Opening Bell: 08.19.13

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U.S. Leaves American-US Airways Deal in the Lurch (WSJ)
Some US Airways executives already have moved to the Dallas area, where the combined airline would be based. Now, executives on both sides who had expected to be cut loose must choose whether to stay on and help run the airlines during the litigation—in hopes of collecting the severance packages they have coming if the deal goes ahead—or leave for new jobs elsewhere, said people familiar with the matter.

Hiring in China by JPMorgan Under Scrutiny (DealBook)
Federal authorities have opened a bribery investigation into whether JPMorgan Chase hired the children of powerful Chinese officials to help the bank win lucrative business in the booming nation, according to a confidential United States government document. In one instance, the bank hired the son of a former Chinese banking regulator who is now the chairman of the China Everbright Group, a state-controlled financial conglomerate, according to the document, which was reviewed by The New York Times, as well as public records. After the chairman’s son came on board, JPMorgan secured multiple coveted assignments from the Chinese conglomerate, including advising a subsidiary of the company on a stock offering, records show.

How Ackman's Herbalife bet inflamed Wall Street passions (Reuters)
Hedge fund industry sources said the timing of the three-hour presentation - less than a week before Christmas - riled other investors and brought out into the open festering resentment against Ackman, already seen by some as too arrogant even for the alpha-male world of hedge fund managers. The source of the frustration was the instant - and so far, ephemeral - boost Pershing Square got by publicizing its bet just as the year was ending. The December 20 presentation led to a 21 percent plunge in Herbalife's stock. That meant Ackman's $1 billion wager helped his $11 billion hedge fund gain 5.8 percent that month, and end the year up 12.4 percent. The results were far better than average for hedge funds last year, which matters in an intensely competitive world where strong performance begets fees as well as fame.

Stock Break From Herd (WSJ)
Shares are moving less in tandem with the overall market than at any time since the financial crisis, by some measures. That suggests that investors are zeroing in on the prospects for individual companies rather than making wide bets on stocks as a whole. ... One big sign of this change can be seen in correlation, a measure of how closely different stocks tend to move together. This measure has fallen to post-financial-crisis lows. As of the end of July, stocks in the Russell 1000 index of large-capitalization stocks had a weighted average correlation of 0.30 to the index itself, the lowest for and end-of-month since 2007 and down from 0.57 a year earlier, according to Deutsche Bank data.

Slidell man arrested in burglary after bucket-over-head disguise fails (Nola)
A 23-year-old Slidell man is facing burglary charges after police say he broke into a seafood business where he used to work and stole money -- then tried to hide his face from surveillance cameras by wearing a bucket on his head. But the cameras glimpsed the suspect's face as he was peeking around a corner, and police arrested Richard Boudreaux at his home last week, Detective Daniel Seuzeneau said in a news release.

India’s efforts fail to prevent new rupee low (FT)
India and Indonesia appeared trapped in a race to the bottom on Monday, as both the rupee and the rupiah fell sharply against the US dollar, prompting a sell-off in equities. The Indian rupee continued its relentless decline, hitting the latest in a series of all-time lows against the US dollar and dashing hopes the government had succeeded in calming the country’s unsettled financial markets. ... The fresh currency falls also increased pressure on the debt markets. Yields on India’s 10-year debt spiked above 9 per cent for the first time since late 2011, while Jakarta’s cost of borrowing jumped 18 basis points to the highest level since March 2011. A series of interventions by the Reserve Bank of India in recent weeks aimed at protecting the rupee have seen India’s bond yields surge, from just above 7 per cent in May, but have not succeeded in stemming the rupee’s fall.

