Opening Bell: 07.26.13

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Senate letter backs Yellen for Fed role (FT)
A number of US Senate Democrats are circulating a letter supporting Janet Yellen to be the next chair of the Federal Reserve in an ominous sign for supporters of Larry Summers. Ms Yellen, vice-chair of the Fed board, and Mr Summers, a former Treasury secretary and White House economic adviser, are the two leading candidates to replace Ben Bernanke. The letter has been pushed by Sherrod Brown from Ohio, Senate officials said, one of the chamber’s leading liberals and a longtime critic of financial deregulation and trade liberalisation. Signatories include Tom Harkin of Iowa, and Dianne Feinstein of California.

Up for Debate at Fed: A Sharper Easy-Money Message (WSJ)
The Federal Reserve is on track to keep its $85 billion-a-month bond-buying program in place at its policy meeting next week, but officials will debate changes to the way the central bank describes its plans for the program and for short-term interest rates. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has been saying since May that the central bank expects to begin winding down its bond-buying program later this year, if the economy strengthens as the Fed forecasts. At their July 30-31 meeting, Fed officials are likely to discuss whether to refine or revise "forward guidance," the words they use to describe their intentions for the next few years.

Banks shiver as UBS swallows $885 million U.S. fine (Reuters)
UBS is just one of 18 banks the FHFA pursued in 2011 for allegedly misrepresenting the quality of the collateral backing securities during the run-up to the financial crisis. The regulator is seeking to recover losses on mortgage bonds sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. UBS is the third to settle, after Citigroup and General Electric settled for undisclosed sums.

Wall Street’s Exposure to Hacking Laid Bare (DealBook)
In a separate indictment unsealed in federal court in New York, one of the men, Aleksandr Kalinin of Russia, was charged with having gained access for two years to the servers of the Nasdaq stock exchange. While Mr. Kalinin never penetrated the main servers supporting Nasdaq’s trading operations — and appears to have caused limited damage at Nasdaq — the attack raised the prospect that hackers could be getting closer to the infrastructure that supports billions of dollars of trades each hour.

Being rude to French president no longer an offense (Reuters)
Being rude to the French president is no longer an offense after parliament agreed on Thursday to amend legislation dating back to 1881 in favour of freedom of speech. ... The change came after the European Court of Human Rights ruled in March that France violated a demonstrator's right to freedom of expression when it fined him for holding a banner up to former President Nicolas Sarkozy reading: "Get lost, jerk."

Activision in $8.2 Billion Deal to Buy Back Stake From Vivendi (DealBook)
Activision Blizzard, the world’s biggest video game publisher, has a reached an $8.2 billion deal to separate from Vivendi and become an independent company. Under a deal that was announced early Friday, Activision Blizzard and a group of investors led by the company’s management will buy back shares owned by Vivendi, the French conglomerate that controls the video game maker, leaving a majority of Activision Blizzard’s shares held by the investing public. Activision Blizzard will buy about 429 million of its shares and certain tax attributes from Vivendi for roughly $5.83 billion in cash, or $13.60 a share, the company said. In addition, Robert A. Kotick, 50, the chief executive, and Brian Kelly, the co-chairman, are leading a group in buying about 172 million shares of the company from Vivendi for about $2.34 billion.

Amazon Posts Surprise Loss After Spending on Warehouses (Bloomberg)
Amazon.com Inc. reported a surprise net loss as the world’s largest online retailer continued to pump money into warehouses and digital content, fueling sales growth at the expense of profits. The second-quarter net loss was $7 million, or 2 cents a share, compared with profit of $7 million, or 1 cent, a year earlier, the Seattle-based company said in a statement yesterday. Analysts had projected net income of $28.8 million on average, or 6 cents, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Goldman CEO on risk: The worst 'absolutely will happen' (CNBC)
"Most risk management is really just advanced contingency planning and disciplining yourself to realize that, given enough time, very low probability events not only can happen, but they absolutely will happen," said Blankfein. "The definition of infinity is that you wait long enough, everything happens." ... "Once you think that something is improbable and everybody thinks it, people modify their behavior in a way that makes it more probable," said Blankfein.

