Opening Bell: 09.30.13

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First U.S. Shutdown in 17 Years at Midnight Seen Probable
Republicans and Democrats in Congress say they don’t want to close the government, though neither side is budging from their positions to avoid it. House Republicans want to delay President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act for a year and make other changes to the health law. Democrats vow not to let that happen. Hanging in the balance are 800,000 federal workers who would be sent home tomorrow if Congress fails to pass a stopgap spending bill before funding expires tonight. Standard & Poor’s 500 Index futures slid and Asian stocks retreated on concern of a shutdown, while Treasuries advanced. Asked yesterday if he thought the government would shut down, Illinois Senator Richard Durbin, the chamber’s No. 2 Democrat, said, “I’m afraid I do.”

Bill Clinton Says Obama Should Call The Bluff Of Republicans
Former President Bill Clinton, whose Democratic administration was the last to experience a partial government shutdown in 1996, said he wouldn’t negotiate with Republicans on the eve of another shutdown.
“I think there are times when you have to call people’s bluff,” Clinton said in an interview with ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” in which he said Republican tactics to undermine the 2010 health-care law seem “almost spiteful.” He recalled some “extremely minor” negotiations during his administration’s partial closures and said that, in this case, there isn’t an opportunity for real talks. “The current price of stopping it is higher than the price of letting the Republicans do it and taking their medicine,” he said. “If they’re going to change the way the Constitution works and fundamentally alter the character of our country and damage the future of a lot of kids, you just have to say no.”

Will 11th hour bill keep the lights on temporarily? (CNBC)
There were some signs on Sunday—including remarks from House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.—that the House may try and find a last minute solution to keep the federal lights on at least for a few more days. The 11th hour solution could be a clean bill funding the government for a few more days to allow for a longer-term solution. Or it could come in the form of a list minute bill from the House that includes just one or two more modest demands of changes to Obamacare, including a repeal of the tax on medical devices that helps fund the health care law. Such a bill would amount to the House daring the Senate to choose a shutdown over changes to Obamacare that have broad support in Congress. All the late efforts by Republicans, especially in the leadership team, reflect fear that the GOP will shoulder all the blame for a shutdown and have its already low public standing plunge even further.

SAC Capital Head Might Be Pleading Guilty (NYP)
The big question currently swirling around the billionaire — who’s reportedly seeking to cut a deal with the feds over insider-trading criminal charges facing his firm — is whether he will make the ultimate sacrifice and plead guilty. One college pal of Cohen’s said she doesn’t believe Cohen, who has adamantly denied the allegations thus far, would give in so easily. She doesn’t even believe he’s in settlement talks. “That’s not his mentality,” the Wharton grad said of the founder of the once-$15 billion hedge-fund empire SAC Capital Advisors. Some cite Cohen’s notorious need for privacy as motivation to cut a deal rather than face the circus of two trials.

Baldwin Calls Investor A 'Pock-Marked Toady' (NYP)
Alec Baldwin says billionaire investor turned-film producer Arki Busson is his Hollywood archenemy. The sharp-tongued actor, who met with Busson in Cannes while pitching an Iraq-set romance film, fired off in TV Guide after the mogul told Baldwin he’s only considered a TV star, not a movie star. “He reminds me of a B-level villain in a Bond film,” Baldwin tells the magazine. “It’s a part Robert Davi would play if you couldn’t get Alan Rickman with a cat in his lap. He’s a pockmarked toady who hops from yacht to yacht and bed to bed. So when some bloated little toad like Busson labels me a certain way, I say to myself, ‘Consider the source.’ If movie stardom meant being trapped on a yacht with Busson, I’d rather be a weatherman for Ch. 4 in New York.”

Wall Street banks likely stung again by bad bond-trading quarter (Reuters)
Analysts have begun cutting third-quarter profit estimates for banks including Goldman Sachs Group Inc and Morgan Stanley, citing an industry-wide fixed-income trading revenue decline of 20 to 30 percent compared with a year ago. The quarter's lull has made at least some Wall Street professionals nervous that a fresh round of job cuts may be coming, a trader said.

China Could Be In For Major Financial Reform (AP)
China’s State Council formally announced rules for the new free trade zone on Friday. They outline goals to upgrade financial services, promote trade and improve governance as well as measures to encourage foreign investment in 18 sectors in the country’s tightly regulated service industry.