Test for Federal Reserve's Next Chief: Quelling Dissent (WSJ)
With Mr. Bernanke expected to give up the helm when his term ends in January, his leadership style, and the style of his potential successors, warrant extra scrutiny. An already divided Fed could become more fractious when Mr. Bernanke departs, with important implications for the central bank, markets and the economy. ... That could result in quicker, bolder central-bank policy actions at times. It also could lead to more market-roiling rancor from inside the Fed or uncertainty about whether the Fed's new leader can see policies through to completion

Public Funds Take Control of Assets, Dodging Wall Street (DealBook)
The efforts to change the way public money is managed are motivated, in no small part, by the big fees and lackluster performance that many hedge funds and private equity firms have delivered to their biggest clients in recent years. Investment managers like Leo de Bever, at the Canadian province of Alberta’s $70 billion fund, have found they can often manage their own money at a lower cost without losing out on returns. “The big investors are saying, ‘Wait a minute, we don’t have to do this anymore,’ ” said Mr. de Bever, chief executive of the Alberta Investment Management Corporation, which hosted the April meeting in the Rockies. ... When Mr. de Bever took the helm of the Alberta fund, known as Aimco, in 2008, it had relationships with about 50 private equity firms. It has since cut that number to 12, and all new investments are being made by an internal team that Mr. de Bever hired in Edmonton.

Brevan Howard Traders Said to Leave as Fund has June Loss (Bloomberg)
Two Brevan Howard Asset Management LLP credit traders left in recent weeks, as the firm scales back after its biggest hedge fund had the worst monthly loss since 2008 in June, two people with knowledge of the matter said. Wayne Leslie, 38, departed less than a year after joining the London-based hedge fund from Goldman Sachs Group Inc., where he was a managing director responsible for European investment-grade credit trading, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the departures haven’t been made public. Jason Feasey, 40, who focused on structured credit, had joined the hedge fund from Bank of America Corp. in 2011.

CME under fire over cash for trades in Brent (FT)
The biggest US futures exchange’s campaign to break into North Sea oil has been marked by unusual trading patterns as computerised firms engineer ways to exploit a cash-for-volume scheme, according to market participants. CME Group has promised a pot of as much as $1m a month to the biggest traders in its upstart Nymex Brent crude futures contract, a June filing shows, as it attempts to wrest market share from ICE Futures Europe, the exchange that launched Brent in 1988. ... “There’s no economic benefit to the trades whatsoever, except for the people that at the end of the month get a cheque from the CME,” said one participant in the incentive programme.

Vote Stringer & give ‘Client 9’ the hook (NYP)
In a few short weeks, New Yorkers will choose between two candidates for city comptroller in the Democratic primary. One is Scott Stringer, a conventional Manhattan liberal. The other is a completely unhinged Manhattan liberal. His name is Eliot Spitzer, and for a man who styles himself the “Sheriff of Wall Street,” his real expertise is operating outside the law. As attorney general, he acted like some hick-town bully with a badge and a speed trap. But where it counted — in the courtroom — this sheriff seldom got his man. Then again, Spitzer’s goals in office have always been less about serving the people’s interest and more about feeding his insatiable ego, his giant ambitions and his basest appetites.

Man charged with DUI, hit-and-run after speeding down I-95 with air bags deployed, front end wrecked (Sun Sentinel)
A Margate man was arrested on a charge of driving under the influence Monday after a deputy saw him barreling down Interstate 95 at about 90 mph with his car's air bags deployed and front end smashed, the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office said. "I did not, wait a minute, I did drink today," a shirtless and shoeless Alan Alt told the deputy, according to his arrest report. ... He was also foaming at the mouth and throwing up, and had to be helped out of his vehicle.

Seattle Police Ran Out of Free HempFest Doritos in 10 Minutes (Atlantic Wire)
The Seattle Police Department's plan to hand out safety flyers at this weekend's HempFest that people would actually want seems to have worked beautifully: the free Doritos attached to each flyer were gone in 10 minutes, according to the department. Each mini-package of snacks (they brought 1,000 of them) was adorned with a series of educational tips for the largest marijuana-themed festival in the world. "Don't drive while high," they advise, adding, "Don't give, sell, or shotgun weed to people under 21." Do, they say, "listen to Dark Side of the Moon at a Reasonable Volume."

