Opening Bell: 12.02.13

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Diverse Menu of Bonds Is Served Up to Investors (WSJ)
With corporate-debt issuance racing toward a record, some large companies are rolling out unusual offerings in a bid to serve the bond market's every nook and cranny. Recent weeks have brought a $500 million "green bond" from Bank of America Corp., which has pledged to use the proceeds to finance renewable-energy and energy-efficiency projects, and a $1 billion Goldman Sachs Group bond that offers variable interest rates for 10 years, much longer than normal. The sales underscore the robust appetite for debt issued by well-known, highly rated issuers and come at a time when low interest rates have put a premium on income-generating assets and a roaring stock-market rally has prompted some more-conservative investors to diversify.

Bull Market Shows No Sign of Death With Yellen Support (Bloomberg)
“The weakness in jobs is continuing fodder for the Fed to fulfill its most recent and steadfast comments about the support of the economy,” Holland, who oversees more than $4 billion in New York, said in a Nov. 26 phone interview. “Until the labor market gets better, the two parts of dual mandate have to be served,” he said.

No Penalties Planned in Swaps Probe (WSJ)
A four-year-old U.S. Justice Department civil probe into allegations that large banks and others conspired to thwart competition in the $24.3 trillion market for credit-default swaps is winding down and penalties aren't planned, said people familiar with the matter.

Nobel Prize economist warns of U.S. stock market bubble (Reuters)
"I am not yet sounding the alarm. But in many countries stock exchanges are at a high level and prices have risen sharply in some property markets," Shiller told Sunday's Der Spiegel magazine. "That could end badly," he said. "I am most worried about the boom in the U.S. stock market. Also because our economy is still weak and vulnerable," he said, describing the financial and technology sectors as overvalued.

My life as a call girl in Love Guv ring (NYP)
"Going full time as an escort with the Emperors Club was a life-enhancing experience. And the sex wasn’t as difficult as people might expect...the one I’ll always remember, my dream client, was a sexy French restaurateur. I knew who he was before we met in his room at the Hudson Hotel — I had Googled him, something I often did with clients. He greeted me at the door with a glass of wine and a gift bag from Victoria’s Secret, a kind gesture that wasn’t expected or required. I tried on the lingerie, and we took full advantage of the mirror against the wall. I didn’t expect I would ever be so turned on by a man who paid me to be with him, but this was a pleasant surprise. I insisted we fit a second round in before our time was up...Another client was an older man, probably 40 years my senior, with a thin upper lip that covered slightly yellowed teeth. And as Southern men are said to be, he was very much a gentleman. He knew me as Ashley because he had selected me from the higher-end “Icon Model” portfolio. He was the first of only two clients to meet Ashley. This meant he paid $5,400 for the two hours as opposed to the $3,000 I would have made as Raquel. Icon Models had interests like classical music and equestrian sports. They hunted pheasant, studied at Oxford, knew the difference between a watch and a timepiece and could participate in a debate over the superiority of Walker Black versus Laphroaig. They had pedigree, or at least the ability to appear like they did. They also had an expensive wardrobe, the ability to sit up straight, speak proper English and pretend for a couple of hours that they were genuinely interested in the hobbies and fineries of the ruling class. I wore my most elegant pieces: diamonds, Gucci dress, Prada heels, a golden silk pashmina and Agent Provocateur underneath. The only thing that wasn’t designer was my clutch, but it matched my shoes and was just big enough to fit a nice stack of cash. I sipped a martini, and he enjoyed a scotch on the rocks. He told me about his family. Unfortunately, his wife didn’t care to be affectionate with him anymore. It was not an unusual story, and I was happy to fill the void. He had children and grandchildren. We cuddled and caressed. He needed the affection. At the end, he told me that I was a wonderful companion and that he would love to meet again. Nobody had ever called me a wonderful companion. I put a lot of love into my visit with him, and I was touched by his compliment. Despite his age and looks, he was a great client. What I didn’t realize was that he would also be my last. The Emperors Club was busted; the FBI showed up at my door, and I had to hire an attorney. I signed a proffer agreement with the feds; they asked me to identify people in photos, but it was clear I had no information they didn’t already have from their surveillance."

Moody's upgrades Greece's debt rating (FT)
Moody's, the international rating agency, has upgraded Greece by two notches, reflecting good progress with fiscal consolidation despite continued recession and fragile political stability. The upgrade from Caa3 to single C with a stable rating still leaves Greek sovereign bonds deep in junk territory, but supports the coalition government's forecast of a primary budget surplus this year before debt repayments, rising to 1.5 per cent of output in 2014.

