Holiday Bell: 12.30.13

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Signs Point to Healthier Job Market in 2014 (WSJ)
Is 2014 the year the U.S. job market kicks into higher gear—and stays there? Recent strength in gross domestic product, industrial production and construction all underpin employment's momentum going into next year. These indicators also support the case that, absent an economic shock, total jobs finally could surpass their prerecession peak by mid-2014.

Icahn ready to bake Apple in Feb. 28 showdown (NYP)
Set the date on your iPhone calendar, the Apple annual meeting and Carl Icahn-Tim Cook showdown will be Feb. 28 at noon EST. Icahn’s High River Limited Partnership has proposed that shareholders approve a non-binding resolution that Apple commit to completing not less than $50 billion in share repurchases during Apple’s fiscal year ending September 27, 2014, a proxy filing released Friday said. Apple recommended against the proposal in a polite fashion. “[We] believe that capital should be returned to shareholders on an efficient and sustained basis, and that the evaluation of capital return should be performed regularly and carefully with the best long-term interest of the business and shareholders in mind.”

Wells Fargo to Pay Fannie Mae $591 Million to Resolve Claims (Bloomberg)
Wells Fargo, the largest U.S. home lender, agreed to pay Fannie Mae $591 million to resolve repurchase demands on loans originated before 2009 and sold to the government-backed firm. Wells Fargo paid $541 million in cash to Fannie Mae after adjusting for prior repurchases, the San Francisco-based lender said today in a statement. The firm had set aside funds to cover the full cost as of Sept. 30, according to the statement.

Hedge fund titan to pocket $3B for 2013 (NYP)
The founder of Appaloosa Management, with more than $20 billion under management, is looking at a possible $3 billion-plus payday in 2013, which could make him the highest paid hedgie...Tepper’s Palomino fund was up 38 percent, after fees, as of Nov. 30, according to an investor, making the 56-year-old one of the few in his business to post a return higher than the 29.1 percent gain of the S&P 500. Also in the running for highest-paid hedgie is John Paulson, whose $20 billion firm is experiencing a comeback after years of double-digit losses. One of Paulson’s funds has gained 55 percent, but others are still below their high-water mark.

Secret Handshakes Greet Frat Brothers on Wall Street (Bloomberg)
Conor Hails, head of the University of Pennsylvania’s Sigma Chi chapter, was in a Philadelphia hotel ballroom last month for a Barclays Plc (BARC) recruiting reception. A friend pointed out a banker from their fraternity. Hails, 20, approached with a secret handshake. “We exchanged a grip, and he said, ‘Every Sigma Chi gets a business card,’” Hails recalled. “We’re trying to create Sigma Chi on Wall Street, a little fraternity on Wall Street.” [...] The network sometimes works so well that it can help accidentally. Jeff Librot, a former head of the University of Delaware’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter, wasn’t looking to use its connections when he applied for a Bank of Montreal (BMO) equities internship, he said. A banker there sent him an e-mail with the frat’s secret motto, “Phi Alpha.” Librot was picked.

Italy presses Monte Paschi to complete $4 billion cash call (Reuters)
The Italian government has urged Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena to complete its planned 3 billion euro ($4 billion) cash call and avoid the threat of a state takeover after a stand-off between management and shareholders. The world's oldest bank, reeling from derivatives losses and weakened by years of economic crisis, needs fresh capital to pay back part of the 4.1 billion euros in aid it received this year from the government under former Prime Minister Mario Monti. But plans for the rights issue were disrupted on Saturday when the main shareholder foundation forced a share sale to be delayed until mid-May, defying Chairman Alessandro Profumo who was pressing for the operation to be wrapped up in January.

SEC Asks Insurers for Detail on 'Captives' (WSJ)
The Securities and Exchange Commission is pushing life insurers to disclose the potential cost if they are forced to halt use of controversial "captive" entities, according to regulatory filings and people familiar with the matter. At least five large publicly traded companies have exchanged letters with the SEC in recent months about their use and funding of the entities, and the possible impact if state insurance regulators prohibit their use. Captives are reinsurance entities that take on business only from their parent companies. State regulators, including New York Department of Financial Services Superintendent Benjamin Lawsky, have raised concerns over the past two years that some companies may be masking their financial health by moving business to such related entities.

