Opening Bell: 09.09.13

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China's Credit Levels Echo U.S. Crisis (WSJ)
"The similarities to the U.S. are wanton use of the credit system to substitute for better sources of economic growth with a background of rising income inequality," says George Magnus, a senior independent economic adviser to Swiss bank UBS AG, who has written extensively on financial crises. "These are all telltale signs of a country at a relatively advanced stage of financial instability." One key difference: "In the Western case, the official response was denial or complete ignorance," says Mr. Magnus. In China, where the central government controls the economy and policy makers witnessed the U.S. bust, Beijing "will be able to respond in ways we [in the West] weren't capable of. But it doesn't mean it won't be painless," he says.

Hedge Funds Cut Fees (WSJ)
Today, the average hedge fund charges an annual management fee of about 1.6% of assets, while claiming around 18% of investment gains, according to industry surveys and interviews with industry executives. Investors willing to lock their money up for several years, write a big check or bet on a new fund can get even lower fees and other concessions, investors say...The pressure to cut fees is felt most acutely by managers focusing on stocks and commodities, rather than bonds, because equity and commodity funds generally haven't posted outsize returns recently. Some debt strategies are more complex and expensive to implement, which tends to keep those fees higher. New funds that trade stocks generally charge management fees of 1.5%, while funds that can have higher overhead still charge fees closer to 2%, said Steven Nadel, an attorney at Seward & Kissel LLP, which does an annual study of new funds. Another reason fees are coming down: Investors increasingly choose to place money with large hedge funds, making midsize and smaller funds more eager to trim fees to attract money.

Sam Adams Creator Becomes Billionaire as Craft Beer Rises (Bloomberg)
Consumers have flocked to Boston Beer’s 70-plus offerings, including its most popular seller, Boston Lager, to small batch specialty brews, such as Norse Legend, a Finnish-style sahti that Vikings drank. The demand has sent Boston Beer shares up ten-fold since mid-2009, propelling Koch’s net worth above $1 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He has never appeared on an international wealth ranking. “Having watched my stock price go up and down and up, it seems almost whimsical,” Koch, 64, said in a telephone interview. “I remind people getting rich is life’s great booby prize. Any normal person would much rather be happy than rich.”

Exclusive: Japan regulator probing Deutsche Bank entertainment of pension clients (Reuters)
The Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission (SESC) found evidence of potential infractions during a regular audit of Deutsche Securities Inc, the German bank's investment banking arm in Tokyo, said the sources, who spoke on condition they not be identified because the investigation is ongoing. The employees had booked large expenses for entertainment involving pension fund executives, they said. This raised red flags for the regulators because the pension fund executives involved are legally considered public employees, subject to anti-bribery statutes, since they handle part of the national pension scheme.

Fed Critics Demand Change With Bernanke Exit (NYP)
...many point to former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan’s easy­money policy as the trigger of the subprime crisis that precipitated the cratering of the economy in 2007. “It’s been an unmitigated disaster. The history of the Fed is the history of the decline of the United States,” says Peter Schiff, chief executive of Euro Pacific Capital. “I am not going to blame it all on the Fed; there are other factors. But the Fed had an integral role in the gradual decline of American civilization.” Schiff cites the devaluation of the dollar as evidence of the Fed’s duplicitous actions. “If you look at the value of the dollar today to where it was 100 years ago, the dollar has lost 98 percent of its purchasing power since the Federal Reserve was put in charge,” Schiff asserts. “And if you look at the dollar’s purchasing power 100 years prior to the Fed, the dollar gained — maybe doubled. The dollar was more valuable in 1913 than it was 1813.” “If you say the goal of the Fed was to prevent calamities, then you have to say that it has been a failure,” says William A. Fleckenstein, a hedge-fund manager and the author of “Greenspan’s Bubbles.”

