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: 4.29.15

SEC to propose new rules re: executive pay; Elizabeth Warren gains a friend in fight to curb bailouts; Twitter CEO's no good very bad day; "Baseball Coach Suspended After Forcing Players To Spit In His Face"; and more.

Opening Bell: 8.13.15

Dean Foods/Phil Mickelson probe; Greece woes; Citigroup's bad bank makes good; "Man Assaults Brother For Not Sharing Big Macs, Police Say"; and more.

Opening Bell: 07.18.12

BofA Swings To Profit, Topping Analysts' Estimates (WSJ) Bank of America reported a profit of $2.46 billion, compared with a year-earlier loss of $8.83 billion. On a per-share basis, which reflect the payment of preferred dividends, earnings came in at 19 cents from a loss of 90 cents a year earlier. The year-ago quarter's results included a charge of $1.23 a share in mortgage-related and other adjustments. Total revenue surged 66% to $21.97 billion. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected earnings of 14 cents a share on $22.87 billion in revenue. The bank's profit was helped by reduced provisions for loan losses as credit quality continued to improve. Credit-loss provisions totaled $1.77 billion compared with $3.26 billion a year ago and $2.42 billion in the first quarter. HSBC Probe Brings Promises Regulator, Bank Will Clean Up Act (Bloomberg) HSBC executives apologized for opening their U.S. affiliate to a river of Mexican drug lords’ cash, and the U.S. regulator that failed to stem the flow vowed to prevent a repeat. “I deeply regret we did not act sooner and more decisively,” Comptroller of the Currency Thomas Curry said at a day-long hearing yesterday of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. He said his agency, which regulates HSBC’s U.S. arm, is partially responsible for letting Europe’s largest bank give terrorists, drug cartels and criminals access to the U.S. financial system and will take “a much more aggressive posture.” Opinion: Investing In America Produces The Best Returns, By Lloyd Blankfein (Politico) The question I’m most often asked these days is, “Where should I invest?” In recent years, we all know, there has been an unusually high degree of uncertainty. It falls into two broad categories: cyclical concerns that focus on the outlook for near-term economic growth and structural concerns that center on the viability of existing political or economic systems — for example, the European Union. The cyclical and structural challenges are considerable, and in some cases, even daunting. But when I meet with chief executive officers and institutional investors and they ask me where to invest, my response is that the United States remains as attractive as ever. And it would be even more attractive if it can make some short-term progress in a few key areas. Hugh Hendry: ‘Bad Things are Going to Happen’ (FT) Hendry believes that financial markets are single-digit years away from a crash that will present investors with opportunities of a lifetime. “Bad things are going to happen and I still think the closest analogy is the 1930s.” For Yahoo CEO, Two New Roles (WSJ) Just hours after Yahoo named Marissa Mayer as its new chief, the real conversation kicked in: how she will juggle pregnancy and being the CEO charged with saving a foundering Internet giant. The 37 year-old former Google executive is expecting her first child, a son, in early October. On Tuesday, she started her new job at Yahoo, which reported another quarter of lackluster sales growth...No Yahoo directors expressed concern about her pregnancy, according to Ms. Mayer, who told the board in late June, about a week after Yahoo's recruiter contacted her. She says she plans to work during her maternity leave, which will last several weeks...Ms. Mayer's husband, Zachary Bogue, a former attorney, is co-managing partner at Data Collective, an early-stage venture capital fund specializing in tech start-ups. JFK jet in laser scare (NYP) A lunatic aimed a powerful laser beam at an airliner flying over Long Island on its way into JFK — sending the pilot to the hospital and endangering the lives of the 84 people aboard. The first officer on JetBlue Flight 657 from Syracuse was treated for injuries to both eyes after the blinding flash of light lit up the cockpit Sunday night — as the FBI and Suffolk cops hunted for the person responsible, who could face federal prison time. The Embraer E190 jet landed safely, and the injured pilot — identified by sources as First Officer Robert Pemberton, 52 — was