Opening Bell: 11.14.13

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JPMorgan Twitter Hashtag Trends Against Bank (Bloomberg)
JPMorgan Chase, the target of at least eight Justice Department investigations, was mocked and taunted by Twitter users after asking followers to send questions to an executive using the hashtag #AskJPM. The online forum, which the bank canceled late yesterday, was intended in part to give college students an opportunity to communicate directly with a senior executive, said Brian Marchiony, a spokesman for the New York-based company. “#Badidea! Back to the drawing board,” the bank posted less than six hours after its original post, which drew more than 6,000 responses from users in that span, according to social media tracking service Topsy...JPMorgan’s call for questions provoked jeers from Twitter users, who responded with sarcastic posts about the bank’s mounting legal woes. “Can I have my house back?” @AdamColeman4 posted. “Is it true ‘JPM stands for ‘Just Pay More’?’’ asked @SconsetCapital.

Yellen Signals Further Fed Assistance Going Into Hearing (WSJ)
Janet Yellen will report strong economic progress when she goes before the Senate Banking Committee Thursday, in her confirmation hearing for the top post at the Federal Reserve. The U.S. economy has grown "significantly stronger" since the 2008 financial crisis and ensuing recession, but it still needs help from the Fed as it continues to mend, Ms. Yellen will tell senators, according to prepared remarks released Wednesday. "We have made good progress, but we have farther to go to regain the ground lost in the crisis and the recession," Ms. Yellen, the Fed vice chairwoman, will say in her opening statement.

Taper likely in next couple of months: Morgan Stanley (CNBC)
A tapering in the U.S. Federal Reserve's massive stimulus is the right thing to do against the backdrop of a recovery economy and a scaling back of the stimulus program can be expected in the next couple of months, Morgan Stanley Chairman and CEO James Gorman told CNBC on Thursday. "Every now and then, markets behave like schoolchildren. They overreact, they run around like crazy. We know we're going to have tapering, we know we are living in an artificial state of excess liquidity right now and it's happening because the economy is recovering," he said.

Woman With German Wise Men Weder di Mauro Wins Euro Bet (Bloomberg)
Beatrice Weder di Mauro, who made her name by being an expert on debt, can’t collect on one of her own: Nouriel Roubini owes her a bottle of Champagne for a 2012 bet they made about whether Greece would leave the euro. It didn’t, and she won. “We see one another from time to time,” she said of business professor and author Roubini, a frequent fellow panelist at international conferences. “And then we always say, ‘Champagne!’” Roubini, for his part, swears he’ll pay up “next time I run into her.” Swiss-born Weder di Mauro, 48, was the first woman ever to serve on the German chancellor’s council of economic advisers, known as the “wise men.

JPMorgan’s Fruitful Ties to a Member of China’s Elite (NYT)
To promote its standing in China, JPMorgan Chase turned to a seemingly obscure consulting firm run by a 32-year-old executive named Lily Chang. Ms. Chang’s firm, which received a $75,000-a-month contract from JPMorgan, appeared to have only two employees. And on the surface, Ms. Chang lacked the influence and public name recognition needed to unlock business for the bank. But what was known to JPMorgan executives in Hong Kong, and some executives at other major companies, was that “Lily Chang” was not her real name. It was an alias for Wen Ruchun, the only daughter of Wen Jiabao, who at the time was China’s prime minister, with oversight of the economy and its financial institutions. JPMorgan’s link to Ms. Wen — which came during a time when the bank also invested in companies tied to the Wen family — has not been previously reported. Yet a review by The New York Times of confidential documents, Chinese public records and interviews with people briefed on the contract shows that the relationship pointed to a broader strategy for accumulating influence in China: Put the relatives of the nation’s ruling elite on the payroll.

Bitcoin Couple Travels the World Using Virtual Cash (WSJ)
"In bitcoin," Austin Craig repeated to the young woman behind the counter at the Lean Crust Pizza parlor in the Fort Greene neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y. "Can we pay in bitcoin?" "In what?" came the reply. Mr. Craig, 30 years old, was struggling to convince Nadia Alamgir of the existence of the virtual currency that has gained traction across the world, and whose value—after months of wild swings—on Wednesday reached records around $400 per bitcoin. It was midway through a tricontinental odyssey taken with his wife, Beccy Bingham-Craig, 29, and a film crew documenting their travails, which started in Provo, Utah. Their mission: to live on bitcoin alone. "It's been consistently inconvenient and occasionally frustrating," Mr. Craig said outside Lean Crust, "but never impossible." Lean Crust advertised itself as bitcoin-friendly but hadn't seen much virtual foot traffic. Ms. Alamgir eventually contacted the store's owner, who arrived and processed the transaction, allowing Mr. Craig to munch on several slices...In Stockholm, they went hungry the first night. In Singapore, Ms. Binghman-Craig got a henna tattoo. At every stop, Mr. Craig said, they found at least one bitcoiner willing to help...In the end, despite skepticism from friends, family and the bitcoin community itself, the Craigs managed to live on bitcoin for over three months. "We really didn't cheat," Mr. Craig said. "Everybody thought we would."