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Opening Bell: 06.11.12

Nasdaq CEO Lost Touch Amid Facebook Chaos (WSJ) At the end of Facebook's disastrous first day of trading May 18, the phone in Robert Greifeld's New York office rang. It was Mary Schapiro, head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, wanting an explanation from the chief executive of Nasdaq OMX Group for the epidemic of glitches and delays in one of the most anticipated initial public offerings ever. Mr. Greifeld couldn't talk. Having monitored the rocky process from Silicon Valley, where he had gone to join Facebook executives in remotely ringing the market's opening bell, he concluded the worst problems were fixed and caught a noon flight back to the East Coast. So, marooned for almost five hours in business class with a phone he says didn't work, he didn't realize that continuing breakdowns at his exchange had left countless investors not knowing how many Facebook shares they had bought or sold and at what price, nor did he know the SEC chief wanted to reach him. Three weeks later, Mr. Greifeld still isn't sure why technology systems failed during the crucial IPO. Nasdaq's failure to see the problem coming is something its engineers are still dissecting. "You wake up, you turn around, and there's a black or dull spot," Mr. Greifeld said in an interview, sucking on Life Savers candy at a conference table in his office. "You can't get away from it." Spain’s Bailout Gives Rajoy Best Chance To Fix Banks (Bloomberg) Spain’s request for as much as 100 billion euros ($125 billion) of European bailout funds may provide the country with enough money to shore up its banking system after three failed attempts in as many years. “Now that they have this money, it will hopefully finally be possible to recognize all the hidden losses and clean up the system,” Luis Garicano, a professor at the London School of Economics, said in a phone interview. The amount sought is about 2.7 times the funds deemed necessary for Spanish banks by the International Monetary Fund in a report released June 8 and five times the total requested by the Bankia group, the country’s third-biggest lender, to cleanse its balance sheet. Spain's economic misery will get worse this year despite bailout request, prime minister says (NYP) A day after the country conceded it needed outside help following months of denying it would seek assistance, Rajoy said more Spaniards will lose their jobs in a country where one out of every four are already unemployed. "This year is going to be a bad one," Rajoy said Sunday in his first comments about the rescue since it was announced the previous evening by his economy minister. IPOs Dry Up Post Facebook (WSJ) In the aftermath of Facebook's botched trading debut, the IPO market has gone three weeks without an offering, the longest drought in five months. It is the slowest stretch in initial public offerings since a four-week span at the end of 2011 and the beginning of this year, according to data from Ipreo. Greece Threatens Wall Street Jobs In Third Trading Plunge (Bloomberg) For a third consecutive year, revenue from investment banking and trading at U.S. firms may fall at least 30 percent from the first quarter, Richard Ramsden, a Goldman Sachs analyst, said in a note last week. Greece, which gave English the word “cycle,” has been the main reason each year that the second quarter soured after a promising first three months. Nickelback Review Goes Viral (Poynter) Music critic Josh Gross has written hundreds of stories about bands, but none has brought him as much attention as the brief he wrote this week about Nickelback’s upcoming appearance in Idaho, where Gross writes for the Boise Weekly. He summarizes the response: "In the past day, I have been told that I am a genius, a king amongst men and a hack that could be easily outdone by a one-armed cat. I should alternately win the Pulitzer and forcibly insert 45 pickles into my bum. There has been little middle ground. Why? Because I had the audacity to point out that seeing Canadian “rock” band Nickelback at the Idaho Center may not be the best use of one’s $45." Gross wrote of the Nickelback: "You can spend $5 to go see Nickelback this week. Or you could buy 45 hammers from the dollar store, hang them from the ceiling at eye level and spend an evening banging the demons out of your dome...$45 is also enough to see Men In Black III five times, buy a dozen Big Macs, do 10 loads of laundry or so many other experiences as banal and meaningless as seeing Nickelback but come without actually having to hear Nickelback. But if you must, the band is playing The Idaho Center on Wednesday, June 13, at 6PM tickets start at $45." Dimon Faces Washington Grilling Over Trading Debacle (Reuters) The Senate Banking Committee has asked Dimon to come prepared Wednesday to provide "a thorough accounting of the trading losses," a committee aide said. Senators will also ask what he knew about the risks involved in the trading strategy. Fed Colleague Backs Dimon (WSJ) "I do not think he should step down," Lee Bollinger said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. He said Mr. Dimon appears to have done nothing wrong, that critics attacking the Fed have a "false understanding" of how it works, and that it is "foolish" to say Mr. Dimon's presence on the New York Fed board creates an appearance of a conflict when the law requires bankers to serve on such boards. Private lunch with investor Warren Buffett sells for $3.5 million (WaPo) The previous four winning bids have all exceeded $2 million with records set every year. Last year’s winner, hedge fund manager Ted Weschler, paid $2,626,411. India Could Be First BRIC to Lose Investment Grade: S&P (Reuters) Standard & Poor's said on Monday that India could become the first of the so-called BRIC economies to lose its investment grade status, sending the rupee and stocks lower, less than two months after cutting its rating outlook for the country. "Slowing GDP growth and political roadblocks to economic policymaking are just some of the factors pushing up the risk that India could lose its investment-grade rating," the ratings agency said in a statement issued Monday on a report dated June 8. Town Considers Fines For Cursing (WSJ) Mimi Duphily was hanging baskets of pink geraniums on antique street lamps downtown for the Middleborough Beautification and Activities Group when she noticed something else that needed cleaning up—citizens' mouths. "The cursing has gotten very, very bad. I find it appalling and I won't tolerate it," said Ms. Duphily, a civic leader in the otherwise quiet New England community, which calls itself the Cranberry Capital of the World. "No person should be allowed to talk in that manner." Soon, Middleborough residents who do could risk a $20 fine. Ms. Duphily, 63 years old, tried scolding the cursers—whom she describes as young people shouting the "F word" back and forth—with a stern, "Hey kids, that's enough!" Then she conferred with the Beautification and Activities Group, which informed the Middleborough Business Coalition, which then called a summit with Middleborough Police Chief Bruce Gates, who now, in his sworn role, is trying to stomp out swears.

