Opening Bell: 11.27.13

Updated:
Original:

London Gold Fix Calls Draw Scrutiny Amid Heavy Trading (Bloomberg)
Every business day in London, five banks meet to set the price of gold in a ritual that dates back to 1919. Now, dealers and economists say knowledge gleaned on those calls could give some traders an unfair advantage when buying and selling the precious metal. The U.K. Financial Conduct Authority is scrutinizing how prices are set in the $20 trillion gold market, according to a person with knowledge of the review who asked not to be identified because the matter isn’t public. The London fix, the benchmark rate used by mining companies, jewelers and central banks to buy, sell and value the metal, is published twice daily after a telephone call involving Barclays Plc, Deutsche Bank AG, Bank of Nova Scotia, HSBC Holdings Plc and Societe Generale SA.

Volatile Loan Securities Are Luring Fund Managers Again (WSJ)
Investment funds aimed at individual investors are barreling into collateralized loan obligations, a complex and volatile type of security that was shaken by the financial crisis. Lured by annual returns of as high as 20%, some mutual-fund managers are buying CLOs through investment funds that purchase stakes in loans to companies with low credit ratings. Another type of loan investment fund, business-development companies, also have begun buying CLOs, according to securities filings.

Alfred Feld, Goldman Sachs’s Longest-Serving Worker, Dies at 98 (Bloomberg)
Alfred Feld, who joined Goldman Sachs & Co. in 1933 and rose from office boy to private-wealth manager and became the firm’s longest-serving employee, has died. He was 98. He died on Nov. 25 in Palm Beach, Florida, according to a memo distributed yesterday by Chief Executive Officer Lloyd C. Blankfein and President Gary D. Cohn. No cause was given...Feld this year celebrated his 80th anniversary with the bank, which had 200 employees, including five partners, when he joined. The firm became Goldman Sachs Group Inc. when it went public in 1999 and now has more than 32,000 employees. He started as a messenger in mail operations, before being promoted within five days to “office boy,” according to Andrea Raphael, a spokeswoman for the New York-based bank. He later covered the railroad industry as a research analyst, before becoming a financial adviser.

SAC money manager had 'insider' training (NYP)
SAC Capital money manager Michael Steinberg was trained to spot insider trading. Steinberg, who is on trial for conspiracy to commit securities fraud, attended three training sessions on the topic run by SAC’s compliance department, an SAC executive said in court Tuesday. John Casey, a member of the $14 billion hedge fund’s compliance team, testified in a Manhattan federal court that SAC gave employees explicit rules about what it believed constituted insider trading and told them to ask compliance to put stocks on the firm’s restricted list if there was any doubt about the matter. But Casey said he was not aware that Steinberg had ever made any such a request.

Thanksgivukkah Spawning Menurkeys in Mashup Celebration (Bloomberg)
Owing to an overlap in the Gregorian and Jewish calendars, Hanukkah and Thanksgiving have collided for the first time since at least early last century. Merchants as varied as Amazon.com Inc., Martha Stewart and Teaneck’s Smokey Joe’s kosher barbecue are rising to the occasion with Thanksgivukkah menus, tchotchkes and merchandise. Exhibit A: the Menurkey, a turkey-themed menorah, the eight-tiered Hanukkah candelabra, dreamed up by a 9-year-old boy from Manhattan. For folks who want to commemorate the occasion there are “Gobble Tov” and “Happy Thanukkah” shirts. Americans will spend $2.38 billion on Thanksgiving dinner alone, according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service. “Everybody’s excited about it,” Kahan said. “It’s like a double whammy, two for the price of one.” The holiday merger has spawned unlikely combinations, including maneschewitz-brined turkey, sweet potato bourbon noodle kugel, challah-apple stuffing and pecan pie rugelach.

Blackstone Books Profit With Hilton Hotels (WSJ)
In six years, Blackstone Group LP transformed Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. into the largest hotel company by rooms, more than doubling its $6 billion investment. That growth came not by expanding Hilton's empire of company-owned hotels. Instead, the New York private-equity firm has taken a more economical route—renting out Hilton's brand names such as Hampton Inn, Hilton Garden Inn and Doubletree to franchisees.

