Opening Bell: 11.01.13

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Credit Suisse Dismisses London Trader Over 'Unusual Trading' Losses (WSJ)
Credit Suisse said a London trader within its investment bank racked up nearly $6 million in losses that haven't previously been made public. The incident has sparked an investigation and attracted scrutiny from British regulators, according to people familiar with the matter. The losses were sustained late last year, but Credit Suisse this week dismissed an exchange-traded-funds trader, Rohit Jha, in connection with the money-losing positions, these people said. The Swiss bank in January suspended his boss, Matthew Tagliani, who oversaw the bank's London ETF-trading desk, which does business across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, these people said. While the losses aren't considered financially material, Credit Suisse is continuing to investigate how the positions went undetected by its safeguarding systems—and weren't reported to supervisors—for 16 business days last December, according to the people familiar with the matter. At issue is whether other trades that could be more damaging are being properly monitored, the people said.

Second NFL Stars Signs IPO Deal (NYP)
Sports branding upstart Fantex Inc. has struck a second deal to sell shares in the financial future of an NFL star. Fantex, which last month said it would sell shares of Arian Foster, on Thursday said it would do the same with San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis. Under the Fantex deal, Davis, 29, would relinquish 10 percent of his future brand income for life. Fantex put the value at $4 million.

CFTC Backs Off, Lacking Funding (WSJ)
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission is so cash-starved that the agency is being forced to delay cases, shelve certain probes and decided not to file charges against two former traders over J.P. Morgan Chase's "London whale" trading mess, a top official said. In an interview, David Meister, who stepped down this week as the CFTC's enforcement chief, said the agency is "absolutely undersized" for the sprawling futures and options markets it must police. "We will do everything we can…but we have limited staff and limited resources," Mr. Meister said. "Ultimately, it comes down to the math."

Jos. A Bank won’t go hostile in Men’s Wearhouse bid (NYP)
Jos. A. Bank says it won’t make a hostile bid for Men’s Wearhouse after all — a tricky gambit that could put even more heat on the latter in the coming weeks. Jos. A. Bank Chairman Bob Wildrick delivered an ultimatum to the board of rival Men’s Wearhouse, signaling that he would drop a $2.3 billion takeover bid if he doesn’t get a response by Nov. 14.

J.P. Morgan, Regulators Wage War of Wording (WSJ)
In the frenzied final hours before J.P. Morgan Chase acquired the banking operations of failed thrift Washington Mutual Inc., the bank's lawyers tangled with regulators over the wording of the 39-page purchase agreement. Five years later, J.P. Morgan and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. are still fighting over the meaning of those words. The question of who bears responsibility for Washington Mutual's legal liabilities is taking on increasing urgency as J.P. Morgan negotiates a pact with the Justice Department that would end probes of soured mortgage bonds issued by J.P. Morgan and Washington Mutual during the housing boom. The Justice Department is trying to insert language into the settlement stipulating that none of the costs the bank pays regarding Washington Mutual will be passed to the FDIC, said people close to the talks. J.P. Morgan wants the ability to recover costs associated with Washington Mutual from the FDIC receivership that liquidated the thrift in 2008. The settlement talks are at risk of falling apart over this and other disagreements, said people close to the talks.

Bikini-clad Hillbilly Hotties coffee workers arrested for lewdness in Wash.: cops (NYDN)
A trio of bikini baristas has been arrested for allegedly serving up more than just coffee at Washington state espresso stands. The scantily clad women, who worked at Hillbilly Hotties in Everett, were jailed Wednesday following a surprise bust by police carrying out a search warrant after rising complaints by residents. "Body parts were being shown; inappropriate things were being done at the location," Officer Aaron Snell told KOMO. The hot-pink stand, which celebrates "wet t-shirt Wednesdays" and "pasty Fridays," boasts "tasty treats" with scandalous photos of its baristas wearing barely-there bikinis on the company Facebook page. A photo of a brunette named Tasia stretching back in red and black lingerie reads: "Hurry in she needs you!" Other photos also pair sexually suggestive captions with provocative poses. Authorities, who are not identifying the women by name, charged two of them, ages 20 and 21, with violating the city's adult cabaret law prohibiting performing in public while either unclothed or exposing private parts. The third woman, age 33, was arrested on suspicion of lewd conduct after an unrelated investigation at a different coffee stand, according to police.

Einhorn Pares Bet on Stock Rally After ‘Relentless Climb’ (Bloomberg)
Hedge-fund manager David Einhorn is taking a more conservative approach to his investment portfolio even as wagers that stocks would fall caused his results to trail the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index. Long positions, which gain on rising asset prices, exceeded short bets by 35 percentage points as of Sept. 30 at Greenlight Capital Re Ltd. (GLRE), the Cayman Islands-based reinsurer where Einhorn oversees investments and serves as chairman. That’s down from about 42 percentage points three months earlier, the money manager said today on a conference call. “As the market continued its relentless climb, we’ve become more conservatively positioned,” he said.

