Opening Bell: 09.23.13

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Yellen Would Bring Tougher Tone To Fed (WSJ)
Ms. Yellen, the Fed vice chairwoman, is highly regarded by many central bank staff members, who call her an effective leader with a sharp mind. But she has clashed with others and left some hard feelings in the wake of those confrontations, according to interviews with more than a dozen current and former staff members and officials who worked with her directly in recent years. Most agree that Ms. Yellen—who has climbed the ranks from Fed researcher to Fed governor and regional Fed bank president, in between stints outside the central bank—is exacting and exceptionally detail-oriented. At Fed policy meetings, Ms. Yellen is courteous, respectful, serious and meticulously prepared, according to officials who have attended meetings with her. She has staked out strong positions in favor of the Fed's easy-money policies that sometimes put her at odds with opponents of the policies, these people said.

Open Government Laws Fuel Hedge Fund Profits (WSJ)
Finance professionals have been pulling every lever they can these days to extract information from the government. Many have discovered that the biggest lever of all is the one available to everyone—the Freedom of Information Act—conceived by advocates of open government to shine light on how officials make decisions. FOIA is part of an array of techniques sophisticated investors are using to try to obtain potentially market-moving information about products, legislation, regulation and government economic statistics. "It's an information arms race," says Les Funtleyder, a longtime portfolio manager and now partner at private-equity firm Poliwogg Holdings Inc. "It's important to try every avenue. If anyone else is doing it, you need to, too."

Merkel wins resounding victory in German election (CNBC)
While it was a stunning victory for Merkel, the election results heightened uncertainty and raised the prospects of a grand coalition between Merkel's center-right group and either the Greens or the SPD. Speaking to her party faithful after the vote, Merkel thanked voters for their trust. "I want to thank people who governed with me, (these) were not easy years," she said.

Hedge Funds Now Free To Advertise (NYP)
The decades-long ban on hedge fund advertising has been lifted effective Monday — thanks to the 2012 Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, which also allowed Twitter to register confidentially this month for a public stock offering. While the new rules won’t likely lead to traders’ faces plastered on New York City buses or on grocery store shopping carts, it could result in more hedge fund “branding” in sports arenas or other public places deep-pockets people like to congregate, experts forecast. An opera season or art gallery showing by your local friendly hedge fund is not out of the question. It is also expected to lead to more subtle changes, such as fund managers talking openly about their performance to reporters and on television.

Greece and lenders expect 2013 budget surplus: Greek finance ministry source (Reuters)
"I think we are close to converging on a common, realistic estimate that there will be a small, viable primary budget surplus this year," the official said on condition of anonymity, after the first meeting in the latest review of Greece's bailout by its lenders.

Economy Minister Threatens To Quit If Italy Flouts Deficit Limits (Reuters)
Italian Economy Minister Fabrizio Saccomanni will resign if the fragile coalition government flouts European Union deficit spending limits in favor of tax cuts, he told Corriere della Sera newspaper on Sunday.

Terrifying Bride Is Only Joking Except When She's Not (Gawker)
Welcome to my bridal party. I thought today would be a great day to start this chain, as it is officially six months until my wedding day. I just wanted to go over some ground rules: 1. Weigh-ins will begin in 3 weeks. I for one would really like some time after Thanksgiving to make my body forget about what it consumed, so I thought I would give you guys some cushion room 2. No-one can be skinner than the bride. That means Kelly and Lizzie will be on a protein weight gainer diet exclusively until May. I will have the nutritionist call you to discuss diet plans. 3. Bed times leading up to the wedding will be strictly enforced. I absolutely cannot have you all have saggy, baggy eyes. I am sure you all understand. 4. Swimwear attire: I would like everyone to wear matching bikinis that have rhinestones on the tushie spelling out "maids," which brings me to my next point. 5. All bikinis leading up to the wedding must be strapless bandeaus. I cannot have terrible tan lines in strapless dresses. 6. Sunscreen: We need to make sure you ladies look lovely and radiant and not red and reptile like. Pack accordingly. 7. Speeches: We all know what happened at Taylor's wedding. So if you plan to make a toast, please submit it for approval and revision, no later than 4 weeks prior to the wedding.

