Opening Bell: 02.05.14

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Bill Gross Says He Avoids China ‘Mystery Meat’ (Bloomberg)
“I call China the mystery meat of emerging-market countries,” Gross said yesterday during an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Market Makers” with Erik Schatzker and Stephanie Ruhle. “Nobody knows what’s there and there’s a little bit of bologna, so we’re just going to have to wonder going forward through this year as to the potential problems in China and other emerging markets.”

McDonald's Wants You to Watch How McNuggets Are Made (BusinessWeek)
In response to a consumer’s question about whether McNuggets contain “pink goop,” the chain’s Canada headquarters released a video last week that provides a look inside supplier Cargill’s facility in London, Ont. Bins of chicken breasts are shown going into grinders before being shaped, breaded, and packaged. The same process is used in the U.S., according to the company.

Accused Operator of Silk Road Online Drug Bazaar Indicted (Bloomberg)
Ross William Ulbricht, accused of operating the billion-dollar online Silk Road website where customers used Bitcoins to buy and sell drugs, faces a new charge of running an ongoing criminal enterprise. Ulbricht, 29, allegedly known as “Dread Pirate Roberts,” was indicted today by a federal grand jury in New York that formalizes the charges made by U.S. prosecutors in an Oct. 2 criminal complaint. The new allegation carries a maximum life sentence and a mandatory minimum term of 20 years, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said.

Small Banks Face TARP Hit (WSJ)
Small banks across the U.S. are facing a crunchtime decision over federal aid received during the financial crisis: repay the funds soon or face a steeper interest-rate bill. While most banks that accepted government funds paid them back long ago, some 80 lenders still owe a total of roughly $2 billion disbursed under the U.S. Treasury's Troubled Asset Relief Program. Under TARP rules, if the banks don't reimburse taxpayers soon, they will face an increase in the quarterly dividend on the amount borrowed from the government. That dividend payment is set to rise to 9% of the loan balance outstanding from 5%, for some banks as early as the end of next week. The problem is that many of the banks in arrears are either too weak to pay the aid back or don't want to trade in relatively cheap capital from the government for potentially unfriendly and expensive credit markets. Payback plans also require regulatory approval.

Man threatens tree trimmers with gun, deputies say (Wesh)
Lee Williams was arrested Monday afternoon at his daughter's home in Palm Coast. He is charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Investigators said workers were hired by his daughter to cut down trees and grind the stumps. The workers repeatedly asked Williams to stay inside so he wouldn't be hurt, but Williams wanted to watch. When they said "no," Williams allegedly got a gun and pointed it at one of the men, threatening to shoot if they didn't get off his property.

Deutsche fires three New York forex traders - source (Reuters)
Deutsche Bank AG DBKGN.DE has fired three New York-based currency traders, in the latest sign that a probe over alleged manipulation of foreign exchange markets is gathering steam, according to a source familiar with the situation..."Deutsche Bank has received requests for information from regulatory authorities that are investigating trading in the foreign exchange market," a bank spokeswoman said in an emailed statement. "The bank is cooperating with those investigations, and will take disciplinary action with regards to individuals if merited."

New Boss at Microsoft, With Gates at His Side (NYT)
The prospect of having a luminary of Mr. Gates’s stature kicking around the hallways on a regular basis has easy appeal. He can help lift morale — he remains a revered figure at the company — and is known as a strong judge of products and technology. But the company has not nailed every product that Mr. Gates has been closely involved in, most notably Windows Vista, a version of its operating system that was panned for early technical problems. In addition, Mr. Gates, 58, could also complicate matters for Mr. Nadella, a low-key, 22-year employee of the company who can afford no confusion about where the buck stops.

Professor, fearing financial crisis, pulls $1M from bank (CNBC)
A former Harvard economics professor thinks the risks facing the banking system are so great that he has withdrawn nearly $1 million from his checking account, at Bank of America. And, oh yeah, he blames the Federal Reserve. Terence C. Burnham, an associate professor of business and economics at Chapman University in Orange, Calif., told CNBC there is a "psychological connection" between the Fed's low interest rate policies and the subsequent unrest in emerging market currencies. He also draws a connection between the central bank's actions and the zero percent interest rate BofA offers on checking accounts. Though Burnham acknowledged that Bank of America has little exposure to emerging markets, he worries that a sizable financial crisis could trigger a run on banks, leaving depositors unable to withdraw their money from the bank.

