Opening Bell: 04.07.14

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Fallout From High-Frequency Trading Hits Brokerages (WSJ)
Shares of E*Trade Financial Corp., Charles Schwab Corp. and TD Ameritrade Holding Corp. tumbled last week amid concerns that regulators would ban a practice that allows brokerages to collect hundreds of millions of dollars a year in revenue by selling orders to middlemen who use high-frequency strategies to trade with the brokers' customers.

Pimco's problems grow as pension funds take fright (FT)
One of the first investors in Pimco's $232 billion Total Return fund has begun looking for an alternative fixed income manager as concerns over the world's biggest bond house escalate. The Orange County Employees Retirement System, situated just 12 miles from Pimco's headquarters in California, has instructed an investment consultant to search for an "additional" domestic fixed income portfolio manager. The $11.5 billion pension scheme has invested in Pimco chief executive Bill Gross's Total Return strategy since 1982, but it has put the fund on watch due to "organisational and personnel issues" at the company.

BlackRock Reshuffles Management (WSJ)
BlackRock Inc. took a big step toward picking a successor to co-founder and Chief Executive Laurence D. Fink on Sunday, announcing a reshuffling of the management ranks that will elevate a number of executives to prominent roles at the world's largest asset-management firm. In a call with employees Sunday afternoon, Mr. Fink and President Robert Kapito stressed that Mr. Fink, 61 years old, would remain with the firm for years to come. But the New York firm laid out its most sweeping managerial overhaul in years. Among other moves, it added a new co-president and tapped a new chief operating officer, while promoting a number of other executives, including its company heads in Asia and New York. Mr. Kapito, 57, long has been seen as the heir apparent to Mr. Fink, and the moves are seen as strengthening that position, according to people at the company. He has been president of the firm since 2007...Among the biggest moves, the firm promoted Charlie Hallac, the New York-based company's chief operating officer, to the new position of co-president alongside Mr. Kapito, who will remain in that role.

The Best Dirt From 15 Central Park West (NYM)
Billionaires Carl Icahn and Daniel Loeb allegedly tussled over a $45 million apartment; Loeb won by not blinking at the astronomical price. Icahn supposedly offered half the asking, a story he dismisses, saying he only wanted one of two units that could be combined: "There was no hondling," Icahn is quoted in the book. "Bullshit." ("Page Six" reports that Loeb was upset that Gross and his book are being feted at the building via a party hosted by political cartoonist and resident Ranan Lurie and his wife, Tamar; it's still scheduled to take place as of this writing.)

Legendary Man U coach headed to Harvard Business School (NYP)
Alex Ferguson, the legendary British soccer manager for Manchester United who is famous for his volcanic temper, is bringing his coaching techniques to Harvard Business School. Ferguson, who retired from managing ManU last year, will teach in Harvard’s executive-education program, the school said this week. Ferguson, 72, is the most successful manager in British soccer and was knighted in 1999.

Australian groom banned from getting married after showing up drunk (NYDN)
Jake Francis Brookes, 41, was reportedly still drunk from his bachelor party when he rocked up at Exeter Uniting Church in Adelaide in February. Witnesses said he was swaying, bruised and sporting torn clothes. It led Reverend Ian Hunter to refuse to proceed with the ceremony because it was "unethical." This resulted in a "minor altercation" between Brookes and Hunter - which ended after cops were called, according to the Adelaide Advertiser. Brookes was then arrested and charged with disorderly behaviour and resisting arrest - while his wife-to-be decided to cut her losses and end the relationship. He appeared in Port Adelaide Magistrates Court for a preliminary hearing on Thursday. Afterwards, he told reporters outside: "I miss her to bits - she is always in my heart." "She wants me to be the best I can possibly be...I had my bucks night the night before bro, I mean come on, we are all men here," he added.

Credit Suisse Is Said to Be Facing Double-Barreled Inquiries (Dealbook)
The biggest danger to Credit Suisse, suspected of sheltering billions of dollars for American clients who evaded taxes, comes from federal prosecutors. While the Justice Department has considered a so-called deferred-prosecution agreement that would suspend any indictment in exchange for a large cash penalty and other concessions, it is also pushing for a guilty plea from a Credit Suisse subsidiary, people briefed on the case said, a punishment in some ways harsher that banks generally avoid in all but the gravest cases. The cash penalty, the people said, is expected to exceed the $780 million that Switzerland’s largest bank, UBS, paid to resolve a similar case in 2009.