Crocs Shares Rise as Blackstone Takes $200 Million Stake (Bloomberg)
Crocs has been trying to revive its fortunes after consumers tired of its trademark clogs, knockoffs cut into sales and U.S. consumer spending slumped. The Blackstone stake comes after Crocs attempted to find a buyer for the whole company, people familiar with the situation said in November.

Giant Clams Spark Trade Spat (WSJ)
This normally is peak season for divers like Joe Williams, who search the chilly waters of the Pacific Northwest for giant clams called geoducks that are a delicacy in China. But Mr. Williams and fellow clam harvesters are now scrounging to replace their usual winter haul of hundreds or thousands of dollars a day, after China halted imports this month of geoducks and other shellfish from the U.S. West Coast because of alleged contamination. "It's the first time I've heard of anything like this," said Mr. Williams, who has been plumbing the depths of Washington's Puget Sound for nine years. "Some guys are crabbing. I'm harvesting sea urchins and sea cucumbers now, but they're nowhere near as lucrative as geoduck."

Nasdaq to pay up for botched Facebook IPO (Reuters)
Nasdaq OMX Group Inc will compensate firms on Dec. 31 for qualifying claims related to Facebook Inc’s botched May 2012 initial public offering, the exchange operator said in a note to traders on Friday. Nasdaq said previously it would pay up to $41.6 million in claims to market participants that lost money when a glitch in Nasdaq’s system during the IPO prevented timely order confirmations for many traders, leaving them unsure about their exposure for hours and, in some cases, for days afterwards. Nasdaq said a total of $41.6 million in claims qualified for compensation, even though market makers estimated they lost $500 million collectively.

Woman Busted For Attacking Live-In Boyfriend When He Refused To "Cuddle" In Bed (TSG)
Shavonna Rumph, 31, and Henry Price, 33, “had been drinking together at their residence and had been doing so throughout the night,” according to a Manatee County Sheriff’s Office report. The couple subsequently quarreled, a deputy reported, “over Henry refusing to ‘cuddle’ with Shavonna when they went to bed.” The argument “turned physical when Shavonna grabbed Henry by the shirt, causing it to tear.” Price then attempted to leave the couple’s Bradenton residence to “prevent any further argument and Shavonna didn’t want him to leave.” On a section of the sheriff’s report describing weapons used during the alleged attack, a deputy wrote “Knife/cutting Instrument.” Rumph was charged with misdemeanor domestic battery and booked into the county jail, from which she was released Sunday.

Programming Note: We're on an abbreviated, vacation-esque schedule. Opening/closing wraps and brief sprinkles of moral support, should we be struck with the urge to reach out and touch you (or a Master of the Universe takes a shiv to the eye for refusing to cuddle).

