Opening Bell: 02.12.14

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Hackers Launch Attacks on Bitcoin Exchanges (WSJ)
Slovenia-based Bitstamp said it halted customer withdrawals to deal with the issue. BTC-e, a bitcoin exchange based in Bulgaria, said it was experiencing delays in crediting certain transactions. During such outages, some trading can continue, but customers aren't able to gain access to their money. Both exchanges described the problem as a denial-of-service attack, according to comments made by the companies on their websites. In denial-of-service attacks, hackers essentially disable a website by flooding it with information requests. The two exchanges account for 56% of bitcoin trading volume, according to bitcoincharts.com, which tracks trading activity. The attacks underscored the fragility of the five-year-old currency, which is created by computers and isn't backed by a central bank. "This is a very big deal," said Jaron Lukasiewicz, chief executive of Coinsetter, a New York-based bitcoin-trading platform that remained open as usual. "The two largest bitcoin exchanges aren't processing withdrawals—that essentially shuts the ecosystem down."

New York regulator moving ahead on bitcoin regulation (Reuters)
Benjamin Lawsky, superintendent of New York's Department of Financial Services, expects to adopt enhanced consumer disclosure rules, capital requirements and a framework for permissible investments with consumer money. Lawsky has said he plans to issue a "BitLicense" for businesses that use the new currencies, and he intends to provide regulations this year, which could make New York the first U.S. state to regulate virtual currencies such as bitcoins.

Two Hong Kong Firms to Pay $11 Million Over Inside Trades (Bloomberg)
Two Hong Kong-based asset-management firms agreed to pay about $11 million to settle U.S. regulatory claims related to improper trades made before China-based Cnooc Ltd. said it would acquire Canadian energy firm Nexen Inc. Citic Securities International Investment Management HK Ltd. and China Shenghai Investment Management Ltd. were the last two firms holding assets that were the subject of a 2012 Securities and Exchange Commission probe of illegal trades ahead of the merger announcement, the agency said in a statement yesterday. The SEC has collected almost $30 million in illicit profits and penalties in the case.

Ryan Seacrest To Launch Clothing Line (WSJ)
Most men don't have two stylists coordinating their clothes the way Ryan Seacrest does. So for his new clothing line, the "American Idol" host is including a color-matching system to help regular guys match trousers to shirt to tie...The clothing will come with tags attached that are numbered 1 through 4. Each tag indicates a color family, so men can look at the number and be confident that if they wear all 1s, everything will match, for example, or get information that a 1 might also work with a 2. The color-matching system, called "Style made Smart," is modeled after one that Mr. Seacrest uses. In his closets, each suit is on a hanger with a tie and a pocket square in the jacket pocket, and shoes for each outfit sit nearby. "I coordinate everything ahead of time," he said.

Pimco Boosts Government Holdings as Bonds Gain Most Since 2008 (Bloomberg)
The proportion of the securities in the $237 billion Total Return Fund (PTTRX) was 46 percent last month, compared with 45 percent in December, the company’s website showed yesterday. It was the firm’s biggest holding of the securities since at least July, when it revised how it classifies assets. Gross said this month U.S. 10-year yields can fall further if labor growth remains subdued and a key inflation gauge stays below the Federal Reserve’s target. Mortgage debt accounted for 36 percent in January, compared with 35 percent the previous month.

Shia LaBeouf Launches Bizarre Public Performance Art Piece (THR)
A press release unveiling the performance art show reads: "Shia LaBeouf is sorry. Sincerely sorry. He will be in situ at 7354 Beverly Boulevard for the duration. Implements will be provided. Free admission." The #IAmSorry show, a collaboration between LaBeouf and artists Nastja Sade Ronkko and Luke Turner, takes place Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. There was no one yet at the scene when The Hollywood Reporter arrived late Tuesday morning for the unveiling, where two security guards were positioned outside. After being let into the gallery, a woman seated behind a table invites visitors to choose one object from a selection of "implements." [...] several of the objects correspond to major films associated with LaBeouf's career, including a whip (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) and several Transformers toys. A bowl of Hershey's Kisses, a pair of pliers, a bottle of Brut cologne, a bottle of Jack Daniels and a bowl of folded up notes -- each bearing Twitter comments about LaBeouf, according to the proposal -- were also available for choosing. The visitor is then led past a curtain into a tiny room. Inside, LaBeouf sits at a small wooden table, the now-famous paper bag declaring "I am not famous anymore" placed over his head. (The wrinkled bag appears to be the same one he wore on the Berlin red carpet.) During THR's visit, LaBeouf never broke eye contact during the one-on-one but responded with total silence to a series of questions. His only reaction came at the very end, in the form of a nodded acknowledgment after being thanked for the experience.

