Opening Bell: 03.13.14

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Goldman Sachs Sees Bitcoin Future in Payments Over Money (Bloomberg)
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. analysts see Bitcoin as an innovative payments technology while doubting that it will evolve into a true alternative currency, according to a research report released today. In the report, titled “All About Bitcoin,” the researchers write that they examined multiple views of the digital currency by people inside and outside of Goldman Sachs. “So where does that leave us? With the conclusion that Bitcoin likely can’t work as a currency, but some sense that the ledger-based technology that underlies it could hold promise,” the report said.

Ex-Banker's Plea Deal Outlines Trail of a Tax-Evasion Scheme (WSJ)
Around 2001, Credit Suisse signed an agreement with the IRS in which it agreed to withhold taxes from accounts held by Americans and prohibit them from holding U.S. investments. Afterward, the bank's compliance department told bankers, including Mr. Bachmann and his bosses, not to talk about U.S. securities with U.S. customers, according to the statement. But the bankers ignored it, according to the statement. After the session, Mr. Bachmann complained about the restrictions. An executive told him something to the effect of: "You know what we expect of you-don't get caught," the statement said.

Senate’s Fannie Mae Wind-Down Faces High Political Hurdles (Bloomberg)
Senate Banking Committee leaders said the proposal, which they plan to release later this week, would replace the two U.S.-owned mortgage financiers with government bond insurance that would kick in only after private capital suffered severe losses. It remains unclear whether the measure can gain the support it would need in the next four months, before lawmakers’ attention shifts to midterm elections. A Democratic Senate aide said leadership is currently unenthusiastic about legislation that would eliminate the companies. “It’s possible, but it’s certainly not probable,” said Mark Calabria, a former aide on the Senate banking panel who now directs financial regulation studies at the Cato Institute, a Washington-based research organization that supports free markets. “You’re looking at maybe a 10 percent chance of a bill getting to the president’s desk.”

Emotions Vented Online Are Contagious, Study Finds (WSJ)
First, the researchers found that a rainy day directly influenced the emotional tenor of a person's Facebook posts. The effect was small but significant—the number of negative posts rose 1.16%, while the number of positive comments fell 1.19%. That, in turn, affected the Facebook status of one or two friends in other cities where it wasn't raining. Each additional positive post resulted in a further 1.75 positive posts among friends; while each negative post yielded 1.29 more negative posts by friends, the researchers said. Posts were sorted by whether they contained positive or negative language, such as the word "sad" or "happy." To strip out the effect of topic contagion, the researchers removed any status updates that were actually about the weather. "We wanted posts where it is raining on you and it is making you write negative posts that are not about the weather," Dr. Fowler said. With about 1.2 billion active users, a volatile upbeat or downbeat mood could quickly spread through Facebook, Dr. Fowler said. "It is going to have implications for financial markets, which have bubbles and busts, and it has implications for political activity," he said.

Coffee Cravers Ignoring Bean-Price Surge for Caffeine Fix (Bloomberg)
Doreen Cappelli is so hooked on her morning cappuccino that she says she’d pay a lot more to get it. “I don’t drink wine and alcohol,” Cappelli, 52, said after buying the $3.25 drink at Blue Bottle Coffee at San Francisco’s Ferry Building, in the shadow of the Bay Bridge. “Coffee is one of my pleasures in life. I would pay double.” While prices probably won’t go up that much just yet, pressure is growing on the $80 billion U.S. coffee industry as the cost of arabica beans used in high-end brews skyrockets. Futures in New York jumped 85 percent this year to $2.053 a pound. By May, they may reach $3, the highest since 2011, said Judy Ganes-Chase, an industry consultant in Panama City, Panama, who has been analyzing the market for three decades.

Police say Iowa man tried to trade sex for a boat trailer (WQAD)
Stan Syring, 37, of Clarence, met with an undercover Marion, Iowa Police officer who responded to his Craigslist ad Tuesday, March 4, 2014. The two met the following Monday, March 10, and agreed to an undisclosed sex act in exchange for Syring getting a boat trailer.