More Investors Are Drawn to Dividends (WSJ)
The shift from last year, when so-called growth stocks were in favor, reflects rising concern that corporate earnings are running out of gas and the economic recovery will be stuck in low gear. Few investors expect the market to deliver the gains seen last year, when the S&P 500 returned 32% including dividends.

Singapore Urges Companies to Exploit China Consumer Boom (Bloomberg)
Singapore is encouraging companies to expand in China to tap rising consumption in the world’s second-largest economy as President Xi Jinping sustains efforts to reduce his country’s reliance on investment and exports.

Hedge Funds Get Gold Timing Wrong on Rebound (Bloomberg)
Hedge funds and other speculators misjudged gold prices for a second time in three weeks. Just after the investors sold bullion holdings for a second consecutive week, a disappointing U.S. jobs report sparked the biggest rally in prices since mid-March. Their funds fared better in the five preceding weeks, correctly adjusting wagers 80 percent of the time.

George W. Bush: Vladimir Putin ‘dissed’ Barney the dog (Politico)
Former President George W. Bush [unveiled] a new painting exhibit Saturday that features some of his renderings of the world leaders he worked with during his time in office, including Russian President Vladimir Putin. “Vladimir Putin, yeah, I met with him a lot during the presidency,” Bush said as he described the painting during an interview with his daughter, Jenna Bush Hager, for NBC’s “Today” show. “I got to know him very well. I had a good relationship throughout, it became more tense as time went on.” Previewing the never-before-seen works, including by the leaders depicted themselves, Bush said the paintings reflect his relationships with the leaders. “Vladimir’s a person who in many ways views the U.S. as an enemy,” Bush said. “And although he wouldn’t say that, I felt that he viewed the world as either the U.S. benefits and Russia loses or vice-versa. I tried of course to dispel him of that notion.” Bush said he learned some of Putin’s character when he introduced the Russian leader to another one of his favorite painting subjects: his dog Barney. “Our dear dog Barney, who has a special spot in my heart. I introduced him to Putin: Putin kind of dissed him,” Bush told his daughter. “‘You call that a dog?’ A year later, your mom and I go to visit Vladimir at his Dacha outside of Moscow and he says, ‘Would you like to meet my dog?’ Out bounds this huge hound, obviously much bigger than a Scottish Terrier. And Putin looks at me and says, ‘Bigger, stronger and faster than Barney.’” The 43rd president said the encounter gave him plenty of inspiration for the Putin portrait. “I took it in. I didn’t react,” Bush said. “I said, ‘Wow, anybody who thinks "my dog is bigger than your dog" is an interesting character.' And the painting kind of reflects that.”