IPOs In Europe Leapfrog U.S. Amid Cheap Valuations (Bloomberg)
IPOs in Europe surged at more than double the pace of those in the U.S., according to data compiled by Bloomberg, as Deutsche Annington Immobilien SE, Germany’s largest residential landlord, and U.K. property broker Foxtons Group Plc sold shares. Volume rose more than 10 percent globally compared with a year earlier, weighed down by a 40 percent drop in Asia.

Volcker Rule Costs Tallied as U.S. Regulators Press Deadline (Bloomberg)
Court challenges that overturned other Dodd-Frank regulations because of faulty cost-benefit analysis have increased pressure on the SEC economists, led by Craig M. Lewis, a veteran finance professor on leave from Vanderbilt University. Their work may determine whether the rule could withstand a similar lawsuit -- an option banks and trade groups say is under consideration.

Woman owed money by her son-in-law winches his car onto her roof (YN)
Wang Qin said her son-in-law had borrowed nearly half a million Yuan to invest in his business, but hasn't paid her back. The angry relative held onto his Audi as collateral, but when he started avoiding her, she took drastic action by hauling his vehicle onto her roof terrace. Wang said she made the dramatic move when her son-in-law ducked all her requests to hand the money back. The final straw came when he secretly tried to retrieve his car, forcing Wang to go to extreme lengths by getting a crane to life the car onto the first floor terrace. It's unknown whether the man has got his car back yet.

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Opening Bell: 09.06.12

Draghi Says Officials Agree On ECB Unlimited Bond-Buying (Bloomberg) The program “will enable us to address severe distortions in government bond markets which originate from, in particular, unfounded fears on the part of investors of the reversibility of the euro,” Draghi said at a press conference in Frankfurt after the ECB held its benchmark rate at a record low of 0.75 percent. “Under appropriate conditions, we will have a fully effective backstop to avoid destructive scenarios with potentially severe challenges for price stability in the euro area.” Positive Signs Emerge For Job Market (WSJ) Private-sector jobs in the U.S. increased by 201,000 last month, according to a national employment report calculated by payroll processor Automatic Data Processing Inc. and consultancy Macroeconomic Advisers. The August number was well above the 145,000 expected by economists. The July estimate was revised to 173,000 from the 163,000 reported last month. AIG To Sell $2 Billion Of AIA Shares (WSJ) AIG is seeking to raise around US$2 billion by selling more shares in AIA Group Ltd, its former pan-Asian life insurance unit, as it continues to repay the U.S. government bailout it received during the 2008 financial crisis. The U.S. insurer also said in a statement it plans to buy back another $5 billion in stock from the U.S. Treasury. AIG has been aggressively buying back shares this year and is expected to buy more from the Treasury this fall, as part of a push that could make the U.S. government a minority shareholder before the November elections and enable the company to fully repay its bailout sooner than expected. The Treasury Department sold $5 billion worth of shares in AIG last month, its fourth sale so far, reducing the government's stake to 55% and bringing down the amount the government needs to recoup from the bailout to $25 billion. Summer Rally Puts The Hurt On Fund Managers (WSJ) "The gap we are looking at is going to be very hard…for hedge funds to make up," said Anurag Bhardwaj, head of hedge-fund consulting at Barclays PLC. "At this late stage in the year, when the rally has been around for a bit, do you decide to get into the game now?" Alec Baldwin's daughter discusses ‘pig’ call (NYP) Alec Baldwin’s daughter Ireland has talked for the first time about his infamous 2007 voice mail in which he called her, then 12, “a rude, thoughtless, little pig” — saying he often speaks like that “because he’s frustrated.” Ireland, the 16-year-old daughter of Baldwin and Kim Basinger, thinks the incident — which created a viral scandal and prompted Baldwin to temporarily lose visitation rights — was blown wildly out of proportion. “The only problem with that voice mail was that people made it out to be a way bigger deal than it was,” she tells Page Six Magazine, out today. “He’s said stuff like that before just because he’s frustrated. “For me it was like, ‘OK, whatever.’ I called him back I was like, ‘Sorry Dad, I didn’t have my phone.’ That was it.” DE Shaw Is Back On Top (DJ) This year, Shaw has had the biggest asset growth among the top 20 hedge fund firms in Absolute Return’s Billion Dollar Club, which tracks the biggest hedgies twice a year. Shaw added $2.4 billion to its hedge-fund coffers this year, a 14 percent gain, bringing its assets to $19.4 billion as of July 1, according to the ranking out today. Clinton Nominates Obama, Rebuts Romney Criticism On Jobs (Bloomberg) Bill Clinton said President Barack Obama deserves re-election because he contained the economic crisis and put the nation on a path to recovery, casting the 2012 election as a choice between “shared opportunities and shared responsibility” and a “winner-take-all, you’re-on-your- own society.” Clinton, 66, praised Obama’s commitment to “constructive cooperation” and described him as a man who is “cool on the outside, but who burns for America on the inside.” The former president used a 48-minute address before the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, last night to deliver a rebuttal of criticisms leveled at Obama by challenger Mitt Romney and his running mate during last week’s Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida -- at one point saying it “takes some brass” for Obama’s partisan adversaries to lob some of their attacks. “Nobody’s right all the time and a broken clock is right twice a day,” Clinton said. “We’re compelled to spend our fleeting lives between those two extremes.” Most Of Nomura's Cuts To Come In Europe, US (WSJ) The brokerage house said Thursday 45% of the cuts would be in Europe and 21% in the U.S. Nomura said 45% of the total cuts would be in the form of labor costs. Love Triangle Leads To Million-Dollar Return Battle At Neiman Marcus (FDL) The meeting was awkward. Malcolm Reuben, the buttoned-up vice president and general manager of Neiman Marcus’ NorthPark Center store, stood inside the multimillion-dollar Addison home of one of his top customers, Patricia Walker. Beside him were two colleagues: a Neiman Marcus attorney and his store’s loss-prevention manager. Walker was joined by her own attorney and her personal assistant. It was a summer day in 2010. Glancing around the sleek Max Levy–designed house, the only things more dazzling than the sculptural masonry columns or the steel-and-glass staircase were the piles of designer goods: handbags, shoes, furs, clothing, crystal figurines, fine jewelry. It represented the bulk of $1.4 million in merchandise charged to Walker over a period of years. “There was a variety of merchandise laying all over the house,” Reuben testified in a March video deposition. “She wanted to return all of the merchandise because of the affair.” Oh, yes. The affair. Walker had learned that Favi Lo, her longtime Neiman Marcus sales associate at NorthPark, was sleeping with her husband. And Walker saw that her charges had soared in recent years while she recovered from a horrific head-on auto collision. She came to believe that her husband was responsible for many of the purchases and had used them to pump up commissions for his mistress.