Drunk and boarish: swigging pig hogs 18 beers at campsite (Guardian)
A rampage by a feral pig that consumed 18 beers has prompted warnings for people at campsites to properly secure their food and alcohol. The pig struck at the DeGrey River rest area, east of the remote Western Australian town of Port Hedland in the Pilbara, according to the ABC. The animal was seen stealing three six-packs of beer from campers before ransacking rubbish bags for food. One camper reported seeing the pig guzzling the beer before getting involved in an altercation with a cow. "In the middle of the night these people camping opposite us heard a noise, so they got their torch out and shone it on the pig and there he was, scrunching away at their cans," said the visitor, who estimated that the pig had consumed 18 beers. "Then he went and raided all the rubbish bags. There were some other people camped right on the river and they saw him being chased around their vehicle by a cow." The pig was reportedly last seen resting under a tree, possibly nursing a hangover.

Red Flags Over Madrid a Sign Spanish Crisis Easing (Bloomberg)
In the upmarket Madrid neighborhood of Arroyo del Fresno, red flags bearing the insignia of Banco Santander SA flutter atop a building site nestled between a medical center and a metro station. Instead of caution, they may signal that Spain’s six-year property crisis is receding....Lenders including Santander and Banco Sabadell SA, which is also developing 59 plots, are looking to accelerate efforts to sell real estate that piled up on their balance sheets during Spain’s crash. It demonstrates the country’s slump may be easing in some areas as banks press on with the task of finding buyers for their property, said Ricardo Wehrhahn, a Madrid-based partner at Roland Berger Strategy Consultants, which carried out stress tests on Spanish banks last year.

Loan Size To Be Cut For Fannie, Freddie (WSJ)
The proposed move is designed to wean the mortgage market off government support and allow the market for non-government-guaranteed mortgages to take a bigger role. But critics argue that any such move will shrink the pool of eligible home buyers, stunting the nation's housing recovery.

KPN Finance Chief Resigns (WSJ)
Dutch telecom firm Royal KPN NV said Monday that its finance chief would leave the company with immediate effect because of personal circumstances, while uncertainty over the proposed takeover offer from America Movil persists.

Facebook co-founder Moskowitz gushes over Winklevoss twins (NYP)
Moskowitz is a frequent attendee of Burning Man, a yearly orgiastic — often drug-fueled — desert festival. The Facebook billionaire chronicled his emotions after this year’s event in a blog post that recalled his first encounter with Tyler and CameronWinklevoss, who were there also. “I happened to run into Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss near the Temple crew camp on Esplanade. In spite of our tangled history, I had never actually met them; we only communicated through lawyers,” Moskowitz wrote. “These guys are among the only people on earth I might describe as real antagonists in my life or even enemies, but on playa my first instinct was that I quite obviously needed to introduce myself and start with hugs.” Moskowitz is now even Facebook buds with the twins. “Almost immediately when I got back, I had a friend request from Tyler, and we started a thread extolling the virtues of the festival,” he wrote. “In no uncertain terms, he described a spiritual experience.”