Houlihan Lokey to Double Team Focused on Illiquid Sales (Bloomberg)
Houlihan Lokey, the closely held investment bank that started advising on secondary sales of private-equity and hedge-fund stakes fours years ago, plans to more than double staff in that unit to 20 professionals or more as it expands into sales of other illiquid assets. Houlihan Lokey created an Illiquid Financial Asset practice to advise on the sales of assets such as stakes in loan pools, life settlements, minority positions, pharmaceutical royalties and operating leases, the Los Angeles-based firm said today in a statement. The unit will also advise private-equity firms on structured deals in situations where they are unable to raise successor funds.

In Icahn Investments, Son Also Rises (NYP)
Carl Icahn, who declined comment for this article, has credited son Brett and David Schechter, 37, with being more tech-adept than he is and with finding investment opportunities in Netflix, Apple and voice-technology company Nuance, as well as Take-Two.

Cocaine stash worth $270 million found on Air France plane in Paris (GP)
French police made one of the biggest cocaine busts in history earlier this month when 1.3 tonnes of the drug was found aboard an Air France cargo flight in Paris. The stash of pure cocaine was found stuffed into 30 suitcases aboard the cargo plane at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, Interior Minister Manuel Valls announced Saturday.

Chocolate Prices Sore In Dark Turn (WSJ)
The cost of one kilogram of chocolate in the U.S. is expected to hit a record $12.25 this year, a 45% increase from 2007, according to market-research firm Euromonitor International.

Indianapolis man arrested after impersonating officer to get free Applebee's meal (IS)
Philip D. Smith, 46, was charged with one count of theft and one count of impersonating a police officer, both Class D felonies. According to a police report, Smith finished dining at Applebee’s on Richmond’s east side when he told his server that he did not have money to pay his bill. He then allegedly displayed a badge, said he was a police officer and asked to go to an ATM to get money. Authorities said employees at Applebee’s called police to report the incident after Smith failed to return to pay his bill. “(The employees) took down his license plate number before he left and when he didn’t come back, they called and we had officers that were able to locate the vehicle,” RPD Capt. Tom Porfidio said. According to police, the badge that Smith displayed was a security badge and not a police-issued badge.