After Mexico fraud, Citi finds other three sets of suspect loans (Reuters)
Citigroup Inc, which recently discovered it made some $400 million in fraudulent loans to a company in Mexico, found three other sets of smaller loans that may be suspicious, the bank's chief financial officer told a group of investors last week. The three sets of problem loans were for less than $10 million each, and the bank was reviewing its underwriting and monitoring processes, Sanford C Bernstein analysts who attended last week's presentation wrote in a report dated Wednesday. "Management is confident that this is an isolated issue," according to the report, which was based on CFO John Gerspach's remarks on March 5 to a small investor conference hosted by the brokerage in Boston.

Bank of England's Mark Carney and Other Central Bankers Face Tough Decisions About Raising Interest Rates (WSJ)
"Everyone wants to know exactly when you're going to do something," said Mr. Carney, a 48-year-old Canadian, in a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal. "We can't tell them something we don't know ourselves." What he can say, he added, is "we're not going to raise interest rates until the economy can really sustain it."

Billionaire selling 63rd Street pad — Rolls-Royce included (NYP)
Fertilizer czar and Carpathian billionaire Alexander Rovt, estimated by Forbes to be worth $1.1 billion, is putting his townhouse at 232 E. 63rd St., built in 1925, on the market for $25 million today. Rovt’s Phantom Rolls-Royce, kept at the mansion, is included in the purchase price.

Street May Be Denied 'Volcker' Victory (WSJ)
Bankers have been pressing regulators to grant some relief for activities in a $300 billion market for loans to U.S. companies, much as they did for Volcker-rule requirements affecting another type of complex debt instrument held by banks. Without such relief, they warn, the availability of corporate loans could be crimped because banks will have to either sell or restructure the instruments. The banks' arguments have so far failed to convince regulators such relief is necessary, according to people familiar with regulators' thinking.

Meet Jonathan, St Helena's 182-year-old giant tortoise (BBC)
"He is virtually blind from cataracts, has no sense of smell - but his hearing is good," Joe tells me. At 182, Jonathan may be the oldest living land creature. Jonathan is a rare Seychelles Giant. His lawn-fellows hail from the Aldabra Atoll in the Indian Ocean. Aldabra Giants number about 100,000, but only one small breeding population of Seychelles tortoises exists...Nobody knows why Jonathan ended up in St Helena. During the 17th Century ships could contain hundreds of easily-stacked tortoises, like a fast-food takeaway. In the Galapagos islands alone around 200,000 tortoises are thought to have been killed and eaten at this time. How did Jonathan avoid this fate? Maybe he became a curio for Hudson Janisch, governor in the 1880s. Thirty-three governors have come and gone since then, and nobody wants Jonathan to die on their watch. Mark Capes [current Governor of the British Overseas Territories in the South Atlantic] is certainly keen "that he should be treated with the respect, attention and care he surely deserves"...Jonathan loves having his neck stroked. His head extends out from his shell to a surprising length...Though giant tortoises like Jonathan can live up to 250 years, the community has already drafted a detailed plan for when he finally pops his shell - dubbed "Operation Go Slow". It will ensure all runs smoothly when the inevitable happens, in fact his obituary has already been written. It has also been decided that stuffing Jonathan would be a rather morbid and outdated thing to do. Instead his shell will be preserved and will go on display in St Helena.

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Opening Bell: 7.5.16

Italian banks are screwed; Barclays traders found guilty of Libor rigging; Can SnapChat survive old people?; Joey Chestnut eats way back to Nathan's hot dog eating title; and more.

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Opening Bell: 8.23.17

Herbalife readies finishing move on Bill Ackman; Goldman plans finishing move on Volcker rule; firefighters feast on piglets they saved from fire; and more.

Opening Bell: 6.1.15

WaMu execs still want their golden parachutes; Greece could use a hand; Winkelvii twins say this is Bitcoin's year; "Florida Man Slashes Tires After Woman Takes His Bingo Seat"; and more.

Opening Bell: 5.23.16

Investors pour money into new digital currency; Hedge funds suck wind; Tech billionaire throws tantrum after being denied entry to ‘Hamilton’; and more.