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Holiday Bell: 12.27.12

Debt Ceiling Nears As Talks Stymied (WSJ) The Treasury Department said Wednesday the government would hit its legal borrowing limit by Monday, setting in motion emergency measures to keep the government operating for several more weeks and serving as a reminder that the nation's budget wrangling could continue well into 2013. The Treasury's financial maneuvering is designed to put off until February or March the prospect of a full-blown debt crisis. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's two-paragraph letter to Congress didn't specify when the emergency measures might be exhausted, blaming the "significant uncertainty that now exists with regard to unresolved tax and spending policies for 2013." The White House and congressional leaders have shown no signs of progress toward crafting an agreement to avoid the year-end tax increases and spending cuts known as the fiscal cliff. Rajaratnam Pays $1.45 Million Over Gupta Insider Tips (WSJ) As part of a consent agreement signed by Mr. Rajaratnam earlier this month and approved by a federal judge on Monday, he agreed to disgorge more than $1.29 million, representing his profits or losses avoided as a result of his alleged trading on Mr. Gupta's tips, and to pay prejudgment interest of $147,738. SeaWorld Files For IPO (WSJ) Though the number of shares and the price range for offering haven't been determined, the filing pegged it at up to $100 million. IBM Insider Net Expands (Reuters) Federal prosecutors charged Trent Martin, a research analyst at a Connecticut brokerage firm, with trading and tipping others before computer giant IBM’s $1.2 billion acquisition of SPSS in 2009, expanding a related insider-trading case filed last month. Martin was also charged with passing the information to others, including two stockbrokers and his roommate. The group allegedly netted more than $1 million. Shark Tank Explodes In Shanghai Mall (NYDN) Security video inside a Shanghai shopping mall captured the terrifying moment an aquarium with live sharks burst open, injuring at least 15 people and leading to the death of dozens of animals. The chaotic scene on Dec. 18 inside the Shanghai Oriental Shopping Center left many of the victims with cuts from the broken glass, while one of them suffered a broken ankle, according to the China Daily. Many of those hurt were mall employees. In addition, three lemon sharks and dozens of smaller fish and turtles were killed when the 33-ton tank exploded, sending water and glass cascading through part of the shopping center, the BBC reported. At least four people were standing right in front of the display at the time. “It was horrible, like a bomb explosion,” one mall vendor told the China Daily. “Some pedestrians were pushed (6-1/2 feet) away by the force of the water.” Officials were investigating whether low temperatures in Shanghai combined with shoddy building materials to make the shark tank — built just two years ago — suddenly rupture. This isn't the first time the display has been damaged: A broken water pipe in June led to the death of three sharks, according to reports. Mall officials have apparently had enough and told local media they don't plan to rebuild. Jobless Claims Drop as U.S. States Tally Data After Break (Bloomberg) Applications for jobless benefits decreased 12,000 to 350,000 in the week ended Dec. 22, Labor Department figures showed today. Economists forecast 360,000, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey. Claims in 19 states and territories were estimated because government office closures on Dec. 24 prevented a complete count, a Labor Department spokesman said as the figures were released. France, Italy See Economic Bright Spots (WSJ) So that's nice. Gross Doubles New York Bet as California Loses Lead (Bloomberg) The $285 billion Total Return Fund, which Gross runs at Pacific Investment Management Co., boosted its New York state allocation to about a $3 billion market value in the quarter ending Sept. 30, from $1.4 billion as of June 30, according to a semiannual filing the firm released this month. It was the largest increase by amount among U.S. states. Zuckerberg's Sister Can't Keep Privacy Rules Straight (NYP) Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg’s older sister, Randi, complained yesterday when one of her Twitter followers publicly posted a photo of the family, including her famous brother, standing in the kitchen reacting to the company’s new Poke app. “Not sure where you got this photo,” Randi tweeted in response @cschweitz. “I posted it only to friends on FB. You reposting it on Twitter is way uncool.” It turns out that not even Randi — Facebook’s former marketing director — is up to speed on the site’s often-confusing privacy settings. Her gaffe provided fodder for critics of the site, which in the past has changed its policies with little warning and to the dismay of users. “We’ve all been dealing with loss of privacy in Facebook, now she feels what we all do everyday,” one Twitter user responded. Apple CEO Cook Gets $4.17 Million Compensation, No Stock (Bloomberg) The total includes $1.36 million salary and $2.8 million in incentive plan compensation, Cupertino, California-based Apple said today in a regulatory filing. Cook’s 2011 compensation of $378 million, one of the biggest pay packages on record, was boosted by $376.2 million in stock awards that he’ll get over a decade. McDonald’s trips cost high school secretary $9,000 in fines (NYDN) Kappry Vera of the Urban Assembly School for Construction and Design in Hell’s Kitchen made more than $3,000 in personal purchases on the school credit card from August 2009 through May 2011, investigators charge. The administrator, who lives in Williamsburg, spent most of the money on fast food — including $765 on dozens of visits to McDonald’s between October 2009 and May 2011, charging the city for purchases there up to four times each day. Vera, 33, also dropped $342 at Subway and spent another $190 on Burger King in illegal uses of her city-funded credit card that was only meant for official school purchases, investigators said. Vera only halted her runaway junk-food spending after her principal noticed “questionable purchases” in the school budget and confronted her about it, investigators said. Under questioning, Vera admitted that she bought food for herself on the school card on five occasions, but she wouldn’t give investigators receipts to explain the bulk of her purchases. 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.