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Opening Bell: 03.11.13

EU Chiefs Seeking to Stave Off Euro Crisis Turn to Cyprus (Bloomberg) European leaders grappling with political deadlock in Italy and spiraling unemployment in France will turn to a financial rescue for Cyprus in an effort to stave off a return of market turmoil over the debt crisis. European Union leaders will meet for a March 14-15 summit in Brussels to discuss terms for Cyprus, including the island nation’s debt sustainability and possibly imposing losses on depositors. That comes as Italy struggles to form a government after an inconclusive Feb. 24-25 election and as concern over the French economy mounts with unemployment at a 13-year high. Spain's Bailout Fund Said to Seek Help on Bank Strategy (WSJ) Spain's bank bailout fund is seeking to hire advisers to help shape a long-term strategy for dealing with its portfolio of nationalized lenders, a week after calling off an auction of one of the most troubled banks. People briefed about the plan said the fund, known by its Spanish acronym FROB, will make contact with strategic consultants, and possibly with investment banks, once the plan has been approved by the FROB's board of directors. Is There Life After Work? By Erin Callan (NYT) "I didn’t start out with the goal of devoting all of myself to my job. It crept in over time. Each year that went by, slight modifications became the new normal. First I spent a half-hour on Sunday organizing my e-mail, to-do list and calendar to make Monday morning easier. Then I was working a few hours on Sunday, then all day. My boundaries slipped away until work was all that was left...I have often wondered whether I would have been asked to be C.F.O. if I had not worked the way that I did. Until recently, I thought my singular focus on my career was the most powerful ingredient in my success. But I am beginning to realize that I sold myself short. I was talented, intelligent and energetic. It didn’t have to be so extreme. Besides, there were diminishing returns to that kind of labor. I didn’t have to be on my BlackBerry from my first moment in the morning to my last moment at night. I didn’t have to eat the majority of my meals at my desk. I didn’t have to fly overnight to a meeting in Europe on my birthday. I now believe that I could have made it to a similar place with at least some better version of a personal life. Not without sacrifice — I don’t think I could have “had it all” — but with somewhat more harmony. I have also wondered where I would be today if Lehman Brothers hadn’t collapsed. In 2007, I did start to have my doubts about the way I was living my life. Or not really living it. But I felt locked in to my career. I had just been asked to be C.F.O. I had a responsibility. Without the crisis, I may never have been strong enough to step away. Perhaps I needed what felt at the time like some of the worst experiences in my life to come to a place where I could be grateful for the life I had. I had to learn to begin to appreciate what was left. At the end of the day, that is the best guidance I can give. Whatever valuable advice I have about managing a career, I am only now learning how to manage a life." Paper Trail Goes Cold in Case Against S&P (Reuters) In early 2007, as signs of distress began appearing in securities backed by residential mortgages, executives at Standard & Poor's began advising analysts responsible for rating mortgage bonds that they should put the phrase "privileged and confidential" on emails to one another. Analysts working for the McGraw Hill Cos division also were discouraged from doodling on notepads and official documents during meetings to discuss pending deals and existing ratings, several former S&P employees said. That was not the first time S&P had tried to caution employees about paper trails. In 2005, a full two years before the housing market began to melt down, several top S&P managers attended an off-site meeting at hotel in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, to discuss ways to increase the fees it collected from Wall Street banks for rating mortgage bonds. A former S&P executive said that after the meeting, employees were instructed to discard any notes they had taken from the meeting. InTrade Shuts Down (WSJ) InTrade, the Ireland-based website that allows users to place wagers on non-sports-related upcoming events, announced on Sunday that it is shutting its site down. In an official statement, the company does not go into great detail as to why it is closing its doors, only that it is related to “financial irregularities which, in accordance with Irish law,” require InTrade to cease operations until resolved. “At this time and until further notice, it is not possible to make any payments to members in accordance with their settled account balance