Opening Bell: 12.16.13 - Dealbreaker

Opening Bell: 12.16.13

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Germany Appears To Backtrack On EU Banking Deal (WSJ)
EU finance ministers have promised to agree on a so-called single-resolution mechanism—consisting of more centralized decision-making and financing for the shuttering or downsizing of failing banks—before the end of the year. But a letter sent by Wolfgang Schäuble to some of his counterparts sets clear limits on how far Europe's biggest economy is willing to go. Mr. Schäuble's letter, dated Dec. 12 and seen by The Wall Street Journal, was described by German officials as reiterating Berlin's concerns expressed in recent talks. But several other European officials see it as backtracking on earlier German concessions that had made possible an agreement last Tuesday on broad principles among the finance ministers of the euro zone's biggest countries. That preliminary agreement was meant to lead to a more-specific and detailed deal among 28 EU countries this week.

UBS Wins End to Suit Over Adoboli’s $2.3 Billion Losses (Bloomberg)
UBS won dismissal of a suit claiming the bank lied to investors about its risk-management practices before its disclosure of a $2.3 billion trading loss by “rogue trader” Kweku Adoboli. Adoboli, who worked in UBS’s London office, was convicted of fraud and sentenced to seven years in prison last year. The unauthorized trading loss was the biggest in British history. “That a ‘rogue trader’ was able to cause such a significant loss to UBS is more akin to a claim of mismanagement than of fraud,” U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest in Manhattan said yesterday in a ruling dismissing the suit.

Fed could set off year-end fireworks (Reuters)
Though the odds still point to no major policy change when U.S. central bankers meet December 17-18, most of the recent domestic economic data suggest the beginning of the end of their massive bond-buying program is coming sooner than later. If it acts it may reflect as much a growth in confidence in the global economy, for whom the withdrawal of the flow of cheap dollars will be a shock, as in the recovery in the United States alone. Growth in jobs, retail sales, services and overall output in the world's biggest economy - combined with last week's breakthrough budget deal in Washington - has convinced some economists that the Fed will announce a reduction to its $85-billion a month in purchases on Wednesday.

Gold Funds See Unprecedented 31% Slump as World Loses Faith (Bloomberg)
Holdings in the 14 biggest ETPs plunged 31 percent to 1,813.7 metric tons since the start of January, the first annual decrease since the funds started trading in 2003, data compiled by Bloomberg show. The removals erased $69.5 billion in the value of the assets as prices fell by the most since 1981. A further 311 tons will be withdrawn next year, according to the median of 11 analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg. ETP investments reached a record $148 billion last year, helping sustain the bull market that drove a more than sixfold increase in prices since 2001 by offering a way to own bullion without needing to store it. The slump shows some investors losing faith in gold as a preserver of wealth after inflation failed to accelerate and the Federal Reserve signaled it may curb stimulus. John Paulson, the biggest investor in the largest ETP, said last month he doesn’t plan to buy more.

A Cold Meal (NYP)
Billionaire businessman Steve Schwarzman likes cold hard cash. But a meat-locker-cold steakhouse? Not so much. With temperatures already dipping into the teens on Thursday night, a shivering Schwarzman groused multiple times at a private dinner hosted by the private-equity tycoon’s Blackstone Group at Smith & Wollensky. “Can we get some heat in here?” Schwarzman griped during the event at one point.

Wal-Mart Employee Arrested For Shooting Co-Worker’s Car Over Award (CBS)
According to a Broward Sheriff’s Office arrest report last month’s employee of the month at a Deerfield Beach Wal-Mart store on South Military Trail had her car shot up by a co-worker who was angry after she won the award. Willie Mitchell is charged with discharging a firearm from a vehicle. The Broward Sheriff’s Office said surveillance video from a Wal-Mart parking lot shows Mitchell parking next to a co-worker’s earlier in December. A few minutes later, investigators said Mitchell rolls down a back window, fires a shot into his co-worker’s car then drives off. The co-worker was not in her vehicle at the time. BSO Spokesperson Veda Coleman-Wright said the shooting stemmed from some bad feelings after the victim won an Employee of the Month Award. “She was announced as the employee of the month which you would think that would be something good, people would be happy for her,” Coleman-Wright said. “But there was one employee who wasn’t happy.”

Government Rests Case Against Former SAC Trader (Dealbook)
After three weeks and 13 witnesses, the government on Friday rested its insider trading case against Michael S. Steinberg, a former fund manager at SAC Capital Advisors. The defense’s case will take considerably less time. It said it might call one witness on Monday, and then both sides will present their closing arguments. Mr. Steinberg will not take the witness stand.