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Opening Bell: 12.04.12

Banks Rediscover Money Management Again As Trading Declines (Bloomberg) Global banks, forced by regulators to reduce their dependence on profits from high-risk trading, have rediscovered the appeal of the mundane business of managing money for clients. Deutsche Bank is now counting on the fund unit it failed to sell to help boost return on equity, a measure of profitability. UBS is paring investment banking as it focuses on overseeing assets for wealthy clients. Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo, three of the five biggest U.S. banks, are considering expanding asset- management divisions as they seek to grab market share from fund companies such as Fidelity Investments. “Asset management is a terrific business,” said Ralph Schlosstein, chief executive officer of Evercore Partners Inc., a New York-based boutique investment bank that last month agreed to buy wealth manager Mt. Eden Investment Advisors LLC. “Asset managers earn fees consistently without risking capital. Compare that to other businesses in the financial services.” Hedge Funds Win as Europe Will Pay More for Greek Bonds (Bloomberg) Hedge funds drove up prices for Greek sovereign debt last week after determining that European finance ministers would back off a pledge to pay no more than about 28 percent of face value to retire the nation’s bonds. Money managers correctly wagered that not enough bondholders would participate at that level to get the deal done. That would put at risk bailout funds that Greece needs to stave off economic collapse. Transactions involving Greek bonds “increased by the day” after it became clear that the buyback was going to happen, with hedge funds accounting for most of the purchases, said Zoeb Sachee, the London-based head of European government bond trading at Citigroup Inc. “If all goes according to plan, everybody wins,” Sachee said. “Hedge funds must have bought lower than here. If it isn’t successful, Greece risks default and everybody loses.” GE's Swiss lending unit for sale, UBS to bid (Reuters) General Electric Co wants to sell its Swiss consumer lending business, two sources familiar with the matter said, with UBS one of the parties interested in a deal that could be worth up to 1.5 billion Swiss francs ($1.62 billion). The sources told Reuters that UBS was one of at least two parties who plan to submit bids in an auction process. "GE wants to finalize the sale of GE Money Bank by the end of the first quarter," said one of the sources. Brian Moynihan: 'Fiscal Cliff' Repercussions Could Stretch in 2014 (CNBC) "I'm more concerned about business behavior slowing down than I am about consumer behavior," Moynihan told "Squawk Box." "I think we're in danger if this thing strings out into 2013 that you could start to have problems of what 2014 would look like." Icahn Fails In Oshkosh Tender Offer (WSJ) The activist investor was tendered only a meek 22% of shares in an offer he used essentially as a proxy for whether shareholders would support his board nominees. Icahn, who had pledged to drop the offer and his proxy fight if he didn’t receive at least 25% of shares tendered, says he is indeed dropping the tender offer. Ex-baseball star Lenny Dykstra sentenced in bankruptcy fraud case (Reuters) Lenny Dykstra, the 1980s World Series hero who pleaded guilty earlier this year to bankruptcy fraud, was sentenced on Monday to six months in federal prison and ordered to perform 500 hours of community service. The 49-year-old former ballplayer - who is already serving time in state prison for grand theft auto, lewd conduct and assault with a deadly weapon - was also ordered to pay $200,000 in restitution. In the federal case, Dykstra pleaded guilty in July to bankruptcy fraud and other charges. According to the written plea agreement, he admitted defrauding his creditors by declaring bankruptcy in 2009, then stealing or destroying furnishings, baseball memorabilia and