until the investigations have concluded,” the company said. Commodities Squeeze Banks (WSJ) The sharp fall in commodity revenue has already claimed some victims. UBS AG, the Swiss bank that has been under pressure to cut costs and improve its performance, last year closed all its commodities-trading desks aside from those dealing in precious metals. Goldman, UBS, Deutsche Bank, and Barclays have all suffered departures of senior commodity traders to hedge funds and independent trading companies over the last several months. Average staffing in commodities trading declined 5.9% last year at major banks, according to Coalition. Artist Teaches George W. Bush How To Paint (Fox5) An artist in Cumming, GA spent a month teaching former President George W. Bush how to paint. Bonnie Flood said that President Bush has a passion for painting and shows real potential as an artists. "He started off painting dogs. I think he said he painted 50 dogs," Flood said. "He pulled out this canvas and started painting dogs and I thought, 'Oh my God, I don't paint dogs!" Flood, who does most of paintings at her home in Cumming, occasionally conducts workshops in Florida. That's where the former President heard about her. The next thing she knew, she was packing up her paints to spend a month in Boca Grande with President Bush. She said that she spent about six hours a day with the President, mixing paints and teaching him proper brush strokes. She says she wasn't intimidated but admits she really didn't know what to call him until she found the magic number. "I called him '43' because that's the way he signed his paintings. "When I really wanted him to do something, I would say, 'Mr. President you know that you don't do it that way.'" She says the President learned quickly and soon started painting fewer dogs and more landscapes. "He has such a passion for painting, it's amazing," Flood said. "He's going to go down in the history books as a great artist." Hostess Creditor, Private-Equity Firms Show Interest in Twinkies Brand (Reuters) Hostess Brands creditor Silver Point Capital and hedge fund Hurst Capital have expressed interest in buying Hostess's snack cake brands, including Twinkies, the New York Post reported. Paulson Said to Explore Puerto Rico as Home With Low Tax (Bloomberg) John Paulson, a lifelong New Yorker, is exploring a move to Puerto Rico, where a new law would eliminate taxes on gains from the $9.5 billion he has invested in his own hedge funds, according to four people who have spoken to him about a possible relocation. More US Profits Parked Abroad (WSJ) A Wall Street Journal analysis of 60 big U.S. companies found that, together, they parked a total of $166 billion offshore last year. That shielded more than 40% of their annual profits from U.S. taxes, though it left the money off-limits for paying dividends, buying back shares or making investments in the U.S. The 60 companies were chosen for the analysis because each of them had held at least $5 billion offshore in 2011. Twitter, Social Media Are Fertile Ground For Stock Hoaxes (Reuters) "Twitter pump and dump schemes are obviously something for the market to be concerned about, even if they are just a new way for people to do schemes that have been done forever," said Keith McCullough, chief executive officer at Hedgeye Risk Management in New Haven, Connecticut. He uses Twitter and has more than 22,000 followers. In such hoaxes, anonymous users set up accounts with names that sound like prominent market players, issue negative commentary, and spark massive declines. The selling that follows shows how the rapid spread of information on social media can make for volatile trading, and is a warning to investors who trade on news before fully verifying the source. SEC: Goldman Cannot Ignore Proposal to Split Chairman, CEO Roles (Reuters) SEC staff sent a letter to Goldman internal counsel Beverly O'Toole this week, saying the agency is "unable to concur" with Goldman's view that the shareholder proposal does not warrant a vote. El Paso Sheriff's deputies arrest 2 ice cream men for possession of pot (EPT) Saturday afternoon, Sheriff's deputies spotted a purple ice cream truck with a cracked windshield and an expired registration sticker along the 8600 block of Alameda. During the traffic stop, one of the occupants left the vehicle and led deputies on a brief foot pursuit before being caught. Two tupperware bowls containing a green leafy substance, believed to be marijuana, was found on the man, who was identified as 19-year-old Elijah Sanchez. The second occupant, identified as 29-year-old Anthony Arellano, was also charged with possession of marijuana after deputies found marijuana inside the vehicle. Arellano has been arrested in the past for numerous felony charges and a previous possession of marijuana charge in 2006, deputies said.