Banks Live Up to Too-Big-to-Fail Name (WSJ)
For the first time in years, the cost of insuring $10 million of debt against default at all six of the biggest U.S. banks has fallen to about $100,000 or less annually, according to data from Markit. In the wake of the financial crisis, credit-default swaps for some of the banks were at various points priced as much as four to six times higher.

U.S. Exchanges Near Deal for Infrastructure Upgrade (WSJ)
U.S. exchanges are near an agreement to upgrade a central piece of the country's trading infrastructure that critics say has been neglected and caused a serious market outage in August, according to people with knowledge of the discussions. Designed to avoid another large-scale breakdown, the plan would establish faster backups for a key part of the market's plumbing known as securities information processors, or SIPs, which consolidate the quote and trade data from exchanges before it is displayed to the public.

Madoff: I Helped Feds Nab JP Morgan (NYP)
The 75-year-old felon boasted in an email made public Friday that he provided “key information” to the Treasury’s Inspector General’s office that, presumably, was relayed up the chain of command and eventually used by Manhattan prosecutors in their expected $2 billion criminal action against the bank. At this point, it isn’t clear if the disgraced swindler provided any substantial evidence, or any evidence at all, in identifying JPMorgan or any other banks as being aware of his $20 billion-plus scheme. Madoff made his claim from the Butner (NC) Federal Correctional Complex — where he’s serving a 150-year sentence — in an email to CNBC correspondent Scott Cohn.

Sex party couple accused of €1m tax fraud (The Local)
The husband and wife were questioned by police after officers broke up one of their sex parties in a Frankfurt hotel room on Wednesday evening. There were five people present including the couple. The pair from Brandenburg are accused of failing to declare takings for the last eight years from their pricey events where entry cost €180 ($247) per person. They now owe the treasury almost €1 million in tax payments from earnings made from around 450 sex parties organized since 2005, authorities said. The man, aged 51, and woman, aged 49, organized parties across the country, a Frankfurt police spokesman told The Local on Friday. He added that the couple had been barred from the hotel. Both of the organizers claimed...unemployment benefits and are officially registered as unemployed.

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By Jones7224 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Opening Bell: 8.1.16

Gundlach says sell everything; Goldman is making Olympics predictions; Lawsuit filed in New York over handling of dachshund's $100,000 trust fund; and more.

Opening Bell: 09.10.12

US To Slash Stake In AIG (WSJ) The U.S. Treasury Department said it will sell $18 billion of American International Group Inc., slashing its stake in the New York company by more than half and making the government a minority shareholder for the first time since the financial crisis was roaring in September 2008. Banks Rethinking Executive Compensation (WSJ) At J.P. Morgan, the biggest U.S. bank by assets, directors are considering lower 2012 bonuses for Chief Executive James Dimon and other top executives in the wake of a multibillion-dollar trading disaster, said people close to the discussions. But they also are grappling with the question of how to do that without drastically reducing the executives' take-home pay, the people said. More than 93% of Mr. Dimon's $23 million in compensation last year came from either stock- or cash-based bonuses. Citigroup's board, meanwhile, is expected to decide this fall how to fine-tune next year's compensation plan to win broader support among investors, people familiar with the situation said. Former UBS trader faces trial over $2.3 billion losses (Reuters) Investment banker Kweku Adoboli, who was arrested a year ago when the huge losses came to light, has pleaded not guilty to two charges of fraud and two of false accounting related to disastrous trades that UBS says were unauthorized. "Given how serious the consequences of the incident were, we must assume that UBS's culture and practices will be examined during the course of the trial," UBS chief executive Sergio Ermotti told the bank's staff last week. "As uncomfortable as the entire trial will be for UBS, it will show us what the consequences are when misconduct occurs or when individuals do not take their responsibilities seriously," he wrote in an internal message published on its website. Alligators, Bearded Dragons Among Wild Animals Seized in Brooklyn Raid (DNAI) Police seized 13 exotic animals, including alligators, bearded dragons, and a tarantula in the raid of a public housing unit Friday, police said. On Friday afternoon at 1:30 p.m., Animal Care and Control officers removed five pythons and a boa constrictor, as well as two alligators, two bearded dragons, a gecko, a scorpion, and a tarantula, from the fifth-floor apartment of a Crown Heights public housing complex called the Weeksville Houses, police said, as part of an ongoing investigation. ‘Lead or Leave Euro’, Soros Tells Germany (FT) “Lead or leave: this is a legitimate decision for Germany to make,” the billionaire financier and philanthropist said in an interview with the Financial Times. “Either throw in your fate with the rest of Europe, take the risk of sinking or swimming together, or leave the euro, because if you have left, the problems of the eurozone would get better.” Few Hedgies Kicking Butt (NYP) There are some bright spots in hedge fund land, however, thanks in large part to Apple, which has long been a favored holding of the funds seeded by or spun out of Julian Robertson’s Tiger Management. Chase Coleman’s Tiger Global, which he co-manages with Feroz Dewan, gained 21 percent through August, and the flagship of Lee Ainslee’s Maverick Capital, one of the original Tiger cubs, rose 20 percent. Deutsche Bank Chiefs To Unveil Plans (WSJ) A major question is whether Deutsche Bank will need to raise capital. Tougher regulatory capital requirements are being phased in starting next year, and the bank will need as much as €10 billion to meet the new targets, analysts say. Nomura CEO Sees Overseas Units Posting Profit by June 2014 (Bloomberg) Nomura Holdings’s Koji Nagai, who took over as chief executive officer last month, said he plans to make overseas operations profitable by June 2014 at Japan’s largest brokerage. “We are not going to lower the flag as a global bank,” Nagai, 53, said in an interview in Tokyo on Sept. 7. “We want be an Asia-based global investment bank.” Schumer: Newfangled detergent 'pods' look too much like candy (NYDN) The Consumer Product Safety Commission should crack down on detergent companies whose superconcentrated cleanser “pods” look so much like candy that even a sitting senator wanted to gobble one. Since April, 40 local children in the city have mistakenly downed the colorful laundry packs such as Tide Pods, leading to numerous hospitalizations, some emergency intestinal surgery, and pangs of hunger of Sen. Charles Schumer. “The incidents are skyrocketing,” Schumer said Sunday joined by several medical professionals. “These pods were supposed to make household chores easier, not tempt our children to swallow harmful chemicals. I saw one on my staffer's desk and I wanted to eat it.”