other property from his $18.5 million mansion. Teacher disciplined for receiving foot massages from students (SLT) A Taylorsville Elementary School teacher has returned to his third-grade classroom after being disciplined for violating professional standards after students reported they scratched his back, rubbed his feet and had other inappropriate contact while at school. Granite School District officials found no criminal conduct by elementary teacher Bryan Watts, 53, who has worked at the school since 2004, but the district claims to have taken "appropriate disciplinary action" following complaints about Watts...Granite District police Detective Randall Porter started an investigation into Watts’ conduct Oct. 9 after a mother expressed concern to the district after her daughter reported odd classroom behavior by Watts. "She complained that her daughter [name redacted] told her that Watts asks students to rub his feet and back during ‘movie time,’ that Watts told the class that they should not tell their parents about activities that happen in the classroom, and that Watts scared a student by hitting a hammer on the student’s desk," Porter wrote in his 19-page report...officials also said there were student statements about odd activities, including playing dodgeball in Watts’ classroom. Knight Capital May Go It Alone (NYP) Knight Capital’s board emerged from another meeting yesterday to review dueling takeover offers without making a decision. Both Getco and Virtu Financial have made bids for the Jersey City, NJ-based Knight, which had to be bailed out several months ago after a $460 million trading glitch nearly tanked the firm. “[Knight] can still decide to remain independent. That’s a real possibility,” said one source familiar with the bidding process. Top US Firms Are Cash-Rich Abroad, Cash-Poor At Home (WSJ) With billions of dollars overseas that may never come back, the Securities and Exchange Commission is concerned that companies haven't been presenting investors with an honest appraisal of their liquidity. As a result, regulators are pressing companies to more clearly lay out how much of their cash is in the U.S. and how much is overseas and potentially encumbered by U.S. taxes. UBS Near Libor Deal (Reuters) UBS is nearing a deal to settle claims some of its staff manipulated interest rates, and could reach agreement with US and British authorities by the end of the year, a source said yesterday. Britain’s Barclays was fined $453 million in June for manipulating Libor benchmark interest rates, and remains the only bank to settle in the investigation, which led to the resignation of the bank’s chairman and CEO. Calpers Crusader Takes Aim At Fees (WSJ) Mr. Desrochers, a 65-year-old native of Canada who last year became head of private-equity investing for the California Public Employees' Retirement System, has told buyout funds to reduce fees if they want cash from the $241 billion pension goliath, one of the nation's largest private-equity investors. He has pushed for Calpers to pay management fees below the industry's standard of 1% or more and asked for performance fees below the usual 15% to 20% of gains, according to people who have dealt with him. Mike Tyson: Brad Pitt Had Sex With My Wife (NYP) Mike Tyson claims that he caught Pitt having sex with his ex-wife, Robin Givens, while they were in the middle of their divorce in the late eighties. Tyson, who was shortly married to Givens from 1988 to 1989, said he and the actress were still sleeping with each other during their separation. "I was getting a divorce, but... every day, before I would go to my lawyer's office to say 'she's a pig and stealing,' I would go to her house to have sex with her," Tyson said on the Yahoo! Sports show “In Depth with Graham Bensinger.” "This particular day, someone beat me to the punch. And I guess Brad got there earlier than I did." How did the heavyweight boxer react? "I was mad as hell...You should have saw his face when he saw me," Tyson said.