Detroit set to beat bad-faith charge over bankruptcy (Reuters)
Meetings without the chance for any back and forth, unreturned phone calls and brusque tactics. To opponents of Detroit's bankruptcy filing, Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr has utterly failed to negotiate with them. But retired city workers, who are fighting to stop their pensions from being cut, and hope to stop Detroit's bankruptcy by claiming in court that Orr didn't engage in good-faith negotiations, are likely out of luck.

Halliburton to Plead Guilty to Destroying Deepwater Horizon Evidence (WSJ)
Halliburton Co. will plead guilty to destroying evidence in the wake of the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. The government said Thursday that the company, a contractor involved in drilling the oil well that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, destroyed computer simulations it performed in the months after the accident. Those simulations didn't bear out Halliburton's contention that BP PLC, which owned the well, erred by not following its advice on using certain equipment, the Justice Department said. ... In addition to pleading guilty to one count of destruction of evidence and paying a $200,000 fine, Halliburton will donate $55 million to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the government said.

Fed-up Silda Spitzer plans to divorce Eliot after election (NYP)
Silda Spitzer is privately telling friends she plans to divorce her hooker-loving husband, Eliot Spitzer, Page Six can exclusively reveal. Multiple sources tell us long-suffering Silda — who, he last night admitted, will not be joining him on the campaign trail — “has had enough” and plans to start divorce proceedings after his run for New York City comptroller is over.

Murderer put killing wife on to-do list (UPI)
Jean Pierre Tiras stabbed his wife to death in winter 2012. But it was just part of his checklist. Trias' wife, Katherine Porter, was found dead after the stabbing. Her sisters Martha Porter and Sarah Porter filed a lawsuit that said the murder was premeditated. “Kill Kathie Kill Kathie Kill Kathie!!!!!” was written on a list of household chores in a computer file recovered by police.

Prince Harry wants to make sure Prince George "has fun" (CBS)
"It's fantastic to have an addition to the family," he added, joking, "I only hope my brother knows how expensive my babysitting charges are!"