Opening Bell: 01.03.13

Fresh Budget Fights Brewing (WSJ) If Congress doesn't do more in the coming months, Moody's warned, the company could follow Standard & Poor's in downgrading U.S. debt. "Further measures that bring about a downward debt trajectory over the medium term are likely to be needed to support the AAA rating," Moody's said Wednesday. But the battles on how to do that are far from over. Republicans say any further deficit reduction or legislation to avoid across-the-board spending cuts should come from reducing spending. President Obama and many Democrats advocate a combination of tax increases and spending cuts. The most serious skirmish will arrive toward the end of February, when the U.S. Treasury is expected to be unable to pay all the government's bills unless Congress boosts the federal borrowing limit. Then on March 1, the across-the-board spending cuts of the fiscal cliff, deferred in this week's deal, are scheduled to begin slicing into military and domestic programs. And on March 27, a government shutdown looms unless Congress approves funding for government operations for the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. CEOs Pan Fiscal Cliff Deal, Vow to Continue Debt Fight (Reuters) "I think this deal's a disaster," said Peter Huntsman, chief executive of chemical producer Huntsman Corp. "We're just living in a fantasy land. We're borrowing more and more money. This did absolutely nothing to address the fundamental issue of the debt cliff." Former Wells Fargo CEO Dick Kovacevich said the agreement confirms that Washington and both parties are totally out of control. "I think it's a joke," Kovacevich said of the deal. "It's stunning to me that after working on this for months and supposedly really getting to work in the last 30 days that this is what you come up with." Obama’s Warning to Boehner Started Road to Budget Plan (Bloomberg) President Barack Obama had a warning for John Boehner at a Dec. 13 White House meeting: Stop opposing higher tax rates for top earners, or the president would dedicate his second term to blaming Republicans for a global recession. The next day, the House speaker called the president and said he was open to a tax-rate increase on annual income of more than $1 million...While the budget deal Obama and Boehner were negotiating fell apart, the speaker’s concession on tax rates ultimately allowed Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, to craft the last-minute plan Congress passed Jan. 1. Nouriel Roubini: US Will Soon 'Get Messy' Again (CNBC) "It won't be long before there is another crisis. Two months, in fact." Pershing to Take 'Passive Shareholder' Role in General Growth (WSJ) Pershing Square Capital Management LP agreed to sell $271.9 million in General Growth Properties warrants to Brookfield Asset Management Inc., as part of a deal between the mall owner's two biggest shareholders that would resolve their recent disputes and see Pershing become a passive shareholder. Brookfield, in turn, offered to sell the warrants, which represent the right to acquire 18.4 million shares of General Growth stock, back to General Growth for the same purchase price. Pershing also agreed to limit its ownership stake in General Growth to no more than 9.9% and intends to become a passive shareholder. Brookfield agreed to limit its ownership in General Growth to 45%. Bank Of Canada won’t discuss melting plastic bills, says national security behind silence (NP) Disclosing details of behind-the-scenes discussions about tales of melting banknotes could endanger national security or international relations, says Canada’s central bank. In response to a formal request from The Canadian Press, the Bank Of Canada released 134 pages of internal records — almost completely blanked out — concerning allegations its new polymer bills melted in the scorching summer sun. The bank began issuing $100 polymer banknotes in late 2011, saying they were harder to counterfeit than paper notes and would