Opening Bell: 11.20.12

Former UBS Trader Found Guilty (WSJ) Former trader Kweku Adoboli was found guilty on one count of fraud in connection with a $2.3 billion loss the Swiss bank suffered last year, as the juryin the alleged rogue-trading case continued to deliberate on five other counts he was charged with. The partial verdict comes nearly a week after the jury began deliberating following a roughly eight-week trial. It is unclear when the jury might reach verdicts on the other five counts or when sentencing might take place. Mr. Adoboli pleaded not guilty to all six counts. Shakeup At Credit Suisse (WSJ) Credit Suisse said Tuesday that it will combine the Swiss bank's asset management unit with its private bank, but stopped short of announcing the more drastic revamp analysts expected after crosstown rival UBS decided to fire 10,000 bankers. Robert Shafir, who currently heads the U.S. business of Credit Suisse, will take the helm of a new private banking and wealth management division jointly with Hans-Ulrich Meister, who has run the private banking business, the bank said. At the investment bank, Gael deBoissard is being promoted to co-head of the division, jointly with incumbent Eric Varvel. Following the revamp, Credit Suisse will have only two units—wealth management and investment banking--which are distinctly separate from each other, a move that is "in alignment with the new regulatory reality," Chairman Urs Rohner said. Greece Waits Nervously For Vital Bailout Funds (Reuters) Officials familiar with preparations for the finance ministers' meeting expect a "political endorsement in principle" on unfreezing loans to Athens, after Greece completed almost all the reforms that were required of it in exchange for funding. The final go-ahead from the ministers is likely to come only once the remaining few Greek reforms are in place and once there is agreement in the euro zone on how to reduce the country's huge debt and secure extra financing while it is being done. French Downgrade Widens Gulf With Germany as Talks Loom (Bloomberg) France’s loss of the top credit rating at Moody’s Investors Service may weaken President Francois Hollande’s leverage in European budget talks and deepen concern in Germany over its neighbor’s lagging competitiveness. The downgrade late yesterday of Europe’s second-biggest economy underscores the concern expressed by allies of German Chancellor Angela Merkel that the Socialist Hollande’s failure to recognize the urgency of France’s woes risks a deepening of Europe’s slump. “This downgrade will certainly increase pressure on France big-time,” Jan Techau, director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace office in Brussels, said today in a phone interview. “It gives Germany more of an edge over France.” ‘Tide Turning’ Against France, Say Economists (CNBC) “The tide is turning for France. Although the country's bond market is likely to remain resilient — the yield on 10-year paper is little changed [Tuesday] morning and still stands a whisker above its record low of 2.06 percent on July 19 — French debt looks more and more overvalued relative to fundamentals,” Nicholas Spiro, Managing Director of Spiro Sovereign Strategy, said in a note on Tuesday. France has enjoyed low borrowing costs as investors have viewed the country as a safe haven in comparison with its southern European cousins. The downgrade of France to AA1 with a negative outlook by Moody’s has thrown its “deteriorating fundamentals….into sharp relief” Spiro said. China’s Richest Woman Divorces Husband, Fortune Declines (Bloomberg) Longfor Properties Co. Chairwoman Wu Yajun is no longer China’s richest woman after divorcing Cai Kui and transferring about 40 percent of the developer’s shares the couple used to own to her ex-husband. Her stake in Longfor, which Wu co-founded with Cai, dropped from a combined 72 percent to 43 percent, while Cai retains 29 percent, according to filings from Hong Kong’s stock exchange. Wu’s net worth is estimated at $4.2 billion, down from $7.3 billion as of 5:30 p.m. New York time yesterday, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. New York Prepares Lawsuit Against Credit Suisse (Reuters) The New York attorney-general is preparing to file a civil lawsuit against Credit Suisse for misleading investors who lost billions of dollars on mortgage-backed securities, according to a source familiar with the matter. The lawsuit, which is expected