Opening Bell: 06.22.12

Citigroup Leads Wall Street Banks In Moody’s Downgrade Dismissal (Bloomberg) Moody’s two-grade cut of Citigroup’s ratings was unwarranted, arbitrary and failed to recognize the lender’s financial strength, the New York-based bank said in a statement. Investors shouldn’t rely on “opaque” credit ratings, it said. “Moody’s approach is backward-looking and fails to recognize Citi’s transformation over the past several years,” said the bank. “Citi believes that investors and clients have become much more sophisticated in their credit analysis over the past few years, and that few rely on ratings alone -- particularly from a single agency -- to make their credit decisions.” Moody's Downgrade of Banks ‘Absurd,’ Says Dick Bove (CNBC) “This is one of the most absurd things that Moody’s has ever done perhaps in the history of the company,” said Dick Bove, Vice President of Equity Research in the Financial Sector at Connecticut-based Rochdale Securities. JPMorgan Trading Loss Drove Three-Level Standalone Cut (Bloomberg) “It illustrates the challenges of monitoring and managing risk in a complex global organization and highlights the opacity of such risks,” Moody’s said. Ratings Downgrade Cuts Deeply At Morgan Stanley (NYT) In an e-mail sent to staff members after the downgrade was announced, Mr. Gorman tried to reassure employees about the bank’s future. “While we do not believe that this outcome reflects all of the transformative changes we have made to the firm, there is an acknowledgment in Moody’s decision today that real progress has been made at Morgan Stanley, in what is an extremely difficult environment for our industry,” he wrote. Hedge Funds Mask Identities (WSJ) It is the latest in-vogue accessory among hedge-fund managers: a "masked fund." Bridgewater Associates has "ZQPGGAV00000," John Paulson has "Paulson Fund 1" while Cliff Asness's AQR Capital Management prefers "805-1355888867." The cryptic monikers, more product barcodes than real handles, enable the hedge-fund managers to shield the identities of their funds from the prying eyes of regulators and outsiders in forms filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission...The practice, allowed under a new SEC instruction that lets firms preserve the anonymity of their clients in certain cases, has irked some investors and their advisers. They argue that hiding funds' identities in regulatory filings undermines Washington's efforts to make the reticent world of hedge funds more transparent and hinders investors' efforts to keep tabs on the firms that manage their assets. Emails Ties Goldman Manager, Rajaratnam (WSJ) A current Goldman managing director exchanged emails with Galleon founder Raj Rajaratnam ahead of a daily "morning meeting" at Galleon, according to previously undisclosed emails and wiretapped phone call transcripts reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. In the emails, the Goldman manager offered what he called "tiddie biddies" about some top technology firms, including Apple and Intel Corp. Anderson Cooper Berates Photo-Snapping Airplane Passenger (LAT) "Normally I would just be like, 'We're not going to win this one,' but I've lately become emboldened," Cooper said in an interview. "I grabbed the guy on the shoulder and I said something to the effect of, 'Bitch, what ... are you doing?'" Pimco’s Gross Warns Of Risk Assets (Bloomberg) Gross, who manages $261 billion for the Pimco Total Return Fund (PTTRX), said in a Twitter post that risk markets are vulnerable as the “monetary bag of tricks empties.” Spanish Plan Is Flawed, Says IMF (WSJ) The euro zone needs to quickly set up a mechanism that allows it to directly recapitalize weak banks, "in order to break the negative feedback loop that we have between banks and sovereigns," IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said after a meeting with the bloc's finance ministers in Luxembourg. Ms. Lagarde also called for "creative and inventive" measures from the European Central Bank, suggesting that the bank could restart its bond-buying program to keep struggling countries' funding costs in check or further cut already-low interest rates. Einhorn Enters $1 Million Buy-In Poker Tournament For Charity (Bloomberg) Einhorn, who finished 18th in the World Series of Poker’s main event in 2006, is among at least 42 entrants for the July 1-3 charity event in Las Vegas, known as the Big One for One Drop. Angry Moms Take On Nutella (Bloomberg) Laura Rude-Barbato, a coffee shop owner in Imperial Beach, California, used to feed her children Nutella several times a week [because she for some reason didn't realize that a chocolate spread might be filled with sugar]. It was easy to identify with the advertising that depicted a frenzied mom serving up the chocolate-hazelnut spread with the tagline “breakfast never tasted this good,” said Rude-Barbato. Then she noticed the 10.5 grams of sugar per tablespoon. “I had no idea,” she says. “I might as well have been giving my kids a brownie for breakfast.” Rude-Barbato kicked the Nutella habit, then joined a class action lawsuit in a federal court in California that claimed Ferrero SpA’s U.S. unit misled consumers via labeling and marketing into thinking Nutella was healthy.