Opening Bell: 05.02.12

UBS Earnings Helped By Wealth-Management Focus, Risk-Cutting (WSJ) UBS's first-quarter earnings showed that the Swiss bank's strategy of shifting its focus to managing assets for wealthy clients and reducing risk is starting to pay off, demonstrating that it is putting behind it a troubled past marked by huge investment bank losses during the financial crisis, a bruising battle with U.S. tax authorities and a trading scandal last year. Worries about the global economy are likely to prevent clients from investing much in the second quarter, but "we believe our wealth-management businesses as a whole will continue to attract net new money, as our clients recognize our efforts and continue to entrust us with their assets... We have the utmost confidence in our firm's future," UBS said in a statement. The bank's wealth-management units recorded a rise in pretax profit during the quarter and attracted CHF10.9 billion ($12.1 billion) in new assets from clients. UBS also managed to shed more risky assets during the quarter, raised new capital and is on track to meet its target of saving CHF2 billion in costs annually...Reported results for the bank as a whole were less pleasing because an accounting loss on UBS's own debt led to a 54% drop in net profit. Excluding this charge, which was higher than forecast, earnings beat analysts' estimates and contributed to the rise in UBS's shares. The Zurich-based bank said net profit fell to 827 million Swiss francs in the quarter ended March 31 from CHF1.81 billion a year earlier. Revenue fell 22% to CHF6.53 billion from CHF8.34 billion, while operating expenses declined 15% to CHF5.22 billion. Wealthy Americans Queue To Give Up Their Passports (Bloomberg) Rich Americans renouncing U.S. citizenship rose sevenfold since UBS AG (UBSN) whistle-blower Bradley Birkenfeld triggered a crackdown on tax evasion four years ago. About 1,780 expatriates gave up their nationality at U.S. embassies last year, up from 235 in 2008, according to Andy Sundberg, secretary of Geneva’s Overseas American Academy, citing figures from the government’s Federal Register. The embassy in Bern, the Swiss capital, redeployed staff to clear a backlog as Americans queued to relinquish their passports. The Big Doubt Over Facebook's IPO (WSJ) "The question with Facebook and many of the social media sites is, 'What are we getting for our dollars?'" said Michael Sprague, vice president of marketing at Kia Motors Corp.'s North American division. The automaker has advertised on Facebook since 2009 and plans to increase its ad spending on the site. While building brand awareness on a site with 900 million users is valuable, Mr. Sprague said he's unclear if "a consumer sees my ad, and does that ultimately lead to a new vehicle sale?" The concerns from Kia and other advertisers underscore the difficulties of measuring results of nascent-forms of social-media advertising. Madness In Spain Lingers As Ireland Chases Recovery (Bloomberg) “Ireland faced up to its problems faster than others and we expect growth there rather soon,” said Cinzia Alcidi, an analyst at the Centre for European Policy Studies in Brussels. “In Spain, there was kind of a denial of the scale of the problem and it may be faced with many years of significant challenges before full recovery takes place.” Euro-Zone Economic Woes Deepen (WSJ) The euro-zone economy contracted by 0.3% in the fourth quarter of last year, and most recent data suggest it did so again in the first quarter of this year. Many economists regard two quarters of contraction as indicating an economy is in recession. Carlyle's big-name IPO may not generate big gains (NYP) Like debt asset manager Oaktree Capital Group, which declined on its first day of trading earlier this month, Carlyle warns that its first priority is to the interests of its fund investors, and it could make decisions that would reduce revenue in the short-term, such as limiting the assets under management that it oversees or reducing management fees. Did May Day Save Occupy Wall Street? (TDB) For some protesters, the lack of one or two key demands and a stronger organizational structure made the day less effective than it could have been. “I think they have to state their demands along with their actions,” said Anton Alen, a student at Hunter College, adding that he thinks Occupy Wall Street has been clear on many things it would like to see changed. Alen said that the idea of trying to occupy another space Tuesday night was in the right spirit but needed to be thought out better. “I don’t think it can be so spontaneous and still be effective,” Alen said. Sofia Gallisa of Fort Greene, Brooklyn, disagreed. “This isn’t about specific demands,” she said. “It’s never been about specific demands.” Occupy Wall Street has changed the kind of discussions Americans are having about inequality, she said, particularly around issues of class. Peter Schiff: US Treasurys Are ‘Junk,’ Dollar Headed for Collapse (CNBC) “As far as I am concerned, U.S. Treasurys are junk bonds,” Schiff said on CNBC Asia’s “Squawk Box.” “And the only reason that the U.S. government can pay the interest on the debt, and I say ‘pay’ in quotes because we never pay our bills. We borrow the money so we pretend to pay, but the only reason we can do it is because the Fed has got interest rates so artificially low.” Greenspan Says U.S. Stocks ‘Very Cheap,’ Likely to Rise (Bloomberg) “There is no place for earnings to grow except into stock prices,” Greenspan said yesterday. Treasury: No Decision On Floating-Rate Notes (WSJ) "Treasury is in the process of analyzing the feedback, and we continue to study the benefits and optimal terms of a Treasury [floating rate note]," Under Secretary for Domestic Finance Mary Miller said in a statement. Mr. Met is rated number 1 in Major League Baseball (NYDN) The longtime Flushing favorite was chosen as the nation’s No. 1 sports mascot based on his likeability, familiarity and several other factors. Even better, in a reversal of recent on-field fortunes, Mr. Met landed the top spot over NL East rival the Phillie Phanatic.