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Opening Bell: 08.23.12

Fed Moving Closer To Action (WSJ) The Federal Reserve sent its strongest signal yet that it is preparing new steps to bolster the economic recovery, saying measures would be needed fairly soon unless growth substantially and convincingly picks up. Minutes released Wednesday from the Fed's July 31-Aug. 1 policy meeting suggested that a new round of bond buying, known as quantitative easing, was high on its list of options. Jobless Claims In U.S. Climb For Second Week To One-Month High (Bloomberg) Jobless claims rose by 4,000 for a second week to reach 372,000 in the period ended Aug. 18, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 41 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for 365,000. The four-week moving average, a less volatile measure, increased to 368,000. SAC Takes New Activist Role (NYP) The move is being spearheaded by SAC portfolio manager David Rosen, who has been butting heads with Spokane, Wash.-based Clearwater Paper Corp. since May, sources said. In May, Rosen penned a letter to Clearwater Chairman and CEO Gordon Jones calling the stock “deeply undervalued.” Last week, SAC, which has a 7.1 percent stake in the papermaker, proposed to Clearwater’s board that the company split itself in two and consider selling one or both parts. “We continue to carefully analyze their ideas, and we look forward to continuing a dialogue,” a Clearwater spokesman said. People familiar with Rosen’s plans say Clearwater won’t be the last, and that Rosen and SAC analyst Shoney Katz are scouting out more opportunities to make money through corporate cage-rattling. “My understanding is that Rosen’s portfolio has expanded its mandate to include activism,” said Ken Squire of activist research firm 13D Monitor. Citigroup Slams Nasdaq's Facebook Compensation Plan (Reuters) Citigroup slammed Nasdaq OMX Group's plan to compensate firms harmed by Facebook's botched market debut to the tune of $62 million, saying in a regulatory filing the exchange should be liable for hundreds of millions more, according to a letter seen by Reuters. Citi said Nasdaq's actions in the May 18 initial public offering amounted to "gross negligence," in the letter to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which had not yet been made public. Facebook Director’s Quick $1 Billion Share Sale Lacks Precedent (Bloomberg) While venture capitalists commonly sell their stakes after helping startups reach the public markets, they usually whittle their holdings over a period of quarters or even years. That’s to avoid flooding the market with too much new stock, which can drive down the shares, and to show continuing support for the company. Thiel’s timing was particularly precarious, because Facebook was already down about 50 percent from the IPO. “With the benefit of hindsight, you could say that the underwriters probably regret agreeing to an early release of the shares,” said Ted Hollifield, a partner at Alston & Bird LLP in Menlo Park, California, and an expert in venture capital. “The stock still seems to be searching for an actual trading range and you would ideally like to see that take place before there’s additional selling pressure.” The Morning After: A Wedding Album With A Different Spin (NYDN) Wedding photographers are being invited to an unusual kind of afterparty. Brides and grooms — who already often obsessively document their first kiss, first cake slice and first dance — are adding yet another first to their wedding photographer’s list: the morning after. Sexy shoots featuring rumpled beds and steamy showers are a hot new trend within the wedding business. As the seating charts and floral arrangements fade into memory, these intimate photo shoots take place in newlyweds’ bedrooms or even the hotels where they’ve spent their first night as husband and wife. “We do it very sexy and implied,” said New Jersey-based photographer Michelle Jonné, 34, who charges about $650 for the service...Past happy clients include Inna Shamis. “The minute she told me, I thought ‘that is brilliant,’” Shamis said. “When you get married, you’re in the best shape of your life and why not have these memories.” The New Jersey PR exec, 38, only hesitated for a few seconds when Jonné asked her and husband to jump in the shower, she said. “As the day progressed, we established this fantastic chemistry with her," said Shamis, who later posted the racy photos on Facebook and intends to someday share them with her kids. Greek Crisis Evasion To Fore As Merkel Hosts Hollande (Bloomberg) With the leaders of Europe’s two biggest economies still at the confidence-building stage, Merkel and Hollande are seeking common ground on Greece and the wider euro-area debt crisis almost three years after its inception. France sees the program targets set for Greece as too harsh given the state of its economy, a French government official said yesterday on condition of anonymity because the talks are private. Merkel and Hollande are due to give statements at 7 p.m. in Berlin. “On balance we still take the view that they’ll keep Greece ticking over,” David Owen, chief European financial economist at Jefferies International Ltd. in London, said by phone. “If that does require giving it more time, so be it.” Whale Of A Tale (NYP) Boaz Weinstein may have harpooned the London Whale, but his main fund barely has its head above water. Weinstein’s Saba Capital Master Fund is up only 0.62 percent for the year through July 31, according to an investor letter. SEC's Schapiro Cancels Vote on Money-Fund Curbs (WSJ) Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Schapiro called off a highly anticipated vote on rules for the money-market mutual-fund industry after losing a swing vote she needed to push through the rules. The newly announced position of Luis Aguilar, a Democrat and former mutual-fund executive, marks a defeat for Ms. Schapiro and a setback for the Obama administration and top federal regulators, who see money funds as a source of systemic risk left over from the last financial crisis. LL Cool J breaks burglar's jaw in 'knock-down, drag-out' fight (LA Times) The burglar who broke into the Studio City home of actor-rapper LL Cool J suffered a broken nose and jaw in what police sources described as a "knock-down, drag-out" fight. Los Angeles police were called to the star's home in the 12000 block of Blairwood Drive around 1 a.m. Wednesday, officials said. LL Cool J was holding the suspect when officers arrived, officials said...LL Cool J was upstairs in his home when he heard noise coming from the kitchen area. When he went down to see what was happening, the unidentified suspect came at him, leading to the fight. LL Cool J, born James Todd Smith, rose to fame with musical hits such as "Mama Said Knock You Out."