met at the gate and taken to Jamaica Hospital. Authorities believe the beam came from around West Islip, Babylon or Lindenhurst. “You wouldn’t think a pen laser would go that far of a distance,” said shocked West Babylon resident Cindy Konik, 50...A startled co-pilot, who was not identified, immediately took over the controls from his temporarily blinded colleague. “We just got lasered up here — two green flashes into the cockpit,” the captain radioed controllers at Ronkonkoma. Credit Suisse Sets Capital Plan (WSJ) moved Wednesday to stanch recent concerns about its financial strength, saying it is raising capital through the sale of convertible bonds, more divestments and the launch of another cost-savings program. It is a surprise twist in a spat with the country's central bank, which recently warned that Switzerland's number two bank wasn't strong enough to withstand a major crisis. Credit Suisse initially rejected the central bank's criticism, saying it was among the world's best-capitalized banks. This didn't impress investors, who offloaded their shares, wiping out 2 billion Swiss francs ($2.05 billion) in market value. At one point last month the bank even felt compelled to reassure investors that it was profitable in the second quarter, even though profitability over the period was never in doubt. Strong Possibility Of Further Fed Easing By September: Goldman (CNBC) In a testimony before the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke offered no new hints that the central bank is planning more easing, but repeated a pledge that the Fed “is prepared to take further action as appropriate to promote stronger economic recovery.” “While we think that a modest easing step is a strong possibility at the August or September meeting, we suspect that a large move is more likely to come after the election or in early 2013, barring rapid further deterioration in the already-cautious near term Fed economic outlook,” Goldman Sachs conomist Andrew Tilton said in a report. BlackRock's Net Slips 11% (WSJ) BlackRock reported a profit of $554 million, or $3.08 a share, compared with a year-earlier profit of $619 million, or $3.21 a share. Stripping out one-time items, per-share earnings rose to $3.10 from $3. Revenue slipped 5% to $2.23 billion. Analysts expected earnings of $3.01 a share on $2.26 billion in revenue, according to a poll conducted by Thomson Reuters. BNY Mellon profit falls 37 percent on litigation charge (Reuters) Bank of New York Mellon Corp said on Wednesday that second-quarter net income had fallen 37 percent on lower foreign exchange revenue and after it paid $212 million to settle an investor lawsuit. The world's largest custody bank reported net income of $466 million, or 39 cents a share, compared with $735 million, or 59 cents a share, a year earlier. As announced earlier this month, the results included an after-tax charge of $212 million to settle an investor lawsuit accusing the bank of imprudently investing their cash in a risky debt vehicle that collapsed in 2008. Quarterly revenue fell to $3.62 billion from $3.85 billion. Residents warned: 6-foot lizard loose in Colorado (AP) A sheriff has warned residents in a tourist town northwest of Colorado Springs that a strong, aggressive 6-foot lizard that eats small animals — including dogs and cats — is on the loose in the area. Teller County Sheriff Mike Ensinger said Tuesday that a 25-pound pet Nile monitor lizard has gone missing after breaking a mesh leash and crawling away. Ensinger said about 400 homes in the Woodland Park area were warned. He added that the animal, which escaped Monday and is known as Dino, has not bitten any humans — yet. "We have a 6-foot reptile out and about," Ensinger said. "If it gets hungry enough, we don't know what it will do." Ensinger said officers may use a tracking dog if Dino isn't located by Tuesday afternoon. "I'm not going after it," Ensinger said. "I don't do reptiles."

Opening Bell: 2.11.15

Goldman Sachs beats off job applicants with a stick; Justice Department wants guilty pleas from four banks; RadioShack expects to pay out executive bonuses; ECB wants people to get off its back re: Greece; "Following the film release of Fifty Shades of Grey, B&Q employees may encounter increased customer product queries relating to rope, cable ties and masking or duck tape. Store Managers should anticipate the need for extra stock and store staff should read the following brief to prepare them to handle potentially sensitive customer questions"; AND MORE.