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Opening Bell: 03.26.13

Bailout Strains European Ties (WSJ) Several officials familiar with talks in Nicosia and Brussels over the €10 billion ($13 billion) rescue for the island described more than a week of chaotic negotiations. European officials cited Cypriot foot-dragging, reversals and dropped communications, a situation one European Union official called "terrifying." Cypriot officials described their European opposites as demanding and inflexible. Big Cypriot Bank Depositors Could Lose 40%: Minister (Reuters) "It could be in that neighborhood but I do not want to anticipate it," Sarris told BBC radio, adding the exact figure was yet to be decided. "But what I have seen suggests a number in that neighborhood." Sheik Spars With UBS Over $20 Million Fee (WSJ) A Kuwaiti sheik alleges that a senior executive at Switzerland's UBS offered $20 million to get the bank an advisory role on one of the biggest-ever acquisitions in the Middle East, but the bank later backed out of the deal, according to the sheik's testimony in a Dubai court case. Sheik Meshal Jarah Al Sabah said in sworn testimony that UBS offered the commission in 2009 to derail a bid by the French media group Vivendi SA for the African telecommunications assets of Zain, Kuwait's biggest mobile-phone company, and to get UBS a lead role finding a different buyer. Sheik Meshal sued UBS last year in the Dubai International Financial Centre courts, where UBS has offices, claiming he wasn't paid his fee. The written submission, which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, is his first direct testimony in the case. UBS denies the allegations and said in a statement that it is "vigorously defending this claim." Spain's Deficit Woes Seen Lingering (WSJ) In a report Tuesday, including economic projections for the next two years, the Bank of Spain said the economy will remain in recession, on average, this year, and contract around 1.5%—three times bigger than the government's own official projection. The discrepancy is because an economic uptick expected later this year is likely to be weaker than hoped. Atlantic City's Revel Casino Files for Bankruptcy (Reuters) Morgan Stanley originally owned most of Revel Entertainment Group, which began building the casino, but sold its stake at a $932 million loss in February 2011 to investors led by Kevin DeSanctis. The new owners then obtained a tax package of roughly $261 million from New Jersey and lined up $1.15 billion of financing to help complete the project. DeSanctis resigned earlier this month as Revel's chief executive. Hartmann, the interim chief executive, is a former chief executive of the Mohegan Sun casino in eastern Connecticut and has more than 20 years of experience in the gaming industry. Backers had hoped Revel would become the next Borgata, a joint venture between Boyd Gaming and MGM Resorts International that opened in 2003 and became Atlantic City's top-grossing casino. UBS: $62 million from Nasdaq is paltry compensation for Facebook IPO debacle (NYP) Nasdaq got approval from regulators yesterday to pay out $62 million to trading firms hurt by Facebook’s botched share sale — but UBS is having none of it. The Swiss bank giant has already filed an arbitration demand against Nasdaq, saying the payout doesn’t begin to cover the $356 million it lost because of the exchange’s “gross mishandling” of the IPO. Blackstone Ups Heat On Dell (WSJ) On Monday, a special committee of Dell board members said it viewed a Blackstone proposal as potentially superior to the $24.4 billion take-private offer from Silver Lake Partners and founder and Chief Executive Michael Dell. Investor Carl Icahn, who separately is pursuing the Round Rock, Texas, company, said on Monday he would review Blackstone's offer and may attempt to join forces with the New York firm. Fed Banker Backs Dialing Down Easy Money (WSJ) William Dudley, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, said in a speech the Fed "should calibrate" how much U.S. debt and mortgage-backed securities it buys each month "by allowing the flow rate of purchases to respond to material changes in the labor market outlook." 'Stripper' in Jensen Beach arrested (TCPalm) St. Lucie County Sheriff's deputies March 10 went to the area of the 100 block of North El Mar Drive in Jensen Beach after a report of a woman in her underwear yelling profanities at a neighbor. They found Lisa Marie Paras, 29, in an "underwear like or bikini dress" drinking a Michelob Ultra at the end of a driveway, an affidavit states. A deputy told her to put down the beer. She said she was wearing a bikini. She also said she'd been yelling across the street because the folks there are "(rectal orifices)," an affidavit states. When a deputy tried to get more information, Paras said she's a "stripper and wanted to make me her witness," the affidavit states. Paras put her hands on the deputy's shoulders, and he told her she shouldn't touch him. Described as "obviously intoxicated," Paras tried to explain she faces trespassing charges because of her neighbors. She also thought her landlord stole cash from her bedroom. Meanwhile, the neighbors told investigators Paras came out to the road and started yelling obscenities at them as they cooked steaks on the grill. Paras, they said, was in her undies and drinking beer. Paras reportedly told a deputy she'd had eight to 12 beers. She said the people across the street are "(rectal orifices)" and are "(fornicated) up," an affidavit states. Paras, whose occupation is listed as a dancer, tried to hug a deputy when he asked her to confirm some contact information.

Opening Bell: 2.2.16

Veteran dealmakers turn activist investors; Alphabet profit rises; Citigroup says be cool re China; Domino's Pizza Delivery Man Stabs Customer; and more.