Opening Bell: 09.24.12

Germany Losing Patience With Spain as EU Warns on Crisis Effort (Bloomberg) Germany’s governing coalition showed growing exasperation with Spain, as a senior ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel said Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy must stop prevaricating and decide whether Spain needs a full rescue. “He must spell out what the situation is,” Michael Meister, the chief whip and finance spokesman for Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, said in an interview in Berlin today. The fact he’s not doing so shows “Rajoy evidently has a communications problem. If he needs help he must say so.” Germany Dismisses Talk of Boosting Bailout Fund (WSJ) Europe is discussing ways to leverage the assets of its €500 billion ($649.05 billion) bailout fund through the involvement of private-sector investors, but reports that this could boost the firepower of the European Stability Mechanism to more than €2 trillion are "completely illusory," a spokesman for the German Finance Ministry said on Monday. Cost of Leaving Greece Rises for Crédit Agricole (WSJ) Crédit Agricole will likely have to pour a further €600 million ($779 million) to €700 million into its flailing Greek unit before it will be able sell the subsidiary, according to people from both the private and public sectors with knowledge of the sales process. Under Ben Bernanke, An Open And More Forceful Fed (WaPo) In what might be his final years as chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben S. Bernanke is transforming the U.S. central bank, seeking to shed its reclusive habits and make it a constant presence in bolstering the economy. The new approach would make the Fed’s policies more responsive to the needs of the economy — and likely more forceful, because what the Fed is planning to do would be much clearer. A key feature of the strategy could be producing a set of scenarios for when and how the Fed would intervene, which would mark a dramatic shift for an organization that throughout its history has been famously opaque. Bernanke has already pushed the Fed far along this path. The central bank this month pledged to stimulate the economy until it no longer needs the help, an unprecedented promise to intervene for years. That’s a big change from the Fed’s usual role as a curb on inflation and buffer against financial crises. “It’s a re-imagining of Fed policy,” said John E. Silvia, chief economist at Wells Fargo. “It’s a much more explicit commitment than people had thought about in the past. It’s a much stronger commitment to focus on unemployment.” Economists Say US Needs More Taxes, Spending Cuts (AP) A slight majority of respondents — 59 percent — said that current U.S. monetary policy was "about right." The percentage replying that monetary policy was "too stimulative" fell slightly compared with the percentage that held that same view in March, while the proportion answering that policy was "too restrictive" edged up. Flight attendant brings revolver through Philly airport security (NYDN) Republic Airlines flight attendant Jaclyn Luby was walking through airport screening around 6:50 a.m. when she placed her carry-on bag through the X-ray machine. Transportation Security Administration screeners saw the gun, described as a .38 caliber Smith and Wesson Airweight revolver, and notified a Philadelphia police officer. Luby was in another screening room with police when the gun went off. The bullet fired into a TSA break room, where an employee was sitting, police told NBC 10 Philadelphia. The gun discharged when the officer tried to put the safety on. Luby, a flight attendant for more than five years, told authorities that she had a permit to carry a gun — but forgot hers was in her handbag...“We are human and everybody does make mistakes and I understand that, even though she’s a seasoned veteran, she needs to be careful,” US Airways passenger Andrea Burger said, adding, “I’m sure it will be a great learning opportunity for her.” Winkelvoss Twins Weigh In On Facebook IPO (NYP) Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss have put their $65 million Facebook lawsuit settlement money to work, starting Winklevoss Capital, a venture-capital firm focused on technology investments. The duo were asked by Yahoo!’s Daily Ticker what went wrong with the Facebook initial public offering. Cameron Winklevoss said the insiders got greedy and didn’t leave something on the table. “I think when you alienate a group of investors, it takes time to build that rapport back.” Tyler Winklevoss thought the hoodie and “hacker way” ethos didn’t play well with public investors. Mark Zuckerberg’s business model “might work in Silicon Valley with venture-capital firms, but when you go public and you’re talking to the Street, they’re much more concerned with numbers and bottom line and accountability.” Hedge Funds Cut Bets as Prices Drop Most Since June (Bloomberg) Hedge funds cut bullish commodity bets for the first time this month as weaker manufacturing from China and Europe eclipsed central banks’ efforts to boost growth, driving down prices the most since June. Money managers decreased their net-long positions across 18 U.S. futures and options by 1.7 percent to 1.307 million contracts in the week ended Sept. 18, halting two weeks of gains that had sent holdings to a 16-month high, U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission data show. Wells Fargo Should Buy CIT Group, Says Analyst (Reuters) FYI. U.K. to Set Up Business Bank (WSJ) The U.K. government is investing £1 billion ($1.62 billion) to set up a new state-backed business bank that it hopes will eventually support up to £10 billion of new lending for small and medium-size companies, Business Secretary Vince Cable will announce on Monday. The new wholesale bank, which will operate at arms length from the government, aims to attract more than £1 billion of private-sector capital to help tackle what it sees as the long-standing problem of a lack of credit for smaller companies. Houston Officer Kills Double Amputee in Wheelchair (AP) A Houston police officer shot and killed a one-armed, one-legged man in a wheelchair Saturday inside a group home after police say the double amputee threatened the officer and aggressively waved a metal object that turned out to be a pen. Police spokeswoman Jodi Silva said the man cornered the officer in his wheelchair and was making threats while trying to stab the officer with the pen. At the time, the officer did not know what the metal object was that the man was waving, Silva said. She said the man came "within inches to a foot" of the officer and did not follow instructions to calm down and remain still. "Fearing for his partner's safety and his own safety, he discharged his weapon," Silva told The Associated Press.