Krispy Kreme's Doughnuts Aren't the Only Thing Rich (WSJ)
Openings in locales such as Singapore, Seoul, Bogotá and Moscow are creating nearly as much buzz as the 1996 debut in New York that inspired the first Krispy Kreme mania in the early 2000s. Once again, though, it seems things have gone too far. There is no sign of the financial snafus that slammed the company a decade ago, but growth isn't all it seems. Krispy Kreme trades at over 34 times the next 12 months' earnings—rich compared even with also-hot Dunkin' Brands Group Inc. at 28 times. And healthy trends at company-owned stores mask some disturbing signs in the international-franchise part of the business. Same-store sales in the fiscal second quarter in that segment fell by 13% versus a year earlier. Overall they grew by just 0.5% as the store count expanded nearly 15%. What's more, domestic company stores are growing fast but aren't very profitable. An expansion into coffee may help, although it sets up a collision with Dunkin and Starbucks Corp.

Sony seeks ‘at least one new director’ (NYP)
Sony, under pressure to cut costs and shake up its moribund business, is looking for new blood for its board, The Post has learned. The Japanese media and electronics giant is seeking to add at least one new director and has approached several US-based media executives, according to sources familiar with the search. The company has been under attack from activist investor Dan Loeb since May, when his Third Point hedge fund proposed that Sony spin off its entertainment arm. Loeb has been seeking a seat, although it’s unclear if Sony is open to the idea. While Sony rejected Loeb’s proposal in August, CEO Kazuo Hirai has vowed to be more transparent about the company’s entertainment business, which includes Sony Pictures and Sony Music Entertainment.

Italian Banks' Woes Hurt Small Firms (WSJ)
The woes of smaller banks like Banca Marche are washing over the millions of small Italian businesses that depend on them for financing. Moreover, the deep ties the banks have to Italy's small towns mean that the consequent losses in banking jobs, share prices and even charitable donations weigh heavily on some local communities. Small and midtier banks like Banca Marche account for about half of overall lending in the country. In turn, Italian companies rely on banks for about 70% of their funding, more than double the rate in the U.K. or U.S., according to Bank of Italy data.

Moonshine makes a potent comeback in Central Florida bars (Orlando Sentinel)
Moonshine is making a comeback at liquor stores and nightspots across the country, including a pair of Orlando bars that offer the spirit as their signature drink. And makers and retailers are hoping the "bad boy" reputation sticks. "People really, really love it," said Chris Noble, the manager of downtown's Hooch and Shine nightspots. "They had that feeling in their head that it's moonshine, it's the strongest thing, it's going to make you go blind. It's that crazy-strong alcohol." The alcohol's kick appeals to Orlando resident Chance Kirkpatrick. "It'll put hair on your chest," said the 34-year-old radio intern. "It's one of those shots like ouzo [a Greek aperitif], where you've got to breathe out the fumes as soon as you drink it."