Muddy Waters Breaks Cold Streak Going Back to China (Bloomberg)
Carson Block, the Muddy Waters LLC founder whose short sales outside of China have borne little fruit, reclaimed a measure of success this week targeting a company in the country where he started out. NQ Mobile Inc. (NQ), a Beijing-based mobile services provider that started the week with a market capitalization of more than $1 billion, lost half its value after Block said on Oct. 24 that it fabricated revenue and lied about its cash. The shares extended a two-day slump to 54 percent yesterday even as the company labeled the assertions false, inaccurate and malicious.

Ziff Brothers Investments expected to close U.S. hedge fund: report (Reuters)
Some of the fund's top people are expected to be given proceeds to start their own independent firms, the report said, citing people familiar with the firm. Other money could be shifted to Ziff Brothers Investments' internal hedge fund based in London, or to external hedge-fund managers. The closure of the U.S. fund is tied to the planned retirement of its head portfolio manager, Ian McKinnon, in 2015, the report said. McKinnon, 46 years old, had held the post since 1999.

Lazard Capital Markets CEO Leaves After Strategy Review (Bloomberg)
Lazard Capital Markets LLC, the closely held brokerage controlled by current and former Lazard Ltd. employees, said Chief Executive Officer William Buchanan resigned after the firm completed its strategic review. Scott McLaughlin and William Rosenberg will become co-CEOs, said Scott Sunshine, a spokesman for New York-based Lazard Capital. McLaughlin will continue as head of equities, and Rosenberg will keep his chief financial officer and chief operating officer positions, Sunshine said.

Goldman Sachs Wheels to a Top Grade (WSJ)
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the New York Department of Financial Services recently awarded the firm a top rating of "outstanding" for its commitments to the Community Reinvestment Act, or CRA. Among those singled out by state regulators: Goldman's loan to the Alta BikeShare unit that operates New York City's bicycle program. Citigroup, which paid for the naming rights to the bicycle program, declined to comment.

Canadian Cops Arrest Female Flier Carrying Pumpkins Stuffed With Cocaine (TSG)
Canadian border agents arrested a woman who arrived at the Montreal airport carrying three pumpkins stuffed with cocaine. The Halloween seizure netted nearly two kilos of the drug, according to the Canada Border Services Agency (whose fine work has previously been detailed in these pages). The pumpkins, discovered during a search of the woman’s luggage, seemed heavy for their size, so investigators X-rayed them and discovered suspicious masses inside. Further investigation revealed that the pumpkins (seen in the above evidence photo) contained bags filled with the cocaine. Another CBSA photo shows a white powder on the tip of a knife that investigators plunged into one of the pumpkins. The cocaine was turned over to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, which is expected to file narcotics charges against the woman, whose identity was not disclosed by investigators.

