felt all kinds of crazy," said Sharp, now 27, of Tennessee, who says he hasn't used bath salts in months. "It felt so evil. It felt like the darkest, evilest thing imaginable." The drug made national headlines recently after a horrific crime in Miami, where a naked man chewed the face off a homeless man in what has been called a zombie-like attack. Australia Central Bank Cuts Rates to Fight Global Gloom (Reuters) Australia's central bank cut interest rates for a second month running on Tuesday in a bid to shore up confidence at home, just as finance chiefs of advanced economies around the world prepare to hold emergency talks on the euro zone debt crisis. Citing a weaker outlook abroad and only modest domestic growth, the Reserve Bank of Australia cut its cash rate by 25 basis points to 3.5 percent. Burbank Bets On Global Recession With Subprime Conviction (Bloomberg) In the dozen years that John Burbank has run his $3.4 billion Passport Capital hedge fund, he’s never been as negative on global stocks as he is now. Burbank, 48, expects that the U.S. and much of the rest of the world will slide into a recession, and he’s setting up for that event with a big wager that global stocks will fall. Most of his peers are still betting that stocks, especially those in the U.S., are more likely to rise than decline. “You have a great contrarian outcome here that will be obvious in hindsight, just like subprime was,” Burbank said in an interview last month. “I have a lot of conviction about something that others don’t seem to see clearly.” In Facebook, Options Traders Shift to Post-Earnings Bets (WSJ) While June and July bets have been most active since Facebook options began trading last Tuesday—accounting for more than half of the total options outstanding—contracts expiring in August and September have been picking up steam. Downside options that expire after the company's first public earnings report—expected at the end of July, though no date has been set—were the most actively traded Monday. The most popular positions included bets Facebook would fall below $25 a share over the next two to three months. Real life Garfield eats his way to 40-pound frame (NYDN) A tubby tabby named Garfield was dropped off at the North Shore Animal League last week tipping the scales at nearly 40 pounds, and now the no-kill shelter is hoping to turn him into the biggest loser. “He needs to lose at least 20 pounds,” shelter spokeswoman Devera Lynn said. “He’s so big, he’s like a dog. He actually has his own room.” Garfield meanders slowly in smaller spaces. He’s being moved to a foster home Tuesday in hopes that a next of kin claims the orange-and-white kitty. But if that doesn’t happen, the North Shore Animal League has received several applications from folks willing to give him a permanent home. Lynn said they’ll work with an owner to put the cat on a healthier track. “He’s actually outgoing for a cat,” Lynn said. “Once he loses that weight, he’s going to be a rock star.”

Opening Bell: 2.24.16

Dimon says 'Brexit' would be a disaster; Fischer says chill; Jordan Belfort’s Ferrari is for sale; Man Turns Bedroom Into $21,000 Bat Cave; and more.