Opening Bell: 08.27.12

RBS May Be Bigger Libor Culprit Than Barclays, Says MP (Guardian) John Mann, a Labour MP on the Treasury select committee, said "City insiders" had suggested RBS's involvement may be "noticeably worse" than Barclays.' [...] Mann's comments came as a former RBS trader claimed that the bank's internal checks were so lax that anyone could change Libor rates. Court documents filed in Singapore show that Tan Chi Min, who is suing RBS for wrongful dismissal, claimed that in 2008 a trader for the bank, Will Hall, changed the Libor submission even though he was part of the Japanese yen swap desk in London. The papers show that Tan, who worked for RBS in Singapore, raised the issue at his disciplinary meeting last September, saying the bank's internal procedure in London seemed to be that "anyone can change Libor". Spain Expects to Tap About $75 Billion in Rescue Financing for Its Banks (NYT) Spain expects to use about 60 billion euros, or $75 billion, of the 100 billion euros of bank rescue financing offered by European finance ministers in June, according to the Spanish economy minister, Luis de Guindos. UK Investment Bankers Prefer Singapore (FT) The southeast-Asian city state has become the most favored location for investment bankers who are based in London, research by financial services recruitment firm Astbury Marsden shows. Of the 462 investment bankers that were asked, 31 percent said they would most like to work in Singapore. By comparison, only a fifth preferred New York and only 19 percent opted in favor of London. In the year before, 22 percent named London as their preferred location, underlining how the British capital has lost some appeal among investment bankers amid tighter regulation and a clampdown on bonuses. “A fast growing, low tax and bank friendly environment like Singapore stands as a perfect antidote to the comparatively high tax and anti-banker sentiment of London and New York,” said Mark Cameron, chief operating officer at Astbury Marsden. “Far more London-based bankers are now more willing and able to relocate the 6,700 miles to Singapore.” Another Madoff Name Nix (NYP) The second of Ponzi-schemer Bernie Madoff’s daughters-in-law is asking a court for permission to shed her now notorious married name. Deborah West Madoff, who started divorce proceedings against Bernie’s son Andrew back in 2008, has sought permission in Manhattan Supreme Court to revert to her maiden name. The couple have two children. She’s not the first in the family to do so: in 2010, her sister-in-law made a similar court application. Suits Mount In Rate Scandal (WSJ) It won't be easy for the plaintiffs to win in court even though financial institutions are likely to reach settlements with regulators in coming months totaling billions of dollars, according to people close to the Libor investigation. The plaintiffs must prove that banks successfully manipulated interest-rate benchmarks such as the London interbank offered rate, or Libor, and caused the plaintiffs to suffer a loss. Still, some investors and analysts are forecasting huge damages despite the legal hurdles. In a July report, Macquarie Research estimated that banks face potential legal liability of about $176 billion, based on the assumption that Libor was "understated" by 0.4 percentage points in 2008 and 2009. Carlyle Group marketed $25 million deal without license: Kuwaiti firm (AP) A Kuwaiti company suing the Carlyle Group over a $25 million investment that went bad is now accusing the private equity firm of marketing the deal without a license as it seeks to have its case heard in Kuwaiti courts. The latest claim by Kuwait's National Industries Group adds a new twist to its more than two-and-a-half year legal challenge to Carlyle, and could complicate the American company's relationships with other wealthy Mideast investors. NIG's lawsuit focuses