Goldman puts 'for sale' sign on Iran's old uranium supplier (Reuters)
Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank are quietly trying to get out of a business few people know they are even in: trading supplies of raw uranium known as yellowcake. In the last four years, the banks have amassed low-grade stockpiles of the nuclear fuel ingredient larger than those held by Iran, and enough to run China's nuclear plants for a year. Goldman's uranium business can trace its roots back to an apartheid-era South African trading conglomerate that sold Iran its only known source of foreign yellowcake 35 years ago. To this day, that uranium delivery underpins Iran's disputed enrichment program, which western powers fear is aimed at developing atomic weapons, although Iran denies that. Now, under mounting political scrutiny of Wall Street's role in physical commodities trading, and following a collapse in demand after the Fukushima disaster, both firms have put their uranium trading desks up for sale.

NYSE Is Still No. 1, But Not By Much (WSJ)
Rival exchange operator BATS Global Markets was just a fraction of a percentage point shy of overtaking NYSE in January, handling 20.54% of U.S. trading volume compared with NYSE's 20.58%, according to Sandler O'Neill + Partners. BATS was able to leapfrog ahead of Nasdaq OMX Group Inc.'s 20.01% share with the addition of Direct Edge Holdings LLC, a merger that closed at the end of last month.

Goldman Sachs Promotes Five to Management Committee Amid Moves (Bloomberg)
Paul Russo, Michael Daffey, Justin Gmelich, Sarah Smith and Craig Broderick were named to the panel, which now has 34 members, according to employee memos obtained today by Bloomberg News. The New York-based firm yesterday named Ashok Varadhan, the 41-year-old chief of macro trading, as the third co-head of its trading division.

At Long Last, Westminster Gives Rat Terriers a Chance to Show (NYT)
New breeds like rat terrier — and the other newbies at the show, the chinook and the Portuguese Podengo Pequeno — generally need time at an elite show like Westminster to demonstrate their bona fides. There are, after all, plenty of breeds that have never won. It took until 2008, more than 130 years into Westminster’s history, for a beagle, Uno, to win. And while terriers have won Westminster’s top prize 45 times, Marti was unlikely to win the terrier group and advance to Best in Show against the winners of six other groups Tuesday night. Rat terriers, it should be said, do not resemble rats. Rats are among their field prey. It is not an especially lovely name, but Browne asked, “Who forgets it?” They are small, delightful, peppy dogs whose ancestry is derived from crossbreeding the fox terrier with various other terriers, and later with more terriers, beagles, whippets, Italian greyhounds and others, the American Kennel Club said. Despite the breed’s deep roots in America, the American Kennel Club did not recognize the rat terrier until last year, an action that finally ushered in its debut showing at Westminster on Tuesday. “It’s taken a long time,” said Kimberly Seegmiller, a breeder in Glenwood, Mo., who is the interim secretary of the Rat Terrier Club of America. “But rat terriers became nearly extinct when farmers left the Dust Bowl and they didn’t need their dogs. They kind of came back when a few people had them in the ’60s and ’70s, but even by the ’80s, they were still pretty rare. And they’re still not prevalent.” It required the club petitioning the A.K.C. for five years and complying with its rules to get the rat terrier recognized last June, she said. From then until the end of 2013, the A.K.C. registered 3,268 rat terriers. Browne, who said recognition was overdue, proudly cited the date when she started to show Q in A.K.C.-sanctioned confirmation shows: June 26, 2013. “I think people took rat terriers for granted,” she said.