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Opening Bell: 10.11.12

Fed Governor: Put Cap On Big Financial Firms (WSJ) In a Philadelphia speech, Fed governor Daniel Tarullo recommended curbing banks' growth by putting a limit on their nondeposit liabilities, which are sources of funding for operations that go beyond consumer deposits. The idea takes direct aim at the biggest U.S. banks, including J.P. Morgan, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, and Citigroup, all of which rely heavily on such funding. Firms outside of this tier make much greater use of regular deposits. With Tapes, Authorities Build Criminal Case Over JPMorgan Loss (Dealbook) Federal authorities are using taped phone conversations to build criminal cases related to the multibillion-dollar trading loss at JPMorgan Chase, focusing on calls in which employees openly discussed how to value the troubled bets in a favorable way. Investigators are looking into the actions of four people who previously worked for the team based in London responsible for the $6 billion loss, according to officials briefed on the case. The Federal Bureau of Investigation could make some arrests in the next several months, said one person who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the inquiry was ongoing. The phone recordings, which were turned over to authorities by JPMorgan, have helped focus the investigation, the officials said. Authorities are poring over thousands of conversations, in English and French. They are also relying on notes that employees took during staff meetings, instant messages circulated among traders and e-mails sent within the group. Cyber Slips Boost Facebook's Ad Clicks (NYP) Facebook is suffering from fat-finger syndrome. That’s the opinion of one influential Wall Street analyst — bolstered by a growing body of research — who believes that some of the company’s recently touted mobile ad performance can be chalked up to accidental or fraudulent clicks. “Fat fingers” — when people click on an ad as they’re trying to click on something else — is an issue across the mobile Web as users try to navigate smaller screens, according to BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield. “People don’t have trouble with a mouse or touch pads,” Greenfield said yesterday. “But on mobile, when you’re gliding through on a touch screen, everything is touchable, and a lot of mistakes are happening.” JPMorgan CFO To Exit Post (WSJ) JPMorgan's chief financial officer is expected to step down over the next two quarters and is likely to move into a different job at the bank, people close to the company say. Douglas Braunstein, 51 years old, has been finance chief at the largest U.S. bank, by assets, since 2010. Before that, the longtime deal maker ran J.P. Morgan's investment-banking operations in North and South America and was heavily involved in the bank's acquisitions of securities firm Bear Stearns Cos. and the failed banking operations of Washington Mutual. Mr. Braunstein's status was diminished as part of an executive shake-up in July. Since then, he has reported to Matt Zames, 41, the company's co-chief operating officer, rather than Chairman and Chief Executive James Dimon. It isn't clear where Mr. Braunstein will decide to go within the bank, but the possibilities include J.P. Morgan's recently combined corporate and investment bank, these people said. He is expected to make his decision over the next quarter or two. Spain Lowers Rating On S&P (WSJ) The ratings company warned Wednesday that Spain's creditworthiness might continue to deteriorate as Madrid struggles to close a yawning budget gap, and said the Spanish government's "hesitation" to request a bailout from the European Union is "potentially raising the downside risks to Spain's rating." Brazil Cuts Rate for Tenth Straight Time to Bolster Recovery (Reuters) Brazil cut its benchmark interest rate for the tenth straight time to 7.25 percent on Wednesday, injecting extra stimulus into a languid recovery threatened by a worsening global economy. TSA screener accused of intentionally slapping flier's testicles (DJ) "A bulky young TSA agent came over to pat me down," Steven DeForest told the Huffington Post. "He told me to turn around. He was using his command voice, barking orders. I told him that I wasn't comfortable turning away from my luggage, which had already been screened, and wanted to keep it in my sight." According to deForest, the screener knelt down to begin the pat-down procedure before making a shocking move. "As he raised his hands he was looking at me. Then he gave a quick flick and smacked me in one of my testicles," deForest said. The episode left deForest in a state of "humiliation, rage, and frustration," according to the report. DeForest believes the agent slapped his gentials as punishment for refusing to enter the backscatter x-ray machine. "I was deliberately assaulted by someone who knew that he could get away with it," he stated. While the motives of the TSA screener cannot be confirmed, other agents have already admitted to performing invasive pat downs in order to force air travelers to choose the body scanners instead. JPMorgan's Dimon hits back at government over Bear Stearns suit (Bloomberg) During a wide-ranging hour-long discussion that went from the "fiscal cliff" to the impact of regulations, Dimon bristled when a member of the audience asked him if he now regretted participating with the government to rescue Bear Stearns in light of the lawsuit. "We didn't participate with the Federal Reserve, OK?" he said. "Let's get this one exactly right. We were asked to do it. We did it at great risk to ourselves ... Would I have done Bear Stearns again knowing what I know today? It's real close." Dimon went on to recount how he warned a senior regulator at the time of the deal to "please take into consideration when you want to come after us down the road for something that Bear Stearns did, that JPMorgan was asked to do this by the federal government." He added that JPMorgan, which will report its third-quarter earnings on Friday, will come out fine in the end. But if he is ever put in a similar position again, he said he "wouldn't do it." "I'm a big boy. I'll survive," he said. "But I think the government should think twice before they punish business every single time things go wrong." Australians World’s Wealthiest on Housing, Credit Suisse Says (Bloomberg) Australians have the world’s highest median worth and the Asia-Pacific topped Europe as the largest wealth-holding region, according to Credit Suisse. Australians have a median wealth per adult of $193,653, the Credit Suisse global wealth report showed, the highest of 216 countries surveyed. With plentiful land, sparse population, natural resources and high home prices, Australia’s proportion of individuals with wealth above $100,000 is the most of any country and eight times the world average, the report said. USADA says Lance Armstrong's Postal Service cycling team 'ran the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen' (NYDN) The report describes an underground network of support staff -- smugglers, dope doctors, drug runners -- who kept Armstrong's illicit program in business. “The evidence is overwhelming that Lance Armstrong did not just use performance-enhancing drugs, he supplied them to his teammates,” USADA says of the embattled cyclist and cancer survivor. “He did not merely go alone to Dr. Michele Ferrari for doping advice, he expected that others would follow,” the report continued, referring to the physician who was banned by USADA for his role in cycling’s steroid scandal. Eleven former Armstrong teammates provided testimony against Armstrong, including respected veteran cyclist George Hincapie, whom Armstrong has described as his "best bro" in the peloton and competed with Armstrong during each of his Tour de France victories. “It was not enough that his teammates give maximum effort on the bike, he also required that they adhere to the doping program outlined for them or be replaced. He was not just part of the doping culture of his team, he enforced it and re-enforced it. Armstrong’s use of drugs was extensive, and the doping program on his team, designed in large part to benefit Armstrong, was massive and pervasive.”