This man made a movie about his small penis (NYP)
Patrick Moote’s penis is so small, his girlfriend turned down his marriage proposal. Patrick Moote’s penis is so small, he traveled around the world looking for enlargement solutions. Patrick Moote’s penis is so small, he made a movie about it. In the new documentary, “UnHung Hero,” which is available on Showtime now and on DVD Dec. 10, comedian Patrick Moote searches for a way to deal with his less-than-large member. It all began when Moote’s girlfriend rejected his marriage proposal on a Jumbotron at a UCLA basketball game. Video of the fail went viral, and Moote’s girlfriend told him that one reason she couldn’t marry him was that his manhood just didn’t pack enough punch. In “UnHung Hero,” Moote sets out to change that, and answer the question, “Does size matter?” The Post asked him all about it. NYP: Why don’t you give a specific measurement for how small you are Moote: When you’re measuring an erection, there’s an average for it, but there’s no set number. If you put on 10 pounds it’s gonna take off a centimeter. If you’re not having a particularly good day with circulation, it’s going to affect it. If you’re feeling stressed out or your heat doesn’t work in your apartment, it’s going to affect how large it is. But the doctor who measured me, flaccid, she basically grabbed it by the tip and yanked on it and “low normal” is what she said. But like Dan Savage says in the movie, half of everyone is. NYP: How’s your sex life now? Moote: It’s interesting because the times that I have been on dates and the penis has come up, I think I’ve set the bar so low, girls are just surprised I even have a penis. A girl I had been on a couple of dates with before, it came out and she said, “Oh, my God, it’s not that small.” And I said, “That’s not really a compliment.” The expectations are so low I can’t disappoint.

ECB says financial system stress has fallen to pre-crisis levels (Reuters)
Euro zone financial sector stress has fallen to levels not seen since before the global financial crisis began in 2007, but the sector remains fragile, the European Central Bank said on Wednesday. In its semi-annual Financial Stability Review, the ECB said the key risks to euro zone financial stability are economic and financial shocks, tensions in government debt markets, global financial market turbulence and bank funding challenges in the euro zone periphery. "Indicators measuring systemic stress have fallen back to close to their pre-crisis levels," the ECB said in the report.

Harris Bruises Banks, Burnishes Image With Mortgage Deals (Bloomberg)
Nine months into her job as California attorney general, Kamala Harris found herself across the table from lawyers for five of the nation’s biggest lenders, trying to hammer out a deal to help mortgage holders weather the foreclosure crisis. She quickly concluded the proposed terms were too easy on the banks. “I don’t think we’re going to be able to work this out,” she told one bank’s general counsel at the 2011 talks. Recounting the gamble years later, she said her decision to forgo a $4 billion settlement wasn’t made in haste. “I didn’t walk out of there in a huff and a puff without reflection,” she said. “But it didn’t take long for me to be very clear in my mind.” Her bet paid off. Five months later, the banks agreed to pay $14 billion more. This month, Harris secured another victory, getting her own $300 million chunk of the landmark $13 billion JPMorgan Chase & Co. mortgage settlement. Harris hasn’t let up on her effort to chase down wrongdoing tied to the 2008 financial collapse. She is pursuing Standard & Poor’s, accusing it in a $1 billion lawsuit of falsifying ratings on mortgage-backed securities, a claim that may result in triple damages.

I'm A Teen, Watch Me Shop (WSJ)
Upon entering the massive Forever 21 store here at the Oak Park Mall, Goldia Kiteck and three of her close friends scattered like spilled marbles. The high-school seniors were on separate missions and pursued them through corridors filled with clingy leggings, racks of chunky necklaces and tank tops with kittens across the front. "It has all my favorite things, in one place," Ms. Kiteck said of the store, where she spent $51 on a skirt, a pair of earrings and a black sweatshirt with the words "Super Awesome" emblazoned in gold print across the chest. Fast-fashion chains such as Forever 21 and H&M are eating the lunch of traditional teen retailers like Abercrombie & Fitch, American Eagle Outfitters and Aéropostale. The sector's onetime leader, Abercrombie, posted a loss of $11.5 million in the nine months ended Nov. 2, as sales fell nearly 7%. To learn more about where teens are shopping and why, The Wall Street Journal went on an extended tour of the mall with two groups of committed shoppers, and it is clear why fast fashion is winning. Teens' tastes can be fickle, but on the Journal trips, buying decisions were almost invariably driven by two considerations: developing an individual style, and doing so for less.

The global financial crisis is over: Nomura (CNBC)
The global financial crisis will not dominate stock markets next year, according to Japanese investment bank Nomura - because it has come to an end. In a note entitled "You've got to earn, baby, earn" published Tuesday, the bank's equity research team led by Michael Kurtz said that as a result, it had shifted its global equity strategy approach for 2014. "There wasn't any memo, but FYI the Global Financial Crisis is over," Kurtz wrote.

UPS worker in trouble after hooker poses nearly nude in uniform (NYDN)
UPS is desperately trying to ID one of its delivery drivers who had sex on the job with a hooker in the back of his truck. Company bigwigs in Oklahoma City are busy figuring out which of their workers indulged in a spot of "afternoon delight" after snaps of his playdate wearing his uniformed shirt appeared online.