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Blankfein: Seems Like "Fiscal Cliff" Deal Could Be "Reachable" (CNBC) Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein described President Barack Obama's plan for Washington to reach an agreement on the "fiscal cliff" as detailed and "very credible." However, he cautioned that marginal income tax rates may have to rise to seal a deal. In an interview with CNBC after meetings between the president and several CEOs, Blankfein said, of course, it's hard to tell if a deal will be reached but "if I were involved in a negotiation like this, and everybody was purporting to be where they are, I would say that an agreement was reachable." Blankfein said he thought concessions on both the revenue and entitlement sides would be necessary to reach a final deal to avert the fiscal cliff, when large spending cuts and tax increases are slated to take effect on Jan.1. “Look, at the end of the day, the most important value is to get the economy moving forward," Blankfein said. "That’s not going to happen if our budget deficit keeps widening.” He added that the marginal income tax rate may have to rise in order to reach a deal. “I would prefer as low of a marginal rate as possible because it’s the marginal rate that provides the incentive to do incremental work by people, but I’m not dogmatic — I wouldn’t go to the end for that,” he said. Blankfein: "We Can All Be Winners Here" (CNBC) "The most important thing is that we increase the wealth pie of the United States and that we don't reduce it. If we don't sort out our economy people will be fighting over their slice of a shrinking pie. I think we can all be winners here, even those pay a marginally higher rate, or a bigger proportion of revenue, if they are winners, as we all will be, because the economy is improving." Krugman: Fiscal Cliff Is No Way To Run A Country (HP) The Nobel Prize-winning economist expressed his frustration with the government's endless budget wrangling, especially over the so-called fiscal cliff, during a Wednesday interview with WNYC. "It's no way to run a country," Krugman said, referring specifically to the prospect of going over the cliff, a decision that would trigger a series of tax hikes and spending cuts next year, which would probably slow the economy. Given the options though, Krugman admits going over the cliff might be preferable to the likely alternatives. "There is nothing in there [the fiscal cliff] that is going to cause the economy to implode," Krugman said. "Better to go a few months into this thing if necessary than to have a panicked response or to give in to blackmail, which is certainly the question that's facing President Obama." In Krugman's view, the fiscal cliff "has nothing to do with the budget deficit," he added. "This is about a dysfunctional political process. It's about kind of a self-inflicted wound here." Krugman's not alone in his view that jumping over the cliff may be preferable to giving in to Congressional Republicans' demands. Peter Orszag, a former economic adviser to President Barack Obama, and Robert Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, have both said recently that the jumping off the cliff may end up the country's best option. Foreign Banks Rebuffed By Fed (WSJ) Daniel Tarullo, who is responsible for shaping banking policy at the Federal Reserve, said in a speech Wednesday that the central bank will require foreign banks with large U.S. operations to house their U.S. arms in corporate structures that comply with requirements under the Dodd-Frank Act. Mr. Tarullo didn't specify which foreign banks would need to adhere to the new structure. But the change would bring Germany's Deutsche Bank and the U.K.'s Barclays back under a regulatory regime they tried to escape through corporate restructurings. EU Clears Spanish Bank Rescue (WSJ) European Union regulators gave the green light to €37 billion ($47.9 billion) in euro-zone funding for Spain's stricken banking sector on Wednesday, setting in motion a long-term cleanup. In exchange, four nationalized banks agreed to make sharp cuts in their balance sheets and payrolls—a retrenchment that carries the risk of intensifying Spain's credit crunch in the midst of a deep recession. Argentina wins debt reprieve, default averted for now (Reuters) Argentina has won a reprieve against having to pay $1.33 billion next month to "holdout" investors who rejected a restructuring of its defaulted debt and have waged a long legal battle to be paid in full. A U.S. appeals court granted an emergency stay order on Wednesday that gives Argentina more time to fight a debt ruling favoring the holdout creditors and eases investor fears of a new default as early as next month. Last week, U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa ordered Argentina to deposit the $1.33 billion payment by December 15 for investors who rejected two restructurings of bonds left over from its massive 2002 default. Drunk ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ singer wears Viking hat to court (Canada) The man who became a YouTube viral sensation for singing “Bohemian Rhapsody” from the back seat of an police cruiser, has been convicted of impaired driving and for refusing to take a breathalyser test. He went to court wearing a Viking hat, sunglasses and NASA T-shirt proclaiming, “I need my space.” He is being forced to pay a $1,400 fine and will be barred from driving for one year. The video footage was originally capture on the cruiser’s built-in camera. His passionate performance was used as evidence during his trial. Because his friends told him to, Robert Wilkinson, posted the video to YouTube where it gained nine million people watched it. Fed Likely To Keep Buying Bonds (WSJ) Three months after launching an aggressive push to restart the lumbering U.S. economy, Federal Reserve officials are nearing a decision to continue those efforts into 2013 as the U.S. faces threats from the fiscal cliff at home and fragile economies elsewhere in the world. Groupon CEO Says He Remains Right Person To Run Company (WSJ) FYI. World Economy in Best Shape for 18 Months, Poll Shows (Bloomberg) So that's nice. Actor Tim Allen’s Car Stolen By Man Claiming To Be Son (Fox2) To the untrained eye, actor Tim Allen’s 1996 Chevy Impala may not look like much, but with its custom engine and one of a kind interior, it’s worth a lot of money. America’s funnyman Tim Allen loved his car so much, he featured it in a YouTube commercial. The car was special, expensive, upgraded, and was also one of the superstar’s favorites. He even drove it to the People’s Choice Awards and mentioned it on stage when he won his award...So how did Allen’s prized possession make its way from his Los Angeles garage to a corner in Northeast Denver? Faustino Ibarra is facing charges for stealing it. “It’s a priceless vehicle.” Ibarra said to Fox 31 Denver’s Justin Joseph in an exclusive jailhouse interview. “I`m trying to make it simple for you to understand. I didn’t break into (Allen’s) garage. He left the door open and he left me the keys so I could get the car and take it to Denver.” Ibarra claims Allen adopted him years ago and that Allen had allowed him to take the car. “I emailed my dad the morning that I got the car in and everything is fine and I’ve got the car and it`s ready for you and we need to talk about me coming to live with you,” said the inmate. “What you say sounds a little crazy.” Joseph said. “I don`t care how it sounds, I know who I am. He knows who I am. He knows who he is,” Ibarra said. He denies that he has mental health issues and says no matter what anyone thinks, his alleged father, a superstar, will not pursue charges. “My dad loves the heck out of me. He’s ultra-proud of me and he wants to see the best for me in every way,” Ibarra told Joseph. FOX 31 Denver reached out to Allen’s publicist but did not hear back from Allen’s team. FOX 31 Denver also found no independent evidence that Ibarra was ever adopted by Allen.