Opening Bell: 03.14.13

US Probes Gold Pricing (WSJ) The Commodity Futures Trading Commission is examining the setting of prices in London, in which a handful of banks meet twice daily and set the spot price for a troy ounce of physical gold, the people said. The CFTC is looking at issues including whether the setting of prices for gold—and the smaller silver market—is transparent. No formal investigation has been opened, the people said. US And UK Tussle Over Trader (WSJ) Officials in the U.S. Justice Department and the U.K. Serious Fraud Office clashed late last year in their mutual pursuit of Tom Hayes, the former UBS trader who is viewed by prosecutors in both countries as a ringleader of banks' attempts to rig the London interbank offered rate, or Libor, these people said. While jurisdictional disputes among law enforcement agencies aren't unusual, some U.S. officials worry that the friction on this case will jeopardize trans-Atlantic cooperation on future financial-fraud investigations. The spat revolves around a sequence of events that played out in rapid succession last December. The trouble began, the people said, when the U.K. government unexpectedly blocked a Justice Department request to interview Mr. Hayes, who is British and lives outside London. Then, without notifying the U.S., British fraud prosecutors on Dec. 11 arrested Mr. Hayes and two others in connection with their own probe—infuriating American officials, according to people familiar with the U.S. investigation. The U.S. prosecutors punched back the next day by filing sealed criminal fraud charges against Mr. Hayes. Banks Bow To New York On Clawbacks (WSJ) Three more top banks, including Citigroup, will broaden their clawback policies to cover more executives, increase disclosures or add potential triggers. The moves increase to six the number of leading financial companies that have bowed to pressure from the New York City's Comptroller's Office. Lehman Judge Allows 'London Whale' Subpoena in JP Morgan Fight (Dow Jones) A judge on Wednesday said Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. creditors can subpoena Bruno Iksil in its lawsuit against J.P. Morgan, ensuring the phrase "London Whale" will stay in the lexicon for at least a bit longer. Judge James Peck of U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan said Mr. Iksil, who is in France, can be questioned over the alleged mismarking of $273.3 million in derivatives when he worked at J.P. Morgan in the days leading up to Lehman's bankruptcy. "I consider it inappropriate except for in a clear case of abuse to cut off discovery of a witness that has fingerprints all over a transaction," Judge Peck said. "And in this case, Mr. Iksil's fingerprints are on the $273.3 million transaction that took on some significance in the case." Lehman U.K. Wins $1 Billion Appeal on Hedging Contracts (Bloomberg) The ruling may result in London-based Lehman Brothers International Europe and its administrators PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP receiving an extra $1 billion, according to a written decision handed down this morning by Judge Mary Arden in the U.K. Court of Appeals. Jobless Claims Unexpectedly Fall as Labor Market Improves (Bloomberg) First-time jobless claims fell by 10,000 to 332,000 in the week ended March 9, the fewest since mid January, according to data today from the Labor Department in Washington. The median forecast of 49 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for an increase to 350,000. The four-week average declined to a five- year low. JPMorgan exec sued over 'bullying' behavior (NYP) Plaintiff Walter Suarez, a former financial adviser, was banished to the company’s Delancey Street outpost when he complained about colleague Michael Quach, and the move cost Suarez an $80 million client list, $20 million of which was taken by JPMorgan, his lawyers claim. According to Suarez, Quach was a bully who resorted to physical violence to intimidate colleagues. Suarez, who is Hispanic, says Quach, an Asian-American, got away with the behavior because bosses preferred Asian employees. “Eventually, it got to the point of being ridiculous. This isn’t the corner bodega,” Suarez told The Post. “We’re investment people. This is a professional setting. That’s when I spoke up. “He just wasn’t a very professional person from the get-go, and I don’t think that I was the only person who felt that way.” Suarez told superiors that Quach had manhandled several staffers, including one woman who was “physically assaulted during working hours on the banking floor,” according to the lawsuit filed in Manhattan Supreme Court by attorneys Matthew Blit and Amanda Gudis. Suarez said Quach even threatened to punch him out in front of clients. 'Canada's Warren Buffett' Interested in Greece's Top Bank (Reuters) Greece's biggest lender, National Bank (NBG), said on Wednesday that Canadian investment fund Fairfax Holdings was interested in acquiring a stake in it by taking part in a planned recapitalization. Under the terms of cash-strapped Greece's international bailout, its top four lenders must issue new shares by the end of April to replenish their capital after the losses they suffered in the debt crisis from bad loans and bond writedowns. The European Union and the International Monetary Fund have set aside 27.5 billion euros ($37 billion) in bailout funds to invest in the new bank shares. But private investors must buy at least 10 percent of them or the lenders will be nationalized. NBG said in a bourse filing that Fairfax was among other investors who had expressed an interest, without giving details. Fairfax is controlled by investment guru Prem Watsa, known as the "Warren Buffett of Canada." SandRidge Gives In, Settling Proxy Fight (WSJ) SandRidge Energy agreed to fire its chief executive or give control of its board to an activist shareholder, settling a closely watched proxy battle amid an outbreak of investor unrest in the oil patch. SandRidge, an oil-and-gas producer with a stock-market value of about $3 billion, immediately appointed four directors to its board who were nominated by hedge fund TPG-Axon Capital LP, which owns 7.3% of its shares. Bofa Battles Credit Suisse for 50% Markups on State Loans (Bloomberg) The firms are among at least five lenders in talks to loan five states at least $6.5 billion this year -- more than double last year’s total -- as local governments seek to chop debt costs by replacing loans from a 1997 federal bailout that average 14.4 percent in reais. Credit Suisse is lending Mato Grosso, an agricultural state in western Brazil, $1 billion for 15 years. The loan, with a rate equal to 11.2 percent in reais and guaranteed by Brazil if Mato Grosso defaults, compares with 7.35 percent for yields of similar-maturity government debt. Private Equity Could Trigger Another Crisis: Bank of England (CNBC) The amount of leverage in the U.K. corporate sector poses a risk to the stability of the financial system and could produce the next big financial crisis over the coming years, the U.K.'s central bank has warned. White Rock woman holds 'Lying Cheating Sale' to sell all her husband's stuff while he's 'gone with his floozie' (The Province) A scorned White Rock woman held a yard sale on the weekend to get rid of her husband's stuff while he was "gone with his floozie," according to a Craigslist ad. "Husband left us for a piece of trash, selling everything while he is gone this weekend with his floozie," read the text of the ad, which was posted early Friday afternoon to the free classifieds site. The Province dropped by the yard sale on Saturday and, sure enough, bargain-hunters were sifting through the goods which included office chairs, camping gear and other offerings. The lady in charge of the sale declined to speak on the record. Her colourful Craigslist ad, however, said she was selling everything and moving after 10 years of marriage. The featured items included his favourite red leather reclining theatre-seating sofas, and "lots of tools which he didn't have a clue how to use." "I want the house empty on Monday when he returns because that will be a shock for him to see. So come pick out what you would like Saturday and Sunday at 8 a.m. "Don't come too early (like he did) because I will be thoroughly enjoying some wine with my girlfriends this evening as we clean out all this stuff and likely be nursing hangovers in the morning. So please speak softly to the ladies wearing the sunglasses." The ad discouraged clothes-buyers, "as we will have already burned those in the driveway," but it did offer to let visitors see the pile of ashes.