Opening Bell: 06.12.13

Pimco Sees 60% Chance of Global Recession in Five Years (Bloomberg) Pacific Investment Management Co., the world’s largest active bond manager, said investors should cut risk amid a more than 60 percent chance of a global recession in the next three to five years. Global growth will slow, keeping inflation in check, and “economic volatility” will increase, Saumil Parikh, a portfolio manager at Newport Beach, California-based Pimco, said in a report being posted on the firm’s website today. Investors shouldn’t add risk in the search for yield, he said. “The global economy experiences a recession every six years or so, and the frequency of global recessions tends to increase when global indebtedness is high and falling as opposed to when indebtedness is low and rising,” Parikh, who focuses on asset allocation, multisector fixed income and absolute-return portfolios, said in the report. The last global recession was four years ago, he said. Banks Get Reprieve on New Swaps Rule (WSJ) Some of biggest banks on Wall Street will get an additional two years to comply with a post-financial crisis rule requiring they move risky swap activities into separate affiliates. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency said it granted extensions to seven banks, giving them until July 2015 to comply with so-called "swaps push-out" rules required by the 2010 Dodd-Frank law. ... The OCC notified Bank of America Corp., J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc., Wells Fargo & Co., HSBC Holdings PLC, Morgan Stanley and U.S. Bancorp that they were granted a 24-month extension in response to their requests for a longer transition period. The move comes less than a week after the Federal Reserve said foreign banks also will be eligible for the two-year delay in complying with the rule, which is slated to take effect July 16. Emerging market assets suffer in fierce sell-off (FT) Emerging economies have been among the prime beneficiaries of ultra-loose global monetary policy as central banks led by the Fed have flooded financial markets with more than $12tn of extra liquidity since the financial crisis. But signs of an economic slowdown spreading from China and indications that the Fed could reduce the pace of its $85bn-a-month bond purchases have triggered a sharp correction in emerging markets. The South African rand and the Brazilian real touched four-year lows against the US dollar on Tuesday, and the Indian rupee fell to a record low. Even relatively robust countries like the Philippines and Mexico – long favourites of investors – have been hit by a spate of selling. Some central banks have begun to intervene to stem the currency slides. Is U.S. stock trading safer? Fewer erroneous trades seen (Reuters) More than three years after the "flash crash" terrified many by temporarily wiping out almost $1 trillion of U.S. stock market value in a few minutes, there are signs that the number of erroneous and aberrant trades is dropping. The use of circuit breakers for individual securities in the wake of the May 6, 2010 plunge, and the introduction of tougher risk-management controls for broker-dealers in November 2010 appear to have helped stabilize trading, market experts and regulators said. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the security industry's watchdog, said the number of reports of "clearly erroneous" trades it received was down 84 percent in the last six months of 2012 compared with the first six months of 2009. Facebook Investors Press Zuckerberg on Stock Price at Annual Meeting (CNBC) Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg tried to tackle concerns about its stock head-on at the first annual shareholder meeting Tuesday, but investors pressed for answers about why the price is still down a year after the company went public. "The answer is we understand that a lot of people are disappointed with the performance of the stock, and we really are, too," Zuckerberg said in his opening remarks before taking questions. ... The stock, priced at $38 when the company went public in May 2012, hit $17 a few months ago and was trading at about $24 in afternoon trading Friday. Facebook can't control the stock price but is focused on developing the best products to create more shareholder value, Zuckerberg said. NJ Mayor Apologizes for Calling Residents "Annoying" (NBC) The mayor of Toms River apologized Tuesday night for comments he made about an area battered by Sandy, but not all residents were satisfied. Last week, Mayor Thomas Kelaher told Bloomberg News that he thought residents of Ortley Beach, where many are still without homes, were "annoying." "I certainly never intended to be disrespectful to the people who live in Ortley beach," Kelaher said at a meeting Tuesday. Marketfield Poet-Philosopher Pair Bet Europe for Top Fund (Bloomberg) Michael Aronstein, a poet, and Michael Shaoul, a doctor of philosophy, have made their MainStay Marketfield Fund the world’s fastest-growing by