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Knight Says Glitch Cost It $440 Million (WSJ) Knight, in a press statement Thursday, said the problematic software had been removed from its systems and that the firm would conduct business making markets and trading on behalf of its clients Thursday. Knight's broker-dealer subsidiaries are in compliance with requirements to hold capital, the company said. The estimated $440 million loss disclosed Thursday by Knight follows a $35.4 million hit taken by the company in the problematic stock-market debut of Facebook. Goldman Leads Foreign Banks Accelerating Job Cuts In Japan (Bloomberg) Goldman Sachs led foreign banks in accelerating job cuts at their Japanese brokerages last fiscal year as employees relocated to other Asian financial centers and firms trimmed costs amid a global industry slump. The number of staff at nine global securities firms in Japan fell by 537, or 7.3 percent, to a combined 6,796 as of March 31, more than double the previous year’s 3.2 percent reduction, according to company regulatory filings. Wall Street and European banks have been eliminating jobs and transferring staff from Japan to Hong Kong and Singapore to reduce expenses as the euro region’s debt woes dent global investor confidence. The worst may be over as Japan recovers from last year’s nuclear crisis and some U.S. firms start hiring junior bankers for mergers advice and asset management, said Katsunobu Komizo, a Tokyo-based recruiting consultant. BNP Paribas Second Quarter Net Falls, Hits Capital Goal Early (Reuters) Second-quarter net income fell to 1.85 billion euros ($2.27 billion), beating the average of analyst estimates of 1.74 billion in a Reuters poll. Revenue dropped 8 percent to 10.10 billion, broadly in line with the poll average of 10.13 billion. The bank hit an 8.9 percent core Tier 1 ratio under stricter new Basel III methodology due to come into force from 2013. It is six months ahead of its target to hit 9 percent by end-2013. AIG Pushing Plan For Independence (WSJ) Several analysts who follow the company say the government's stake could be cut below 30% before the November elections, if asset sales expected by AIG in the coming months help the company raise a total of $10 billion to $15 billion in excess capital. The buybacks are likely to accompany one or more public share offerings of AIG stock by the Treasury, which over the past 16 months has reduced its stake from a peak of 92% through a series of at-market sales. Boulder police: Longmont man urinated on woman at bar after she rejected his advances (CD) Boulder police arrested a Longmont man who witnesses said urinated on a woman at a local bar after she rejected his advances Saturday night, according to a report. The woman told police she was standing next to the bar at Shooters Grill and Bar, 1801 13th St., about 11:45 p.m. Saturday when a man -- later identified as Timothy Paez, 22 -- came up behind her and put his arm around her. The woman turned around and said, "Um, really?," and Paez took his arm off her, according to the report. According to police, a few seconds later, the woman said she felt some sort of liquid hitting her leg. She initially thought Paez was spilling his beer on her, but when she turned around she told police she saw Paez with his penis exposed urinating on her leg and the front of the bar. Berkshire Benefits As Buffett Wagers On U.S. Housing (Bloomberg) “I don’t know if he’s lucky, smart or patriotic, but it’s worked out for him,” Cliff Gallant, an analyst at KBW Inc., said in a phone interview. He estimates that Berkshire will post an operating profit of $1,750 a share for the second quarter, a 6.7 percent increase from a year earlier. Bacon To Return $2 Billion (NYP) Louis Moore Bacon plans to give back $2 billion, or 25 percent of his main hedge fund, to investors, saying it may be too big for him to achieve past returns as “liquidity and opportunities have become more constrained.” Bacon, who seeks to exploit macroeconomic trends such as changes in interest rates and currencies, returned a “disappointing” 0.35 percent in the first half and a “tolerable” 6 percent in the past year, according to a letter sent yesterday to clients. He has gained on average more than 18 percent a year since starting the Moore Global Investments fund in 1989. Jobless Claims Increase (WSJ) Initial jobless claims, an indication of layoffs, increased by 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 365,000 in the week ended July 28, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had forecast 370,000 new applications for jobless benefits last week. Your 119 Billion Google Searches Now A Central Bank Tool (Bloomberg) Margo Sugarman spent months last year searching on Google for the appliances to complete her dream kitchen, scouring the Internet for information on the latest double ovens and low-noise mixers. Not only did those queries guide the Tel Mond, Israel, resident to the best deals for her 70,000-shekel ($17,680) renovation, they also helped the Bank of Israel, which looks to searches like Sugarman’s to assess the state of the nation’s $243 billion economy. The central bank stands at the forefront of the world’s hunt for new economic indicators, analyzing keyword counts for everything from aerobics classes to refrigerators -- reported by Google almost as soon as the queries take place -- to gauge consumer demand before official statistics are released. The Federal Reserve and the central banks of England, Italy, Spain and Chile have followed up with their own studies to see if search volumes track trends in the economies they oversee. For Retiring GE Executive, $89,000/Month Not to Work (WSJ) John Krenicki is giving up his General Electric paycheck. But he's going to be collecting an allowance. As part of a deal to keep the veteran executive from joining a competitor for an usually long three years, the conglomerate has agreed to pay Mr. Krenicki $89,000 a month until 2022. The payment to Mr. Krenicki, who is 50 years old, was dubbed a retirement allowance by GE and is worth $1 million a year.