last much longer. Unconfirmed reports of cooked currency emerged in July when a Kelowna, B.C., bank teller said she had heard of cases in which several bills had melted together inside a car. Soon after, Mona Billard of Cambridge, Ont., reported that she had returned eight plastic bills in January, after her son stashed his $800 Christmas bonus in a tin can and hid it near a baseboard heater. When he retrieved them the next day to make a deposit, the $100 banknotes had shriveled and melted. Ms. Billard exchanged clean bills for the shrunken, unusable ones. “The leather couch is up against the baseboard heater, it doesn’t melt,” she said. “The kids’ toys are back there, they don’t melt.” The Bank of Canada will reimburse damaged notes, but only if they clear an examination by an Ottawa laboratory. Paulson&Co Added To Abacus Suit Against Goldman (Bloomberg) Paulson & Co. was named as a defendant in a proposed revised lawsuit by ACA Financial Guaranty Corp. against Goldman Sachs over a collateralized debt obligation called Abacus. Paulson conspired with Goldman Sachs to deceive ACA Financial, which provided financial guaranty insurance for the deal, ACA Financial said in papers filed yesterday in Manhattan. Private Sector Added 215,000 Jobs Last Month (WSJ) Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires expected ADP to report a gain of 150,000 private jobs. Preet Bharara and other financial heavyweights opposing Paul Singer's attempt to get Argentina to pay debt (NYP) US Attorney Preet Bharara and BlackRock CEO Larry Fink are among the latest bold-faced names to oppose Singer’s attempt to get Argentina to pay him and others $1.3 billion on defaulted debt. Singer, the hedge fund billionaire who runs Elliott Management, is among the 8 percent of Argentina debtholders who refused to accept a 70 percent haircut following a 2001 default by the embattled South American country. Singer inched closer to winning the epic legal showdown in November when a federal judge ruled Argentina could not pay Fink’s BlackRock or other holders of the reorganized debt without putting money in escrow for Singer’s band of investors. An appeals court slowed Singer’s victory parade but refused to set aside the judge’s order. Now, Bharara, Fink’s $3.67 trillion bond firm and others are urging the appeals court to throw the case out. Basel Becomes Babel as Conflicting Rules Undermine Safety (Bloomberg) While higher capital requirements, curbs on banks trading with their own money and other rules have reduced risk, they have magnified the complexity of supervision, according to two dozen regulators, bankers and analysts interviewed by Bloomberg News. Even if the new regulations can be enforced, they don’t go far enough to ensure safety, said Robert Jenkins, a member of the Bank of England’s financial policy committee. Cops: Woman, 50, Battered Boyfriend, 32, Because Six Came Before Nine (TSG) Jennie Scott, 50, was booked into the Manatee County lockup on a misdemeanor charge stemming from the 11 PM encounter in the Palmetto bedroom of Jilberto Deleon, 32. Scott has dated Deleon “for the last 5 years on and off,” according to a sheriff’s report. Deputies were summoned to Deleon’s home by a witness who heard the couple arguing and saw Scott atop Deleon “punching and scratching him.” She also allegedly struck Deleon with a stick and threatened to hit him with a wrench before the tool was taken from her hand by the witness. When questioned by a cop, Scott explained that she and Deleon “were giving each other oral pleasure in the bedroom” when Deleon “finished first and stopped pleasuring her.” Scott added that she “became upset and they began arguing.” A deputy noted that Scott said that she was also mad at Deleon because she had “heard [him] having sex with another woman over the phone earlier in the day.” Scott struggled with deputies before being placed in a police cruiser, where she kicked a window until being warned that she would be maced unless she stopped.