anticipating recoveries in the most-hated assets. Marketfield grew more than five-fold to $9.5 billion in the past year, the biggest increase of a fund with more than $5 billion in assets, after betting on a rebound in U.S. housing stocks and European shares. Now, their success relies on Irish and Italian stocks rallying and equities in China , Brazil and India tumbling. The New York-based fund has advanced 70 percent since July 2007, more than triple the return of the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, data compiled by Bloomberg show. “I don’t know where the level is,” Aronstein, a former Merrill Lynch strategist who writes poetry in his spare time, said of the potential for further declines in developing nations’ stocks in an interview April 4. “But if we are right, it’s going to get to the point where people cannot stand it anymore.” Metacapital in Worst Slide as Bloodbath Roils Funds (Bloomberg) Deepak Narula rose to fame as manager of the best-performing hedge fund last year by navigating the government’s stimulus efforts. He’s having a far harder time as the Federal Reserve moves closer to an exit. Metacapital Management LP’s flagship $1.5 billion fund lost an estimated 6.4 percent last month, the worst decline since it started in 2008, according to a letter to investors obtained by Bloomberg News. That followed drops of 0.5 percent in April and 0.1 percent in March, after 17 months of consecutive gains including a 41 percent return last year. ... “It’s been a bloodbath the last four to six weeks,” said Troy Gayeski, a senior portfolio manager who helps invest client money in hedge funds at SkyBridge Capital, which manages about $7.7 billion. “It was a confluence of just about everything” from investors’ concerns that refinancing would pick up among some borrowers who’ve had trouble qualifying to the slump in the mortgage debt that the Fed is buying, he said. SoftBank's Son Felt Time Pressure to Push Sprint Deal Forward (WSJ) In the end, SoftBank Corp. Chief Executive Masayoshi Son concluded that time was money. After a weekend of wheeling and dealing, he was willing to sweeten the Japanese company's bid for Sprint Nextel Corp. that Mr. Son for weeks had been saying already was high enough. His hope with the new bid is to keep the acquisition on track for midsummer completion and resolve complications raised by a rival offer. Mr. Son agreed for SoftBank to throw another $1.5 billion on top of the $20.1 billion already offered to achieve the "certainty of timing" for closing the deal in early July, a person familiar with the new proposal said. Pattern of negative correlation between HY bonds and treasuries has been broken (Sober Look) Since the financial crisis, the correlation between treasuries and many credit assets such as high yield bonds (HY) has been strongly negative. ... Recent events however broke that pattern. We've had a number of days with both the longer dated treasuries and HY selling off. That means the HY asset class is now responding to rate moves (not just spread). The 3-month correlation between prices of longer dated treasuries and HY bonds is nearing zero. This move toward a "less negative" correlation with treasuries is also visible in other credit assets as well. Sub-investment-grade credit investors are all of a sudden paying much closer attention to rates. US warns EU against exempting film industry from trade talks (FT) The US government has warned Brussels that EU efforts to placate French demands to exempt its film industry from high-profile transatlantic trade talks could unleash a torrent of demands in Washington for similar reciprocal carve-outs that would imperil a comprehensive deal. ... José Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president, met European filmmakers on Tuesday, including “The Artist” star Bérénice Bejo, to reassure them the trade deal will not jeopardise their protections. “Let me state loud and clear: the cultural exception is not negotiable,” Mr Barroso said after the meeting. Most Americans Aren’t Excited About Their Jobs (WSJ) FYI. State Dept. officials deny prostitution cover-up allegations (CBS) The allegations were first brought to light by CBS News' John Miller, who reported that according to an internal State Department Inspector General's memo, several recent investigations were influenced, manipulated, or simply called off. One specific example mentioned in the memo refers to the 2011 investigation into an ambassador who "routinely ditched ... his protective security detail," and inspectors suspect this was in order to "solicit sexual favors from prostitutes." ... In response to the allegation, Gutman said on Tuesday: "I am angered and saddened by the baseless allegations that have appeared in the press and to watch the four years I have proudly served in Belgium smeared is devastating. I live on a beautiful park in Brussels that you walk through to get to many locations and at no point have I ever engaged in any improper activity."