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Opening Bell: 08.20.12

Diamond Censured Over Evidence in Barclays Libor Probe (Bloomberg) Barclays ex-Chief Executive Officer Robert Diamond was criticized for giving “unforthcoming and highly selective” evidence by a U.K. parliamentary report that faulted the bank for letting traders rig interest rates. The “candor and frankness” of Diamond’s testimony to lawmakers on July 4 “fell well short of the standard that Parliament expects,” the House of Commons Treasury Committee said in a 122-page report today following its inquiry into the bank’s attempts to manipulate the London interbank offered rate. “The Barclays board has presided over a deeply flawed culture,” the panel of British lawmakers said. “Senior management should have known earlier and acted earlier.” Bob Diamond Hits Bank In Rate-Rigging Row (Telegraph) In a statement Mr Diamond hit back at the report. "I am disappointed by, and strongly disagree with, several statements by the Treasury Select Committee,” Diamond said. Deutsche Bank’s Business With Sanctioned Nations Under Scrutiny (NYT) Federal and state prosecutors are investigating Deutsche Bank and several other global banks over accusations that they funneled billions of dollars through their American branches for Iran, Sudan and other sanctioned nations, according to law enforcement officials with knowledge of the cases. JPMorgan Picks Leader For 'Whale' Probe (WSJ) JPMorgan directors have named Lee Raymond chairman of a board committee investigating the bank's multibillion-dollar trading blunder, said people close to the probe. Some Groupon Investors Give Up (WSJ) Some of the early backers of Groupon, including Silicon Valley veteran Marc Andreessen, are heading for the exits, joining investors who have lost faith in companies that had been expected to drive a new Internet boom. At least four Groupon investors who held stock in the daily-deals company before it went public have sold or significantly pared back their holdings in recent months. Since its initial public offering in November, Groupon has shed more than three-quarters of its stock-market value, or about $10 billion...Mr. Andreessen, who rode the 1990s dot-com frenzy to riches at Netscape Communications Corp., was among the investors who helped fuel Groupon's rapid ascent. His firm, Andreessen Horowitz, was responsible for $40 million of the $950 million investors put into Groupon just months before the company's IPO. Andreessen Horowitz sold its 5.1 million Groupon shares shortly after restrictions on selling the stock expired June 1, according to people with knowledge of the transaction. Facebook Investors Brace For More Shares Coming To Market (Bloomberg) While Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg operates the world’s largest social-networking service, he’s facing investor concerns about how it can generate more revenue from its growing user base. That, plus the end of the first lock-up, drove the shares to half the offering price of $38, wiping out almost $46 billion in market value. Queen's corgis 'attack' Princess Beatrice's terrier Max (Telegraph) They may be among the Queen's favourite subjects but her corgis are in the doghouse after getting into a fight with one of Princess Beatrice's pets. Max, an 11–year–old Norfolk terrier, is said to have been badly injured after a "nasty" encounter at Balmoral castle last week. The Princess's pet nearly lost an ear and suffered several bloody bite injuries that had to be treated by a vet, in the latest in a series of scraps between royal dogs..."The Queen's dog boy was taking the corgis for a walk and they were joined by the Norfolk terriers, which came with Prince Andrew," one insider told a Sunday newspaper. "They were being taken along the long corridor leading to the Tower Door before being let into the grounds for a walk, and they all became overexcited. They began fighting among themselves and unfortunately the dog boy lost control. "The next thing we knew there were horrific yelps and screams...there was blood everywhere." EU Leaders Plan Shuttle Talks To Bolster Greece, Sovereign Bonds (Bloomberg) The sovereign-debt crisis mustn’t become a “bottomless pit” for Germany, even though Europe’s biggest economy would pay the highest price in a breakup of the euro region, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said on Aug. 18 during his ministry’s open day in Berlin. “There are limits,” he said, as he ruled out another aid program for Greece. Hedge 'A-Listers' Include Ackman, Loeb, Chanos (NYP) Influential adviser Cliffwater LLC — which monitors some 1,500 hedge funds and ranks them with an A, B or C grade — keeps a closely guarded list of 90 or so top-rated funds...Cliffwater advises large pension funds in New Jersey, Wisconsin and Massachusetts, among others, and has become one of the industry’s hottest gatekeepers as more big institutions invest directly in hedge funds rather than through funds of funds...An August copy of Cliffwater’s “500 top-rated A or B” funds shows that the company gives high marks to activist funds such as Ackman’s Pershing Square and also to tail risk funds, which aim to protect against disasters. Tucked inside the protected internal document, which compares five-year historical returns to risk, is Cliffwater’s “Select List,” which appears to be the 95 funds deemed worthy of A ratings. Along with Ackman, Dan Loeb of Third Point, the hedgie who recently rattled Yahoo!, famed short-seller Jim Chanos of Kynikos Associates and gold hound James Melcher of Balestra Capital, made the short list as well. Spitzer Defends Wall Street Legacy (FT) Last week it emerged that Goldman Sachs had brought the curtains down on its Hudson Street platform, one of the most high-profile independent research projects started by an investment bank involved in the settlement. Other settlement banks, such as UBS and Bank of America Merrill Lynch, are said to have closed or scaled down their own independent analysis projects. Mr. Spitzer was quick to defend the legacy of the global settlement in an interview with the Financial Times. “I think we accomplished something,” Mr. Spitzer said. “There are a lot of independent research firms out there, some doing well and others not. Goldman has other business models and other priorities.” Shia LaBeouf To Have Sex "For Real" While Filming Scenes For Lars Von Trier's "Nymphomaniac" (Complex) "It is what you think it is. There's a disclaimer at the top of the script that basically says, we're doing [the sex] for real. And anything that is 'illegal' will be shot in blurred images. But other than that, everything is happening," LaBeouf said during an interview.

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Opening Bell: 11.30.17

Grandma wants bitcoin; hedge funds are betting on cheese; get ready for the end of the credit rally; even rats don't like to go to midtown, says science; and more.

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Opening Bell: 12.19.17

UBS has some 'splaining to do in Puerto Rico; hedge funders may get a nasty surprise come bonus season; money markets are going haywire; the returns on everything; Bob Dylan's Christmas lights; and more.