Opening Bell: 12.28.12

Blackstone seen sticking with SAC despite insider trading probe (Reuters / Matthew Goldstein) Three sources said the asset management arm of Blackstone, which has $550 million invested with SAC Capital, is in no rush to redeem money from the Stamford, Connecticut-based hedge fund. Blackstone has had at least three discussions with the $14 billion hedge fund's executives about the insider trading investigation and talked to its own investors, which include state pension funds, endowments and wealthy individuals. Hitler parody leaves French bank BNP red-faced (IN24) French banking giant BNP was left red-faced this week after it emerged managers were shown a motivational video featuring a parody of a famous scene from the film "Downfall" in which Adolf Hitler is portrayed as the boss of Germany's Deutsche Bank. It’s a scene that has been parodied thousands of times before to comic effect. But it appears not many people have seen the funny side of one particular version made by executives of French bank BNP Paribas...In the video, which was shown to around 100 managers from around the world at a seminar in Amsterdam last year, Hitler is turned into a fuming boss of Germany’s Deutsche Bank reacting furiously to news that BNP has gained an edge in the foreign exchange market. But far from being motivated, many of the managers who saw the video were outraged. “We could not believe the bank had actually dared to do that – make an analogy between our competitors and the Nazi regime. It took us a few minutes to take it in,” one BNP employee told French daily Liberation, who revealed the story this week. “We were shocked. Nobody knew how to react. Some Jewish employees from the United States did not find it funny at all,” another employee told the paper. “If this video had been shown by an American bank it would have been a major scandal,” an angry BNP source added. Rather surprisingly the video is believed to have been uploaded to the bank’s internal Intranet site before the management realised it might prove embarrassing and quickly removed it. A spokeswoman for BNP told FRANCE 24 on Friday that the bank’s senior management were totally unaware the video had been made until they were contacted by Libération this week. The spokeswoman said BNP’s CEO Jean Laurent Bonnafé had called his counterpart at Deutsche Bank Jürgen Fitschen to personally apologise for the stunt. In a statement in Libération the bank added that the message in the video was “contrary to the values of BNP." Obama Summons Congress Leaders as Budget Deadline Nears (Bloomberg) Obama, who had been negotiating one-on-one with House Speaker John Boehner, will meet today with Republicans Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, both Democrats. Cliff Talks Down To The Wire (WSJ) It is still possible the two sides can reach a deal, especially with the leaders meeting Friday. Any resolution would be a scaled-back version of the package Mr. Obama and congressional leaders had anticipated passing after the November election. The White House is pressing for the Senate to extend current tax rates for income up to $250,000, extend unemployment benefits, keep the alternative minimum tax from hitting millions of additional taxpayers and delay spending cuts set to take effect in January. The 11th-hour strategy carries enormous risk because it leaves no margin for error in Congress's balky legislative machinery. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) said the prospects for passage of a bill before the last day of the year are fading rapidly. "I have to be very honest," he said. "I don't know time-wise how it can happen now." Spain's PM does not rule out asking for European aid (Reuters) Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said on Friday he did not rule out tapping the European Central Bank's bond-buying program for troubled euro zone governments but said Spain did not expect to have to ask for aid for now. "We are not thinking of asking the European Central Bank to intervene and buy bonds in the secondary market," he said at a news conference in Madrid. "But we can't rule it out in the future." Banks pay $4.5M for muni charges (NYP) Citigroup and Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch are among five firms that will pay $4.48 million to settle regulatory claims they used funds from municipal and state bond deals to pay lobbyists. Local authorities were unfairly asked to reimburse payments that the firms made over five years to the California Public Securities Association, a lobbying group, to help influence the state, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, which oversees securities firms, said yesterday. The firms inadequately described the fees, wrapping them into bond-underwriting expenses, Finra said...The banks, also including Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley, agreed to pay $3.35 million in fines and reimburse certain California bond issuers $1.13 million. Porsche Wins Dismissal of US Hedge Fund Lawsuit Over VW (Reuters) A five-justice panel of the New York State appeals court in Manhattan unanimously found that Porsche had met its "heavy burden" to establish that the state was the wrong place in which to bring the lawsuit. That panel reversed an Aug. 6 ruling by New York State Supreme Court Justice Charles Ramos that let the case by hedge funds including Glenhill Capital LP, David Einhorn's Greenlight Capital LP and Chase Coleman's Tiger Global LP proceed. The