Opening Bell: 04.18.13

Morgan Stanley Sees Core Earnings Weaken (WSJ) Morgan Stanley saw core earnings weaken, although the investment bank swung to a first-quarter profit as it benefited from a comparison with a year-earlier period bogged down by a heavy charge. For the quarter, the bank reported a profit of $984 million, compared with a year-earlier loss of $94 million. The per-share profit, which reflects the payment of preferred dividends, was 49 cents compared with a loss of six cents a year earlier. The latest period featured a decline in fixed-income trading revenue, but strong stock trading and continued improvements in Morgan Stanley's wealth-management division, which was buoyed by strong markets. ... Revenue jumped 18% to $8.16 billion. Excluding debt valuation, revenue was $8.48 billion. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters most recently expected earnings, excluding debt-valuation adjustments, of 57 cents, on revenue of $8.35 billion. Blackstone First-Quarter Profit Rises on Fund Performance (Bloomberg) Blackstone Group LP (BX), the world’s biggest buyout firm, said first-quarter profit rose 28 percent as market gains lifted the carrying value of its holdings. Economic net income, a measure of earnings excluding some costs tied to the firm’s 2007 initial public offering, increased to $628.3 million, or 55 cents a share, from $491.2 million, or 44 cents, a year earlier, New York-based Blackstone said today in a statement. Analysts had expected earnings of 53 cents a share, according to the average of 15 estimates in a Bloomberg survey. Barclays Head of Investment Banking Rich Ricci to Retire in June (Bloomberg) Barclays Plc’s Rich Ricci, the head of investment banking and one of the last members of former Chief Executive Officer Robert Diamond’s management team, will retire at the end of June. Ricci, 49, will be replaced by Eric Bommensath and Tom King, 52, as co-chief executive officers of corporate and investment banking in May, the London-based bank said in a statement today. “The market will see this as an inevitable and appropriate piece of transitioning,” said Ian Gordon, an analyst at Investec Plc (INVP) in London. “Few tears will be shed and the reshuffle will be broadly welcomed.” Special Report: The battle for the Swiss soul (Reuters) A sign on display in UBS's museum, from a bank founded in 1747 in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland, could almost be Switzerland's mantra: "MASSIMA DISCREZIONE" it promises. Swiss bankers have long adhered to an unwritten code similar to that observed by doctors or priests. Bankers do not acknowledge clients in public for fear of exposing them as account holders; they often carry business cards with just a name, rather than bank or contact details; and, at least until the 1990s, they never advertised abroad. ... Even today, few Swiss like to discuss the fact that much of the country's prosperity was built on bankers helping foreigners evade taxes. Visitors should avoid personal questions, advises Communicaid, a consultancy which advises businesses on cross-cultural awareness. It would also be wise to steer clear of discussing "Swiss banks, money or Switzerland's military role in World War One or Two." Reinhart/Rogoff and Growth in a Time Before Debt (RortyBomb via Felix Salmon) Here is a simple question: does a high debt-to-GDP ratio better predict future growth rates, or past ones? If the former is true, it would be consistent with the argument that higher debt levels cause growth to fall. On the other hand, if higher debt "predicts" past growth, that is a signature of reverse causality. ... As is evident, current period debt-to-GDP is a pretty poor predictor of future GDP growth at debt-to-GDP ratios of 30 or greater—the range where one might expect to find a tipping point dynamic. But it does a great job predicting past growth. Ottawa sets up taxpayer-funded food truck in Mexico to promote Canadian cuisine (National