Opening Bell: 10.25.12

Credit Suisse Profit Falls (Reuters) The Swiss bank said on Thursday third-quarter net profit fell 63 percent to 254 million francs, missing analysts' average forecast of 370 million. The quarter was hit by 1.05 billion francs in charges, mainly linked to its own debt. Brady Dougan: More Tough Times Ahead For Financials (CNBC) More aggressive cost cutting will be necessary in the coming years, Credit Suisse CEO Brady Dougan told CNBC Thursday, adding that he expects the financial services industry to continue to operate in a volatile market environment. The bank is targeting cost savings of a billion Swiss francs ($1.07 billion) by next year with further cuts in the years after that. “We believe we should be in mode of driving business more efficiently. We have cut 2 billion Swiss francs in the last year and we can take another billion in 2013 and [we have] set further targets for 2014 and 2015. We want to drive that efficiency and we are in a volatile revenue environment and that’ll be the case for the industry for some time,” Dougan said. CEOs Call For Deficit Action (WSJ) Chief executives of more than 80 big-name U.S. corporations, from Aetna to Weyerhaeuser Co. are banding together to pressure Congress to reduce the federal deficit with tax-revenue increases as well as spending cuts. The CEOs, in a statement to be released on Thursday, say any fiscal plan "that can succeed both financially and politically" has to limit the growth of health-care spending, make Social Security solvent and "include comprehensive and pro-growth tax reform, which broadens the base, lowers rates, raises revenues and reduces the deficit." The CEOs who signed the manifesto deem tax increases inevitable no matter which party succeeds at the polls in November. "There is no possible way; you can do the arithmetic a million different ways" to avoid raising taxes, said Mark Bertolini, CEO of Aetna. "You can't tax your way to fix this problem, and you can't cut entitlements enough to fix this problem." Crew Of Argentine Ship Seized By Hedge Fund Elliot Associates Returns Home (AP) They were supposed to sail the Argentine military's signature tall ship into the port of Buenos Aires in full glory after a goodwill tour asserting the South American country's place in the world. Instead, hundreds of sailors had to abandon their frigate, evacuated on orders from President Cristina Fernandez, after the ARA Libertad was detained by a Ghanaian judge in a debt dispute. Frustrated and disheartened but determined to go back as soon as possible to retrieve their three-masted ship, the sailors arrived home early Thursday on an Air France charter. The Argentine government couldn't send one of its own planes, for fear that it, too, could be seized as collateral. China Surpasses US as Top Foreign Investment Venue (Reuters) China overtook the U.S. as the world's top destination for foreign direct investment in the first half of 2012, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. China absorbed $59.1 billion in foreign direct investment (FDI) in the first six months, down slightly from $60.9 billion a year earlier, the agency said in a report. The United States attracted $57.4 billion in 2012's first half, down 39 percent from a year earlier, it said. Stephen Colbert Makes Donald Trump An Offer (Mediaite) Reality star Donald Trump yesterday offered to donate $5 million to a charity of Barack Obama‘s choosing if the President “opens up and gives his college records and applications, and if he gives his passport applications and records.” Stephen Colbert, touched by Trump’s generosity, made an offer of his own last night. He is vowing to pledge $1 million from his Super PAC to any charity Trump wants if: “…you let me dip my balls in your mouth.” Fed Steady On Policy (WSJ) The Fed expanded bond purchasing at its September meeting and plans to do its next major evaluation of its bond-buying programs at its final meeting of the year on Dec. 11-12. Policy makers are still gathering evidence on whether their programs are working. "The Committee remains concerned that, without sufficient policy accommodation, economic growth might not be strong enough to generate sustained improvement in labor market conditions," the Federal Open Market Committee, the Fed's policy-making committee, said in a statement issued at the end of its two-day meeting. Jobless Claims Show Moderate Labor Progress (Bloomberg) Jobless claims decreased by 23,000 to 369,000 in the week ended Oct. 20 from a revised 392,000 the prior period, the Labor Department reported today in Washington. Lazard Profit Drops As Merger-Advisory Revenue Falls (Bloomberg) Lazard, the largest independent merger-advisory firm, posted a 33 percent drop in third-quarter profit as revenue from advising on mergers declined. The firm said it would implement a cost-cutting plan. Earnings fell to $35.4 million, or 26 cents a share, from $52.9 million, or 39 cents, a year earlier, the Hamilton, Bermuda-based firm said today in a statement. The average estimate of 11 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg was for per-share profit of 21 cents. Japanese man pays $780K for virginity of 20-year-old Brazil woman, who’ll use money for charity housing project (NYDN) A Brazilian student is set to sell her virginity for a staggering $780,000 after she put it up for auction online. A man called Natsu, from Japan, fended off strong competition from American bidders Jack Miller and Jack Right, and a big-spender from India, Rudra Chatterjee, to secure a date with 20-year-old Catarina Migliorini. The auction ended at 4 a.m. EST this morning, and the physical education student — who said she will use the cash to build homes for poverty-stricken families — was the subject of 15 bids. “The auction is just business, I'm a romantic girl at heart and believe in love. But this will make a big difference to my area,” she told Folha newspaper. “If you only do it once in your life then you are not a prostitute, just like if you take one amazing photograph it does not automatically make you a photographer.

Opening Bell: 2.5.16

ICE chief calls IEX plan ‘un-American’; Citi says run for your life re: oil; Lawyer says Shkreli's 'imbecile' Tweet was 'unfortunate'; Man named 'Beezow Doo-Doo Zopittybop-Bop-Bop' Arrested; and more.