funds accused Porsche of engineering a "massive short squeeze" in October 2008 by quietly buying nearly all freely traded ordinary VW shares in a bid to take over the company, despite publicly stating it had no plans to take a 75 percent stake. IPOs Slump To Lowest Levels Since Financial Crisis (Bloomberg) IPOs have raised $112 billion worldwide this year, the least since 2008, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Initial sales in western Europe dropped to one-third of last year’s level, while concern about China’s economy helped cut proceeds in Asia by almost half. U.S. offerings raised $41 billion, little changed from last year, as Facebook’s IPO spurred a monthlong drought in U.S. deals. Avery Johnson Jr. vents on Twitter after dad, Avery Johnson, is fired by Brooklyn Nets (NYDN, RELATED) The ex-Nets coach’s teenage son took to Twitter to vent after news broke that his dad had been given a pink slip by billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov and the Nets. “This is a f------ Outrage. My dad is a great coach, he just got coach of the month and they Fire him. #Smh. Completely new team he had,” Johnson Jr. wrote on Twitter. “The expectations were way to high for this team. We didn’t even have a losing record.... Didn’t even give my dad a full season. #OUTRAGE,” Johnson Jr. continued. Johnson was fired a day after the new-look Nets fell to .500 following a listless road loss to the Bucks. The canning comes on the heels of Deron Williams saying he’s never been comfortable playing in Johnson’s offense. Williams, who did not play in Wednesday night’s loss, is mired in a season-long shooting slump with field goal and 3-point percentages at career-worst levels. “I’m sorry (our) best players couldn’t make open shots. Yeah that’s my dad’s fault totally,” Johnson Jr. tweeted. 'Whale' Capsized Banks' Rule Effort (WSJ) Wall Street banks entered 2012 confident they could stall a wave of rules that they feared would hurt profits. But they are ending the year largely resigned that their activities will be constrained and monitored more closely by the government. One big reason for the change: J.P. Morgan Chase JPM -0.76% & Co.'s "London whale" losses. The bad trades, ultimately resulting in about $6 billion in losses, disrupted the banks' campaign against the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul, according to regulators, lawmakers and close observers of policy debates in Washington. The trades damaged the reputation of J.P. Morgan, which suffered less than other banks from the financial crisis, and its chief executive, James Dimon, during a crucial period of policy debate in Washington, putting critics of Dodd-Frank on the defensive. Before news of the whale losses emerged, banks were arguing, with some success, that too-tight regulations were crimping lending during a time of slow growth. Michael Greenberger, a finance professor at the University of Maryland and an advocate of regulations aimed at reining in bank trading, said that in early 2012 his allies' "backs were against the wall." "Then the London whale blew all of that out of the water," he said. Mortgages Fueled Hedge Funds To 13.9 Percent Gain (NYP) Hedge funds that invest in mortgage-backed securities gained 13.9 percent through November to make them the industry’s best-performing strategy, according to the Absolute Return index. Top players that did even better included Metacapital Management, Pine River, Axonic Capital, and Greg Lippman's LibreMax Capital. High-Speed Traders Race to Fend Off Regulators (WSJ) Defenders say high-frequency trading keeps markets lubricated with a constant supply of buy and sell orders that enables all participants to trade more efficiently and get better pricing. High-speed traders, supporters add, have helped foster competition among exchanges and other trading venues, lowering commission-based fees for small investors and helping bring down overall costs for mutual-fund managers. Another benefit some cite: Technology innovations spurred by high-speed traders serve to connect more investors to more trading venues, broadening their options in the markets. Critics, for their part, worry that the traders' order torrent makes markets more opaque, less stable and ultimately less fair. Will 'Fiscal Clif' Accelerate Millionaire Deaths? (NetNet) John Carney: "...it at least seems likely that some deaths that might otherwise have occurred shortly after January 1 will occur shortly before." Man gets DUI after driving on AA co-founder's lawn (AP) Vermont State Police say a man faces a drunken driving charge after driving onto the lawn of a historic home once owned by the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. Police say 55-year-old Donald Blood III of Marlborough, Mass., was ordered to appear in court in Bennington on Jan. 14. Police say Blood thought he was driving into a parking lot, but actually it was the lawn of the Wilson House, built in 1852 in Dorset, the birthplace of AA co-founder Bill Wilson. The Wilson House's website describes it as a "place of sanctuary where people can come to give thanks to God for their new lives." It still hosts several AA meetings each week. Programming Note< : We’re on an abbreviated, vacation-esque schedule this week (opening news roundups and limited updates whenever the urge to reach out and touch you moves us). We still want to hear from you, though, so if anything happens that you think might tickle our fancy, do not hesitate to let us know.