Greece must step up effort to find 2014 budget gap financing: Eurogroup head (Reuters)
Greece must step up efforts to reach an agreement with international lenders on how to close a 2 billion euro ($2.68 billion) financing gap in its 2014 budget, the head of euro zone finance ministers Jeroen Dijsselbloem said on Thursday. A team of officials from the troika of the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank visits Athens regularly to check on progress on its bailout commitments and decide whether to release subsequent loan tranches, without which Greece would default. The latest inspection began in September but was paused, only to resume on Nov 4 after Athens provided the lenders with information enabling them to discuss the financing of the 2014 budget. But the talks have made no progress since then. "It's crucial that Greece steps up a little bit their efforts in order for us to reach an agreement," Dijsselbloem told reporters ahead of a meeting of euro zone ministers.

Goldman Sachs’ Cohen Sees Value in Record-High Stocks (Bloomberg)
Value remains in the U.S. stock market even after the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (SPX) surged 25 percent this year to a record, according to Abby Joseph Cohen, a senior investment strategist at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Price-earnings ratios are lower now than the last time stocks were near these levels, Cohen said in a Bloomberg Radio interview with Tom Keene today. Janet Yellen is one of the finest policy analysts in the U.S. and deserves to be confirmed as the next chairman of the Federal Reserve, said Cohen. She forecasts the S&P 500 will reach 1,900 by the end of 2014, a 6.6 percent gain from today’s close. “Companies right now are increasingly enthusiastic about the dynamism in the economy,” said Cohen. “There’s value in the market right now. The U.S. economy will likely grow faster next year.”

IPO Market Shows Signs Of Cooling (WSJ)
Twitter's 's $2.1 billion IPO was the only one of 13 last week that priced above the listing company's expectations, representing 8% of that week's deals. In contrast, 23% of all U.S.-listed IPOs in 2013 through last week priced above projections. Furthermore, investors have been less aggressive in buying shares once they hit the market. November's IPOs through Tuesday posted an average opening-day gain of 18%—a smaller pop than the average for any full month since May, according to University of Florida professor Jay Ritter, who tracks IPOs.

Barbara Walters steals the scene at 'Hunger Games' screening with chatter, orders and questions (NYDN)
The soon-to-be-retired Walters, 84, had four, yes four, assistants on hand to talk her through the very intricate plot of the second installment of the hit franchise. And also, of course, to wipe her spectacles as well. “She was so rude and entitled,” reports our spy. “She was there with, like, four lackeys who completely bowed to her. Having someone there to clean your glasses is nuts. During the movie she talked through the entire thing with one assistant.” “Every time someone came onscreen, she’d say out loud, ‘Who’s that?’ Then an assistant would fill her in,” says our source. “She even asked, ‘Is that Jennifer Lawrence?,’ which is weird considering she was probably watching the movie in preparation for an interview.” As for the plot of the hit trilogy installment, Babs just couldn’t keep it straight. “She couldn’t understand any of the plot twists and would ask ‘What’s going on?’ every five seconds. It was crazy. Even when characters reappeared on screen after having shown up 20 minutes earlier, she’d be like, ‘Who’s that?’ ”