to be filed on Wednesday, will allege that Credit Suisse misrepresented the quality of loans packaged in securities, according to the source. Petraeus Mistress Paula Broadwell To Jill Kelley: 'I can make you go away' (NYDN) The notes Paula Broadwell sent to Jill Kelley were far more sinister than previously reported and seemed like the rantings of someone “clearly unhinged,” a close friend of Kelley said Monday. “This wasn’t just a catfight. Any normal person who got emails like that would have immediately called the police,” said the friend. She said Kelley read her the emails when she called, panic-stricken and seeking advice in the days before the scandal became a stunning public spectacle and led to Petraeus’ resignation as CIA director. The friend, who did not want to be identified, said Kelley saw the emails as death threats, specifically one in which Broadwell vowed to “make you go away.” [Meanwhile,] Broadwell...bloodied a female news photographer’s forehead Monday in a confrontation outside the biographer’s Charlotte, N.C., home. Broadwell smacked the photographer with the driver’s-side door of her Nissan Pathfinder SUV. “I had my camera and in all the chaos the door slammed and I got hit in the head with the flash,” said Nell Redmond, a freelancer for The Associated Press. Redmond suffered a small cut and is not pressing charges. Morgan Stanley’s Doom Scenario: Major Recession in 2013 (CNBC) The bank’s economics team forecasts a full-blown recession next year, under a pessimistic scenario, with global gross domestic product (GDP) likely to plunge 2 percent. “More than ever, the economic outlook hinges upon the actions taken or not taken by governments and central banks,” Morgan Stanley said in a report. Under the bank’s more gloomy scenario, the U.S. would go over the “fiscal cliff” leading to a contraction in U.S. GDP for the first three quarters of 2013. In Europe, the bank’s pessimistic scenario assumes a failure of the European Central Bank (ECB) in cutting rates and a delay of its bond-buying program. Judge Tosses Suit Over AIG (WSJ) A federal judge in Manhattan dismissed a $25 billion lawsuit by Starr International Co., which Mr. Greenberg runs, against the New York Federal Reserve Bank over claims the Fed breached its fiduciary duty to AIG's shareholders in the rescue during the U.S. financial crisis. It is one of two lawsuits Starr, AIG's largest shareholder at the time of the government takeover, is pursuing over the bailout. Mark Cuban Throws A Tantrum On Facebook Fee (NYP) Facebook used to be a “time suck” — now it just sucks. That’s the view of Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who is urging marketers to take their business elsewhere after the social network started charging the tech billionaire to send messages to all the team’s fans. “In the past we put FB first, Twitter second,” Cuban wrote in a roughly 1,700-word blog post calling out the social network. “FB has been moved to the bottom of a longer list.” He added: “FB doesn’t seem to want to accept that its best purpose in life is as a huge time suck.” At issue is Facebook’s filtering of posts that appear in users’ news feeds. The site says it is trying to present users with content that they have shown an interest in while cutting down on spam. But Cuban says it is a pay-to-play move. He argues that Facebook is making it harder for marketers to reach their fans without paying for so-called “promoted posts.” And making the site more targeted and efficient is actually a mistake, according to Cuban. He claims most people go to the site because it’s a “time suck” that they enjoy. Cannibal Cop Pleads Not Guilty (NYDN) “cannibal cop,” accused of conspiring with an online buddy to kidnap, rape and slow-cook women, pleaded “not guilty” Monday to two federal charges. Gilberto Valle, 28, was arraigned in Manhattan Federal Court on charges of conspiracy to commit kidnapping and accessing the federal National Crime Information Center database without authorization. Valle’s public defender, Julia Gatto, made a third attempt at getting bail for her now-infamous client. "You have a hard row to hoe," said Judge Paul Gardephe...Valle — who was suspended after being arrested last month in a joint NYPD and FBI investigation — is accused of chatting last July with a sick online buddy about “kidnapping, cooking and eating body parts” of a woman identified as Victim 1, according to the indictment released Friday.