Opening Bell: 10.05.12

Merkel’s First Greek Crisis Visit Seen Sending Signal to Critics (Bloomberg) German Chancellor Angela Merkel will travel to Athens for the first time since Europe’s financial crisis broke out there three years ago, a sign she’s seeking to silence the debate on pushing Greece out of the euro. Merkel’s visit to the Greek capital Oct. 9 to meet with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras underscores the shift in her stance since she held out the prospect last year of Greece exiting the 17-nation currency region. “The meeting could mark the turning point to the Greek crisis,” said Constantinos Zouzoulas, an analyst at Axia Ventures Group, a brokerage in Athens. “This is a very significant development for Greece ahead of crucial decisions by the euro zone for the country.” Spain Finance Minister’s ‘No Bailout’ Remark Sparks Laughter (CNBC) “Spain doesn’t need a bailout at all,” finance minister Luis de Guindos said, straight faced and somber, as mirth spread throughout the audience (even de Guindos’ assistant interpreter couldn’t mask a smile). US Probes Credit Suisse Over Mortgages (Reuters) U.S. federal and state authorities are investigating Credit Suisse over mortgage-backed securities packaged and sold by the bank, people familiar with the probe said on Thursday. The Justice Department and the New York Attorney General are among those probing Credit Suisse's actions, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity. New Shuffle At JPMorgan (WSJ) Barry Zubrow, a trusted lieutenant of J.P. Morgan Chase Chief Executive James Dimon, is expected to give up his job as regulatory affairs chief in what would be the latest reshuffling to follow a multibillion-dollar trading blunder. The change is expected before year-end, said people close to the bank. It is possible the 59-year-old executive will remain with the company in an advisory role, these people added. More executive shifts also are possible. The chairman of the corporate and investment banking unit, Jes Staley, was recently in the running to become chief executive of British banking giant Barclays PLC, according to people close to Mr. Staley, but didn't get the job. He gave up day-to-day oversight of J.P. Morgan's investment bank in a July reorganization. J.P. Morgan declined to comment about Mr. Staley, and he couldn't be reached. Investors Back Away From 'Junk' Bonds (WSJ) The massive "junk"-bond boom is raising alarm bells among some large money managers, who warn the market is showing signs of overheating. So much money has flooded into the junk-bond market from yield-hungry investors that weaker and weaker companies are able to sell bonds, they say. Credit ratings of many borrowers are lower and debt levels are higher, making defaults more likely. And with yields near record lows, they add, investors aren't being compensated for that risk. India’s NSE Says 59 Erroneous Orders Caused Stock Plunge (Bloomberg) “India has joined the big league with this trading disaster,” A.S. Thiyaga Rajan, a senior managing director at Aquarius Investment Advisors Pte., which manages about $400 million, said by phone from Singapore. “It’s very surprising so many erroneous orders went through. Exchanges and regulators must be one step ahead as systems and technologies upgrade.” Halloween Horror Story: Case Of The Missing Pumpkin Lattes (WSJ) For Asher Anidjar, the arrival of fall isn't marked by turning leaves or a chilly breeze, but a steaming seasonal drink. Recently, though, when he headed to his local Starbucks for a Pumpkin Spice Latte, he left with a bitter taste in his mouth. They were out of the special sauce that gives the treat its distinctive autumnal flavor. "I just left, depressed," said Mr. Anidjar, a 26-year-old commercial real-estate analyst who lives in Manhattan. The drink crops up on the Starbucks menu annually for a limited time, and this year there has been an unusual run on the pumpkin batch. Thanks in part to a frothy dose of buzz brewed up by the Seattle-based coffee giant before the beverage's Sept. 4 debut, the craze has drained supplies at stores across the country. Baristas are hitting the street, searching for stashes of the flavored sauce