Post) When author Anita Stewart first heard about the Canadian government’s new food truck parked in Mexico City, she laughed so hard she cried. The new Canada-branded, taxpayer-funded venture, which kicked off its three-week pilot project last week, is serving up a Mexican-ized version of poutine, using Oaxaca cheese instead of curds. Also on the menu are Alberta beef tourtière, and maple-glazed Albacore tuna. China Vows Wider Yuan Movement (WSJ) China's central bank plans to widen the yuan's trading band in the near future, People's Bank of China Vice Governor Yi Gang said Wednesday, suggesting that China's leaders will press ahead with change despite the surprise slowing of the economy. "The exchange rate is going to be more market-oriented," Mr. Yi said on a panel at the International Monetary Fund spring meetings in Washington. "I think in the near future we are going to increase the floating band even further." IMF warns on risks of excessive easing (FT) Extraordinarily loose monetary policy risks sparking credit bubbles that threaten to tip the world back into financial crisis, the International Monetary Fund warned on Wednesday. In its global financial stability report, the fund cautioned that policy reforms were needed urgently to restore long-term health to the financial system before the long-term dangers of monetary stimulus materialised. German Parliament Approves Bailout for Cyprus (WSJ) German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble called the vote a "strong signal" by Germany in favor of the euro and the euro zone. The parliament also voted in favor of a seven-year extension of the maturity on European Financial Stability Facility loans for Ireland and Portugal with a large majority. SEC to Move Past Financial Crisis Cases Under New Chairman White (Bloomberg) Mary Jo White, the first former prosecutor to serve as chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, has pledged to run a “bold and unrelenting” enforcement program at the agency charged with regulating Wall Street. With financial crisis cases mostly done and some of the biggest insider-trading cases in history closed, White will have to chart a course into new areas to keep that pledge. White, who was sworn in last week, has already provided a few signals about what that might be. During her Senate confirmation hearing, she said she intends to focus on high- frequency and automated trading. She has also raised questions about a drop in the number of accounting fraud cases the agency has brought in recent years. Dispute in Hamptons Set Off by Effort to Hold Back Ocean (NYT) Soon after Hurricane Sandy hit last fall, Joshua Harris, a billionaire hedge fund founder and an owner of the Philadelphia 76ers, began to fear that his $25 million home on the water in Southampton might fall victim to the next major storm. So he installed a costly defense against incoming waves: a shield of large metal plates on the beach, camouflaged by sand. His neighbor, Mark Rachesky, another billionaire hedge fund founder, put up similar fortifications between his home and the surf. Chris Shumway, who closed his $8 billion hedge fund two years ago, trucked in boulders the size of Volkswagens. Across a section of this wealthy town, some residents, accustomed to having their way in the business world, are now trying to hold back the ocean. ‘Elvis’ is busted in ricin terror (NYP) The FBI last night busted a troubled Mississippi Elvis impersonator as the poison-wielding man who mailed ricin-laced letters to President Obama and two other officials. ... Despite his rock ’n’ roll hobby, Curtis shows his angry side on Facebook, where he lashes out in a conspiracy-filled rant. “I’m on the hidden front lines of a secret war,” he wrote. “They burned down my home, killed my dogs, my cat, my rabbit, blew up my 1966 Plymouth Valiant . . . and guess what? I am still a thorn in their corrupt anals! I will remain here until Jesus Christ decides it’s time for me to go.”