Fur seller 'wows' Joe Namath with coat worn at Super Bowl (NYDN)
The Manhattan clothier behind Joe Namath’s flashy, furry Super Bowl jacket says he bonded with the former Jets star over the $3,000 throwback outfit. “I’m stuck with him,” furrier Marc Kaufman joked Tuesday. “And he’s stuck with me.” Kaufman provided Namath with the Men’s Fur Coyote Parker when the Super Bowl III hero stopped in last week at his Midtown store, Marc Kaufman Furs. Kaufman says Namath’s reps first called to ask if he might have something special for Joe Willie to wear for the pre-game coin flip. Kaufman, like Namath before the Jets upset the Colts, guaranteed he did — and then delivered. When Namath arrived last Wednesday, Kaufman sized up the ex-QB and brought out the coyote coat. “He looked at it, and he said, ‘Wow,’” Kaufman recalled. “He put it on. He turned around. He had a big grin on his face.” Namath — famously known for sporting furs during his playing days — looked at a few dozen more but stuck with the one selected by Kaufman. “I can look at someone and know what looks good on them,’ said Kaufman. “They always like the first coat I show them.” According to the owner, business is up since Namath’s pre-game cameo — with media calls pouring in, along with orders from as far off as Dubai. “Go to Google, click on news, and my coat is the first thing that pops up,” he said.