Opening Bell: 03.19.13

BlackRock To Layoff Nearly 300 Employees (Reuters) BlackRock President Rob Kapito told employees on Monday that despite the layoffs the firm, which oversees almost $4 trillion, would continue hiring and expected to end 2013 with more employees than it currently had. "These moves will give high potential employees greater responsibility and additional career opportunities, and will make us a more agile organization better positioned to respond to changing client and market needs," Kapito said in the memo. Blackstone Said to Mull Outbidding Silver Lake for Dell LBO (Bloomberg) Blackstone is weighing a bid for Dell, the computer maker seeking offers to rival the proposed $24.4 billion buyout by its founder and Silver Lake Management LLC, said people with knowledge of the matter. Blackstone may bid as part of a group including other investors, said one of the people, who asked not to be named because the process is confidential. The New York-based private- equity firm hasn’t made a decision, another person said. Under the go-shop provision of the Silver Lake merger agreement, Dell’s board has through March 22 to seek superior proposals, and can negotiate beyond that date if it receives an offer it deems serious. Fannie Sees A Way To Repay Billions (WSJ) The rebounding housing market has helped return Fannie Mae to profitability and now might allow the government-controlled mortgage-finance company to do the once unthinkable: repay as much as $61.5 billion in rescue funds to the U.S. Treasury. The potential payment would be the upshot of an accounting move that Fannie Mae's senior executives are looking to make whereby the company would reclaim certain tax benefits that were written down shortly after the company was placed under federal control in 2008. The potential move was disclosed last week in a regulatory filing in which the company said it would delay the release of its annual report, due by Monday, as it tries to reach resolution with its accountants and regulator over the timing of the accounting move. UBS becomes latest bank to quit Euribor rates panel (Reuters) UBS said it would pull out of money market rate Euribor, one of the most prominent banks to do so after a global benchmark rate-setting scandal, in a move that renews questions about the rate's future. "We have decided to withdraw from the Euribor panel and to focus on our core funding markets Swiss franc and U.S. dollar," a UBS spokesman said, adding the decision was linked to an October decision to shut down vast parts of its investment bank. Lululemon Pulls Yoga Pants From Stores (WSJ) The yoga-apparel retailer's shares tumbled late Monday after saying it has pulled some of its popular pants from stores, after a mistake by a supplier left the pants too see-through. Lululemon Athletica said the glitch involved pants using its signature fabric, known as Luon, that arrived in stores March 1. The retailer is offering refunds to customers. Citigroup to Pay $730 Million in Bond-Lawsuit Settlement (Bloomberg) The deal would resolve a lawsuit by investors who bought Citigroup bonds and preferred stock from May 2006 through November 2008, the New York-based lender said yesterday in a statement. The accord requires court approval and would be covered by existing litigation reserves, the bank said. Ex-Calpers CEO Buenrostro Indicted Over Apollo Investment (Bloomberg) Federico Buenrostro, former chief executive officer of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, was charged with conspiring to trick the pension fund into paying millions of dollars in fees for a $3 billion investment into funds managed by Apollo Global Management. Buenrostro, 64, who led the state’s public pension fund from 2002 to 2008, was accused along with Alfred Villalobos, 69, of conspiracy to defraud the U.S., engaging in a false scheme against the U.S. and conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud in a grand jury indictment announced yesterday by U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag in San Francisco. Bernanke Tightens Hold on Fed Message Against Hawks (Bloomberg) The Fed chairman, starting tomorrow, will cut the time between the release of post-meeting statements by the Federal Open Market Committee and his news briefings, giving investors less opportunity to misperceive the Fed’s intent. In recent presentations, he has pledged to sustain easing, defending $85 billion in monthly bond purchases during congressional testimony last month and warning that “premature removal of accommodation” may weaken the expansion. Deli Workers Have Some Choice Words for Mayor Bloomberg’s New Cigarette Proposal (Daily Intel) "It's stupid. He needs to f*ck off," Fernando, the manager at M&M Market Deli on Broome Street, said. "You want to smoke, you're going to smoke no matter what. And especially at that young age, you're curious about everything." It was the principle of the thing that so irritated Fernando more than any potential loss of business. "You don't make money on cigarettes," he said. "I mean, our profit on cigarettes is 75 cents, a dollar? The whole purpose of cigarettes is to get people in — you want to buy cigarettes, then you also pick up a sandwich."