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Opening Bell: 05.22.12

JPMorgan's Losses Are Rival's Boons (WSJ) A group of about a dozen banks, including Goldman Sachs Group and Bank of America have scored profits that collectively could total $500 million to $1 billion on trades that sometimes pit them directly against J.P. Morgan's Chief Investment Office, according to traders and people close to the matter. Facebook 11% Drop Means Morgan Stanley Gets Blame (Bloomberg) Some investors say they felt misled by the underwriters. According to one London-based fund manager who asked not to be named, bankers indicated demand was so strong that he placed a bigger order than he thought he would get, leaving him with 40 percent more Facebook shares than anticipated. He sold most of that stock on the first day of trading. Morgan Stanley Cut Facebook Estimates Just Before IPO (Reuters) In the run-up to Facebook's $16 billion IPO, Morgan Stanley, the lead underwriter on the deal, unexpectedly delivered some negative news to major clients: The bank's consumer Internet analyst, Scott Devitt, was reducing his revenue forecasts for the company. The sudden caution very close to the huge initial public offering, and while an investor roadshow was underway, was a big shock to some, said two investors who were advised of the revised forecast. They say it may have contributed to the weak performance of Facebook shares, which sank on Monday - their second day of trading - to end 10 percent below the IPO price. The $38 per share IPO price valued Facebook at $104 billion. Deutsche Bank: 'Geuro' an Alternative to Greek Euro Exit (CNBC) Greece’s best chance of survival may be to stay in the euro but opt for its own parallel currency or “Geuro,” according to Deutsche Bank’s head of research, Thomas Mayer. In a research piece, Mayer said the Geuro would help Greece balance its primary budget without financial support from the 'Troika' of international lenders (the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the European Central Bank). This would allow the incoming Greek government to reject the strict austerity program on which aid is contingent. IMF Chief, OECD Call For More Euro Debt Sharing (WSJ) International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde Tuesday called on euro-zone governments to accept more common liability for each other's debts, saying that the region urgently needs to take further steps to contain the crisis. "We consider that more needs to be done, particularly by way of fiscal liability-sharing, and there are multiple ways to do that," Ms. Lagarde told a press conference in London to mark the completion of a regular review of U.K. finances. Greece Needs To Accept Bailout Terms, Says South Korea (CNBC) South Korea’s President Lee Myung-bak says Greece needs to accept the terms of a $130 billion international bailout agreed in March and there will be no disbursement of money from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), unless the country does so. Floating bales of marijuana a mystery (OCG) The floating bundles, weighing a total of 8,068 pounds, were first seen by a boater near the harbor around 12:01 p.m. Sunday, U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Seth Johnson said. The bales were reportedly floating at least 15 miles off shore. The Orange County Sheriff's Department sent three Harbor Patrol ships to aid in recovering the marijuana. A Coast Guard cutter was also sent to assist. Michael Jimenez, a Border Patrol spokesman, called Sunday's incident unusual. In most scenarios when marijuana bales are found dumped in the water it is because a vessel is trying to flee from authorities. "At other events, they've dumped the bales to get rid of weight if they're being chased," he said. "Generally in these cases we're aware they're being dumped. What's more unusual is that the bales were floating with no boat in sight." Fitch Downgrades Japan (WSJ) Fitch Ratings downgraded Japan's sovereign rating to A-plus and said it was maintaining a negative outlook due to the "leisurely" pace of the county's efforts to remedy its dire fiscal situation. The firm's long-term foreign-currency rating had been AA and its local currency issuer default rating had been AA-minus. JPMorgan Veered From Hedging Practices At Competing Banks (Bloomberg) JPMorgan's biggest U.S. competitors say their corporate investment offices avoid the use of derivatives that led to the bank’s $2 billion loss and buy fewer bonds exposed to credit risk. Bank of America, Citigroup, and Wells Fargo. say the offices don’t trade credit-default swaps on indexes linked to the health of companies. JPMorgan is said to have amassed positions in such indexes that were so large they drove price moves in the $10 trillion market. The loss has prompted shareholders to join regulators in scrutinizing how banks use their investment offices to hedge risks and manage deposits they aren’t using for loans. JPMorgan’s competitors confine corporate-level trading mostly to interest-rate and currency swaps -- the most common derivatives -- and put a greater percentage of funds into U.S. government- backed securities such as Treasury bonds. Blackstone Moves Into Motel 6 (WSJ) Blackstone Group LP is acquiring discount lodging chain Motel 6 in a deal valued at $1.9 billion, as the private-equity firm continues to invest aggressively through its $10 billion real estate war-chest. Jon Corzine Got $8.4 Million In Year Before MF Global Collapse (NYP) Corzine received a bonus of $1.25 million in addition to his salary of about $1.8 million last year. He also was awarded $5.35 million in now-worthless stock options. Other MF Global insiders, including Chief Operating Officer Bradley Abelow, also saw big pay days. Abelow, who is still working at the firm, was paid $2.7 million in cash, including a $1.25 million bonus, plus restricted stock valued at $1.5 million. Woman Claims She Was Fired For Being "Too Hot" (Reuters) A New Jersey woman said on Monday that she was dismissed from a temporary job at a New York lingerie warehouse because her male employers felt she was too busty and dressed too provocatively for the workplace. Wearing a form-fitting sequined black dress and black leather, sequin-studded boots, Lauren Odes, 29, said her Orthodox Jewish employers at Native Intimates told her that outfit and others like it were "too hot" for the warehouse. "We should not be judged by the size of our breasts or the shape of our body," Odes said. Odes's attorney, celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred, said she filed a gender and religious discrimination complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in New York.

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."