at other stores. Customers denied their fix—which costs about $4 for a small cup, or "tall" in Starbucks speak—are tweeting about their dismay. "My world almost ended this morning when the local Starbucks told me they were out of Pumpkin Spice Latte," tweeted Jason Sizemore, 38 years old, of Lexington, Ky. Fed Seeks To Clarify Plans (WSJ) Since August 2011, the Fed has been saying it will keep short-term interest rates near zero until a particular date. Right now that date is mid-2015. The hope has been that these assurances would help hold down longer-term interest rates, as well as short-term ones, and thus boost spending and investment. But the Fed isn't happy with this approach. While central-bank officials believe the assurances have helped hold down long-term interest rates, they find the fixed date to be confusing, and they are looking at a new approach. The idea under consideration is to keep offering assurances of low rates, but tie those assurances to what is happening in the economy rather than a point on the calendar. Dave And Buster's IPO Plan A Bust (Bloomberg) Dave & Buster’s Entertainment, operator of 59 company-owned dining and gaming stores, withdrew its plans for a US initial public offering, citing market conditions. The company had sought to raise as much as $107.7 million. Black Swans In The Red Until Turmoil Hits (NYP) The Apocalypse has not arrived — but that hasn’t stopped some of the country’s wealthiest investors from betting on it. The investors, mostly pensions funds, hedge funds of funds and deep-pocketed individuals that were burned during the financial meltdown in 2008, are jumping into these so-called Black Swan investments that carry promised returns of up to 1,000 percent — if another financial Armageddon strikes. The Cassandras of the hedge-fund world that are offering these funds — also called tail risk funds and often with a geographic focus — would suffer terribly in the absence of disaster...The hot sector has attracted such well-known names as Saba Capital’s Boaz Weinstein, Hayman Capital’s Kyle Bass, Corriente Advisors’ Mark Hart, and Universa’s Mark Spitznagel...When markets are buoyant, of course the funds lose money. Through August, Saba Tail Hedge was down 16 percent, Pine River Tail Hedge had fallen 23 percent and Corriente Europe Divergence is down 24 percent, according to investors. Bass’s Japan short fund, which he launched two years ago, is down more than 60 percent since inception. By design, it will lose all of its investors’ money in three years if Japanese bonds don’t go into a tailspin. Bridezilla’s demanding email to potential bridesmaids: If you can’t commit, ‘you’re going to the wrong wedding’ (NYDN) One woman’s over-the-top email of demands to potential bridesmaids has gone viral since it was posted on Gawker.com. “You all have a big roll [sic] in this wedding, so before we continue I’m going to be setting some ground rules and it’s very important you read and think everything through before you accept this honor to be a bridesmaid,” the unnamed bride-to-be begins. If recipients don’t answer emails when outside the country, can’t attend every wedding-related event, or don’t have the cash for several flights and a bridesmaid’s dress, they might not make the cut. “If money is tight and you can’t afford to contribute to the bachelorette party or won’t be able to afford a dress, then [I] don’t have time to deal with that, I’m sorry,” the woman wrote. Of course, she’ll aim for what’s affordable, but, “If you think it’s going to be a $25 Forever 21 dress then you’re going to the wrong wedding.” The lucky bridesmaids must also be available — at any moment — between February and August. “If you don’t think you’ll be able to attend one party but can make the rest of them, I’m sorry, but I’ll have to take you out as a bridesmaid and put you as a guest,” the woman wrote. And please, don’t ignore phone calls. “I don’t have time to wait around for responses, everyone has their phone on them,” she wrote. “It shouldn’t take you more than a day to get back to me. Really think about everything I've said. This is really going to be the most epic wedding ever so I hope you girls can share this special day with us!"