(Getty Images)

Opening Bell: 12.8.16

Marc Andreessen in hot water; Glencore a hot commodity; canine football instruction; and more.

Goldman_Sachs-china

Opening Bell: 11.6.17

Goldman goes east; Saudi prince's arrest impacts Citi, Twitter investments; Wilbur Ross has a Putin problem; William Dudley to retire; and more.

Opening Bell: 09.07.12

Bondholders Put On Speed Dial (WSJ) At Wall Street giants Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, the quarterly earnings calls for stock analysts tend to get most of the attention. But another kind of call, this one for bondholders, is moving to the fore. The New York securities firms this summer for the first time held conference calls targeting fixed-income investors. Morgan Stanley and Goldman are seeking out new buyers for their debt in an effort to lower interest rates that are now higher than what industrial companies pay. Investors Expect Libor To Be Replaced Within Five Years (Bloomberg) Forty-four percent of those responding to a quarterly Bloomberg Global Poll said the London interbank offered rate, known as Libor, will be supplanted by a more regulated model within five years. Thirty-four percent predicted the rate will continue to be set by banks in the current fashion, while 22 percent said they didn’t know. Greek Decline Sharper Than Expected (WSJ) So that's not good. Jobless Greeks Resolved to Work Clean Toilets in Sweden (Bloomberg) As a pharmaceutical salesman in Greece for 17 years, Tilemachos Karachalios wore a suit, drove a company car and had an expense account. He now mops schools in Sweden, forced from his home by Greece’s economic crisis. “It was a very good job,” said Karachalios, 40, of his former life. “Now I clean Swedish s---.” Karachalios, who left behind his six-year-old daughter to be raised by his parents, is one of thousands fleeing Greece’s record 24 percent unemployment and austerity measures that threaten to undermine growth. The number of Greeks seeking permission to settle in Sweden, where there are more jobs and a stable economy, almost doubled to 1,093 last year from 2010, and is on pace to increase again this year. “I’m trying to survive,” Karachalios said in an interview in Stockholm. “It’s difficult here, very difficult. I would prefer to stay in Greece. But we don’t have jobs.” Private Equity Tests Pension Funds Patience (WSJ) A new report by a consultant to the California State Teachers' Retirement System, or Calstrs, shows that returns from large U.S. buyout funds are lagging behind many of the pension's internal benchmarks. Vladimir Putin Muses On The Benefits Of Group Sex (Telegraph) President Vladimir Putin of Russia has mused that group sex is better than one-on-one intercourse because participants can take a break. Mr. Putin made the observation on Thursday in his first interview since his inauguration in May, with the Kremlin-controlled, English-language RT television channel. “Some fans of group sex say that it’s better than one-on-one because, as with any collective work, you can skive off,” he said. The comment came after the Russian leader had spoken about an orgy that was staged in Moscow’s state biology museum in 2008 which involved Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, one of three feminist activists of the P*ssy Riot group who were jailed for two years for hooliganism last month after a politically charged trial. Falcone Facing Double Trouble (Bloomberg) A group of LightSquared Inc.’s lenders said they oppose extending Philip Falcone’s control of the wireless broadband venture because his strategy to revive the bankrupt company is too risky. LightSquared, which filed for bankruptcy in May, has asked US Bankruptcy Judge Shelley Chapman for a 150-day extension of its exclusive right to control the bankruptcy case. The lenders, who say they own about $1.1 billion of the $1.7 billion in secured debt of the company’s LP unit, objected in a filing yesterday. “Having nothing to lose, Mr. Falcone wants to pursue a high-risk, high-return strategy” of trying to get regulators to reverse their stance on LightSquared’s technology, the lenders said. Nasdaq-100 to Facebook’s rescue (NYP) Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who has seen his company’s shares get beaten down to less than half their IPO value, may soon get some relief. And ironically, that help will be coming from Nasdaq, the exchange that botched Facebook’s initial public offering back in May. Nasdaq is expected to add Facebook shares to the Nasdaq-100 index, which includes its biggest non-financial companies. The move, which could happen as early as late December after Nasdaq in October re-calibrates the index, should add some stability to Facebook shares. “It’s fair to say that there will be an additional level of liquidity in [Facebook] because of its inclusion in the [Nasdaq-100],” said Adam Sussman, partner at The Tabb Group. UBS, Goldman Join Chorus Of Gloom On China (WSJ) One after the other, many of the largest global banks are cutting their growth forecasts for the world’s second-biggest economy. The downgrades are likely to intensify investors’ concerns about fallout in the rest of Asia, whose exports have taken a kicking from the euro-zone debt crisis and anemic U.S. recovery, while domestic growth also slows. Munich May Not Have Enough Beer for Oktoberfest (CNBC) Beer brewers in Munich may not be able to supply enough beer for the annual Oktoberfest beer festival, local newspaper Munich TZ reported, but the problem is not a lack of the alcoholic beverage. nstead, Heiner Müller, manager at the Paulaner and Hacker-Pschorr brewery told TZ, brewers do not have enough bottles to supply the festival. He called on drinkers to return their empties. "Dear Munichers — bring back your crates. We need our empties,” Müller said...Every summer brewers deal with a shortage of bottles, but it never has been as bad as this year, a spokesman for Hofbräu brewery, which is also suffering from a shortage of bottles, said. He claimed the brewer was short of “tens of thousands” of bottles.

Opening Bell: 12.18.15

Hedge fund carnage; More Martin Shkreli; Dominique Strauss-Kahn has a 5 year-old love child; Large snake takes weekend ride on MTA bus; and more.