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Opening Bell: 12.10.12

U.S. authorities probe SAC for Weight Watchers (Reuters) U.S. authorities are investigating Steven A. Cohen's SAC Capital Advisors hedge fund for possible insider trading in the shares of the popular diet company Weight Watchers International Inc, according to people familiar with the matter. The investigation focuses on trading in Weight Watchers shares in the first half of 2011, when SAC Capital had taken a sizeable position in the stock, and potentially could implicate the billionaire hedge fund manager, the sources said on Friday. Regulatory filings show that Cohen's $14 billion fund briefly held 2.1 million shares in Weight Watchers during the period under scrutiny by authorities - at which time the diet company's stock price roughly doubled. The inquiry is in its early stages and it is not clear whether anything improper was done either by SAC Capital or Cohen himself, said the people familiar with the matter, who requested anonymity. The trading in Weight Watchers would be permissible as long as it was based on fundamental research or derived from individuals who did not have access to non-public corporate information. Big Money Bets On Housing Rebound (NYT) A flurry of private-equity giants and hedge funds have spent billions of dollars to buy thousands of foreclosed single-family homes. They are purchasing them on the cheap through bank auctions, multiple listing services, short sales and bulk purchases from local investors in need of cash, with plans to fix up the properties, rent them out and watch their values soar as the industry rebounds. They have raised as much as $8 billion to invest, according to Jade Rahmani, an analyst at Keefe Bruyette & Woods. The Blackstone Group, the New York private-equity firm run by Stephen A. Schwarzman, has spent more than $1 billion to buy 6,500 single-family homes so far this year. The Colony Capital Group, headed by the Los Angeles billionaire Thomas J. Barrack Jr., has bought 4,000. Wall Street workers expecting worst bonus season since 2008 (NYP) State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli estimates that the average bonus this year will be $101,000 — a 16.5 percent decline from last year and almost a 50 percent decline since 2006, when the average was $191,360. ‘‘I don’t think this year’s bonuses are going to be very good,’’ said Dan Shaffer, CEO of Shaffer Asset Management. ‘‘I don’t believe the typical bonuses, as we used to know them, exist anymore.’’ Obama Meets with Boehner Privately at White House (Bloomberg) The meeting was the first known face-to-face conversation between the two leaders since Nov. 16, when Boehner and other congressional leaders sat down with Obama at the White House. They have talked on the telephone since then. Obama met with Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic minority leader, on Dec. 7. Investors offer about $38.8 billion in Greek debt buyback (Reuters) Greece is set to purchase back about half of its debt owned by private investors, broadly succeeding in a bond buyback that is key to the country's international bailout, a Greek government official said on Saturday. Hefner Husband Takes Insider Trading Into Playboy Bedroom (Bloomberg) Christie Hefner, [daughter of Hugh and] former chief executive officer of Playboy Enterprises Inc., said she was shocked as her husband of 15 years, William Marovitz, confessed to her that he was being investigated for suspicious trading in Playboy shares. They were in their apartment atop a 42-story Lincoln Park tower overlooking the glittering Chicago skyline and Lake Michigan on a March evening in 2010. “He told me he had been contacted by the SEC,” Hefner said later in testimony before the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which didn’t accuse her of any wrongdoing. “And when did you learn your husband owned shares of Playboy?” she was asked. “In that conversation,” she replied. Hefner's husband is just one of more than 400 persons the SEC and the U.S. Department of Justice have accused of insider trading in a crackdown in the last five years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. All involved betrayal -- of clients, employers, relatives or friends. The Hefner episode and a handful of cases like it include an especially cruel breach of trust: betrayal of a wife by a husband. Tennis star Novak buys up world's supply of donkey cheese at £400 a pound for new restaurant chain (DM) The cheese, known as pule, will be one of the key attractions at a chain of restaurants the Wimbledon champion and world number one is opening in his Serbian homeland...The Zasavica farm, which lies 50 miles west of the Serbian capital Belgrade, boasts a herd of 130 and is said to be the only place in the world where donkeys are milked for cheese. Banking Industry Squirms Over European Rate Probe (WSJ) The scandal over banks' attempted manipulation of interest rates has mostly centered on the London interbank offered rate. But Libor's lesser known cousin, the euro interbank offered rate, or Euribor, is facing mounting attacks. The European Union is expected soon to accuse multiple banks of attempted collusion in the setting of Euribor, according to people briefed on the probe. Barclays has already acknowledged trying to rig the rate, and other banks are likely to be pressed by regulators in the U.S., U.K. and elsewhere into similar admissions, according to industry and regulatory officials. Mortgage Crisis Presents a New Reckoning to Banks (NYT) Regulators, prosecutors, investors and insurers have filed dozens of new claims against Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and others, related to more than $1 trillion worth of securities backed by residential mortgages. Estimates of potential costs from these cases vary widely, but some in the banking industry fear they could reach $300 billion if the institutions lose all of the litigation. Depending on the final price tag, the costs could lower profits and slow the economic recovery by weakening the banks’ ability to lend just as the housing market is showing signs of life. Crisis Measure Nears End (WSJ) Barring action by Congress, the FDIC on Dec. 31 will stop providing an unlimited guarantee on zero-interest bank accounts used by businesses and municipalities for payroll and other services. The guarantee would then revert to the normal $250,000 in insurance per depositor at any given bank. If the guarantee isn't extended, FBR Capital Markets estimates as much as $250 billion in deposits could flow out of smaller banks to large banks or big money-market mutual funds. Stylish primate charms Toronto shoppers (The Star) A North York Ikea store attracted an unusual customer Sunday afternoon, when a tiny monkey dressed in a fitted faux shearling coat and diapers appeared in the store’s upper parking garage around 2 p.m. “It was just running around screaming,” said shopper Bronwyn Page...“It was really cute,” said Lisa Lin, another shopper. “It was smaller than a cat.” But if the monkey had hoped to stock up on Billy bookcases or Swedish meatballs, its plans were thwarted. The diminutive shopper never made it into the store, said manager Alvaro Carmona. No one was hurt in the incident, which lasted no more than half an hour, he added. Animal Services identified the monkey as a rhesus macaque, an Asian species that is prohibited in Ontario. The monkeys are known for their ability to live in diverse habitats – although Canadian winters obviously require a warm coat. The owner of the primate turned himself in to Animal Services just after 5 p.m. He was charged with owning a prohibited animal, an offence that carries a $200 fine. The seven-month-old monkey has somehow managed to escape his owner’s car in the Ikea parking lot, said animal control officer David Behan.

Opening Bell: 11.4.15

Spoofing trader found guilty; Goldman probed; Ackman loses big on Valeant; Icahn plays coy on Valeant; "You Can Finally Get Bernie Sanders-Themed Undies"; and more.

(Getty Images)

Opening Bell: 12.13.17

Big upset in Alabama senate race; Google looms over Fidelity; bitcoin shorts only cost you 5x leverage; Dina Powell eyes a return to Goldman; don't check your phone while running from the police; and more.