on a Carlyle investment fund that was one of the earliest casualties of the financial crisis when it collapsed in 2008. The fund has been the subject of multiple lawsuits against Washington-based Carlyle. Couple in court for disturbing the peace for 'screaming, moaning and swearing during seven-hour sex romps five nights a week' (DM) Jessica Angel and Colin MacKenzie had been issued with an order requiring them to prevent ‘screaming, loud moaning, swearing and raised voices’ after police were called to their flat 20 times in just four months. However, following further complaints from neighbours, the couple were charged under the Environmental Protection Act. They face a £3,000 fine if convicted...Mr MacKenzie, 45, from Sturt, South Australia, said: ‘How can you live in a place where you can’t have sex? It’s ridiculous. Anyway, it’s mostly Jessie. The sex goes from four to seven hours, five nights a week. I’ll probably die of a heart attack – she’s almost killing me.’ German Official Opposes European Debt Purchases (NYT) The president of the German central bank said in an interview published Sunday that he remained staunchly opposed to government bond purchases by the European Central Bank, a position that could make it more difficult to deploy a weapon many economists believe is essential to saving the euro. But in a sign that the mood in Germany could be shifting, Chancellor Angela Merkel adopted a more dovish tone during a separate interview. She told members of her governing coalition to stop talking about Greece leaving the euro. “We are in a decisive phase in the battle against the euro zone debt crisis,” Ms. Merkel told ARD television. “Everyone should weigh their words very carefully.” Fed mulls open season on bond buys to help economy (Reuters) The Federal Reserve is considering a new approach to unconventional monetary policy that would give it more leeway to tailor the scale of its stimulus to changing economic winds. While fresh measures are not assured and the timing of any potential moves are still in question, some officials have said any new bond buying, or quantitative easing, could be open-ended, meaning it would not be bound by a fixed amount or time frame. "I am inclined to think that if the Fed decides on more QE it would be of the open-ended variety," said Michael Feroli, chief U.S. economist at JPMorgan and a former Fed economist. BlackRock Bullish On Thai Bonds, Region’s Worst (Bloomberg) BlackRock is bullish on Thai bonds, Asia’s worst-performing in 2012, saying the central bank has room to ease monetary policy as a global slump cools demand for exports from Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy. Former SC Gov. Mark Sanford to wed ex-mistress Maria Belen Chapur (NYDN) "Yes, we are engaged, and I'm both happy and excited for what that means," Sanford said in a statement obtained by CNN. "I have long expressed my feelings for her, she's a wonderful person. My closest friends have met and love her, and I look forward to introducing her to still many more that have yet to do so." The conservative Republican's political aspirations were dashed in 2009 when he disappeared from South Carolina for five days under the pretense that he was hiking the Appalachian Trail. The father of four, who was once thought to be a potential 2012 presidential contender, later admitted that he was actually visiting Chapur, who he professed to be his "soul mate." "I've been unfaithful to my wife," Sanford said at the time. "I developed a relationship with what started as a dear, dear friend from Argentina."

Opening Bell: 10.5.15

Tsipras has work cut out for him; "Economic instabilities are showing no sign of dampening appetites for deal-making"; Merkel says f*ck VW, Germany is the place to take your biz; Schwarzman is in good with the Pope; "Australian artist to alter sexual cheeseburger mural"; and more.