Opening Bell: 11.27.13

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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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Opening Bell: 8.5.16

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Opening Bell: 11.12.15

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Opening Bell: 07.12.12

Fed Weighs More Stimulus (WSJ) A few Fed officials were ready to move aggressively when the Fed met in June and several others said they might want to take new measures if the recovery loses momentum or their growth and employment forecasts are cut once again. That is according to minutes of the central bank's June 19-20 meeting, which were released Wednesday with their usual three-week lag. Gold to Hit $2,000 by Year-End on More Fed Easing: Merrill (CNBC) "We think that $2,000 an ounce is sort of the right number,” Francisco Blanch, Head of Global Commodity & Multi-Asset Strategy Research at the investment bank, said Thursday. Regulators’ Shake-Up Seen as Missed Bid to Police JPMorgan (NYT) After the financial crisis, regulators vowed to overhaul supervision of the nation’s largest banks. As part of that effort, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in mid-2011 replaced virtually all of its roughly 40 examiners at JPMorgan Chase to bolster the team’s expertise and prevent regulators from forming cozy ties with executives, according to several current and former government officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity. But those changes left the New York Fed’s front-line examiners without deep knowledge of JPMorgan’s operations for a brief yet critical time, said those people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because there is a federal investigation of the bank. Forced to play catch-up, the examiners struggled to understand the inner workings of a powerful investment unit, those officials said. At first, the examiners sought basic information about the group, including the name of the unit’s core trading portfolio. Neb. Man Jailed for Bomb Threat on Job Application (AP) the Legacy 272 Lounge employee who reviewed 38-year-old Jason Dornhoff's application last Thursday called police when he read the threat that closed with: "If you be quiet and help me, you won't die." Police arrested Dornhoff, of Heartwell, Neb., at gunpoint and searched his truck, but didn't find any bomb. Court documents say Dornhoff told police he uses methamphetamines and went to the restaurant hoping to find a way to fulfill his sexual fantasies. Clock Is Ticking On Crisis Charges (WSJ) Federal laws under which the Securities and Exchange Commission usually goes after alleged fraud and other misdeeds have a five-year statute of limitations. The five-year limit is causing SEC officials to race to file lawsuits in some cases and ask lawyers representing the targets of certain investigations to give the agency more time, according to people close to the investigation. The SEC intends to file charges against firms and people involved in the creation of a $1.6 billion mortgage-bond deal called Delphinus CDO 2007-1, people close to the investigation said. Credit Suisse Clients Targets Of Tax Probe (WSJ) German tax inspectors in recent weeks have been raiding the homes of Credit Suisse Group AG clients suspected of evading taxes, according to bank and German government officials. The investigation is centering on about 5,000 clients who between 2005 and 2009 allegedly bought insurance policies at a Bermuda-based subsidiary of the Swiss bank. In These Knife Fights, Only Pride Gets Wounded (WSJ) Donavon Phillips windmilled his arms. He hopped a few times to get the blood flowing in his legs. A light sweat formed under his black-and-red jersey—just the right dew. "You can't go into this cold, because it's an all-out sport," said Mr. Phillips, pulling his right arm across his chest. He was warming up for a cutthroat event: the 10th annual World Championship Cutting Competition. It takes razor-sharp focus to be a cutting champ, along with a blade that resembles a bulkier, sharper version of a kitchen meat cleaver. Mr. Phillips is one of a few who have helped make a sport out of demonstrating they can swiftly, flawlessly slice through a dozen water bottles or chop a rolling tennis ball in half. Having won the national title in May, he is a favorite on the cutting circuit. SEC Votes To Require Consolidated Audit Trail For Markets (Bloomberg) “A consolidated audit trail that accurately tracks orders throughout their lifecycle and identifies the broker-dealers handling them will provide us with an unprecedented ability to effectively oversee the markets we regulate,” said SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro. The rule is a “great leap forward,” she said. BofA Execs Dodge A Bullet (NYP) Bank of America won a federal court ruling dismissing claims against former Chief Executive Officer Ken Lewis and others in a securities-fraud lawsuit over the bank’s use of an electronic mortgage registry. Buffett: US Economic Growth Slowing, US Slipping "Pretty Fast" (CNBC) Despite the slowdown, Buffett says the U.S. economy is still doing better than "virtually any other big economy" around the world. New York Fed to Release Libor Documents Friday, Official Says (Reuters) The Federal Reserve Bank of New York will release on Friday documents showing it took "prompt action" four years ago to highlight problems with the benchmark interest rate known as Libor and to press for reform, an official at the regional U.S. central bank said on Wednesday. 'Con artists' scammed Hamptons homeowners by turning rentals into teen party pads: officials (NYP) Two real-estate con artists made hundreds of thousands of dollars by renting homes in the Hamptons and using them as post-prom and graduation-party crash pads for raucous teens, authorities said. Officials and outraged homeowners said the front man, 25-year-old Lee Hnetinka, of Jericho, would rent the mansions saying he intended to use them for his own family reunions. “He said it was his aunt having a party at his house,” said Lucy Sachs, 64, who rented her family’s East Hampton home to Hnetinka for $30,000 a month. When a neighbor called on June 8 to tell her that a “party bus with a disco ball had arrived” at Sachs’ place in the middle of the night, she rushed over, confused. What Sachs found was a houseful of nearly 100 teens smoking and drinking in the century-old building. Hnetinka allegedly teamed up with Leslie Jennemann (both inset), a Hamptons real-estate agent who in 2002 was convicted of running over and killing a migrant potato picker on her way home from a party, Southampton officials said...The suspects charged students $355 each for three days at the house, homeowners said. Scarlato estimated that the pair brought in $60,000 to $80,000 a weekend and had as many as 10 rentals. Another East Hampton homeowner, Eli Braha, rented to Hnetinka and became suspicious after a landscaper called to ask about all the trash and as many as 30 inflatable beds in the home.