Opening Bell: 04.16.14

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Credit Suisse Net Falls on Lower Investment Bank Profit (Bloomberg)
Net income decreased to 859 million francs ($976 million) from 1.3 billion francs in the year-earlier quarter, the Zurich-based company said in a statement today. Credit Suisse tumbled in Swiss trading after earnings missed the 1.09 billion-franc estimate of seven analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

Mt. Gox Files for Liquidation (WSJ)
Defunct bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox has given up its plan to rebuild under bankruptcy protection and has asked a Tokyo court to allow it to be liquidated, people familiar with the situation said. These people cited as reasons the complexity of the procedure—including the difficulty of holding meetings with creditors spread around the world—as well as the lack of realistic rehabilitation plans for the Tokyo-based exchange. Mt. Gox, at one point the world's busiest bitcoin exchange, collapsed in February and said as it filed for bankruptcy protection in Tokyo on Feb. 28 that it had lost 850,000 bitcoin worth around half a billion dollars. Since then, about 200,000 bitcoin have been recovered and are part of the exchange's assets.

Goldman Moves To Energize Stock Trading (WSJ)
Under pressure from unhappy clients and losing market share to rivals, Goldman Sachs Group is trying to jump-start its stock-trading business. At recent trading conferences with top clients, including Fidelity Investments and BlackRock Inc., and in private conversations, investors have vented their concerns with the way Goldman and other firms trade stocks, people familiar with the matter said. Amid the mounting frustration, Goldman has sought to take a more public role in the debate over the market's future. The firm has encouraged employees to stress to clients its views on market mechanics, and in March the firm's president wrote an opinion piece about those ideas in The Wall Street Journal. Goldman's effort also has included discussions over the future of its Sigma X private stock-trading venue. The Journal reported April 8 that Goldman was considering shutting it down.

Fed should beef up low-rate vows, two officials say (Reuters)
"If you commit to keeping rates low even as the recovery is proceeding, even as we continue to recover, I think people have a sense, the Fed has the recovery's back," Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank President Narayana Kocherlakota said at North Dakota State University. "And that's the message that I think we need to do a better job of promoting."

Keep Steve Jobs' personality out of trial - tech companies (Reuters)
Witnesses at an upcoming trial over no-hire agreements in Silicon Valley should not be allowed to offer evidence that Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was "a bully," four major tech companies argued in a court filing. Tech workers filed a class action lawsuit against Apple Inc, Google Inc, Intel Inc and Adobe Systems Inc in 2011, alleging they conspired to avoid competing for each other's employees in order to avert a salary war. Trial is scheduled to begin at the end of May on behalf of roughly 60,000 workers in the class, and defendants say damages could exceed $9 billion. The case, which is closely watched in Silicon Valley, is largely built on emails among top executives, including late Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt. For instance, after a Google recruiter solicited an Apple employee, Schmidt told Jobs that the recruiter would be fired, court documents show. Jobs then forwarded Schmidt's note to a top Apple human resources executive with a smiley face. In a joint court filing late last week, the companies told U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California that they were not seeking to bar Jobs' interactions with other witnesses about the no-hire agreements. However, opinions based on other evidence, like Walter Isaacson's bestselling biography about Jobs, should be kept out of trial.

Mobile brothel catches fire at German motorway rest stop (DM)
Police and around 35 fire fighters were called to the scene after the mobile home burst into flames at the lay-by near Horneburg, Germany. The female brothel owner parked up at the site as it was a convenient spot for her to offer erotic services to clients. According to the police, these were mainly lorry drivers or car drivers who were travelling along the B73 motorway near the region of Horneburg, southwest of the city of Hamburg in Lower Saxony. The 32-year-old brothel owner known as 'Lady Jane' was fortunately conducting business with a truck driver in his cab when her 'Love-Mobil', which had included a bed and various erotic aids, caught fire.

Italian Banks Seen Selling About $69 Billion of Bad Loans (Bloomberg)
Italian banks are sitting on 160 billion euros of non-performing loans, a figure that will swell to 200 billion euros in the next two years as Italy emerges from recession, according to Riccardo Serrini, chief executive officer of Prelios Credit Servicing SpA, a unit of Milan-based Prelios.

Alibaba Flexes Muscles Before IPO (WSJ)
...with the latest results, Alibaba's expected stock sale could value the company "well in excess" of $150 billion, Bernstein Research analyst Carlos Kirjner said, likely vaulting Alibaba into the top 10 technology companies in the world by stock-market value.

Maserati Said to Weigh New Sports Car After Orders Triple (Bloomberg)
Maserati will probably increase production and add the Alfieri sports car to its lineup after advance sales at the upscale Italian brand have almost tripled over 2013’s deliveries, people familiar with the matter said. The maker of Ghibli and Quattroporte sedans is getting 3,500 orders monthly, Harald Wester, who runs the brand, said in an interview. That would amount to 42,000 cars in 2014, compared with the 15,400 sold last year.

RBC to Close Proprietary-Trading Desk (WSJ)
RBC, Canada's second-largest bank by assets, plans to spin off its New York-based Global Arbitrage and Trading arm into a stand-alone hedge fund as soon as the end of this year, according to people familiar with the matter. The bank will likely be an investor in the fund but not an owner so it complies with the so-called Volcker rule governing risk-taking by major financial institutions, one of the people said.

Girl’s USC rejection letter turns out to be prom proposal (WCSC)
A girl who was recently accepted at the University of South Carolina got a second shocking letter telling her that her she was instead rejected by the college. The letter to Caitlyn Metzker that arrived with official-looking USC letterhead and envelope, said, "Unfortunately, it is clear that your grades are not what they were when we accepted you." The story of the letter was spotlighted Friday by Carson Daly during “What’s Trending” on the Today show. The letter goes on, in very convincing, official-sounding language to tell Metzker that there is concern about her senior year performance. The letter concludes by saying, “It saddens us to say that your admission is in jeopardy, and we may have to pull our admission from you due to your poor school ethic and attendance. However if you were to just agree to go to prom with your boyfriend we could reconsider letting you continue to be a South Carolina Gamecock. So what do you say, will you go to prom with me?”

Related

Opening Bell: 06.21.12

SEC Said To Depose SAC’s Cohen In Insider-Trading Probe (Bloomberg) Cohen, 56, was recently deposed by Securities and Exchange Commission investigators in New York about trades made close to news such as mergers and earnings that generated profits at his hedge fund, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the investigation isn’t public. Neither Cohen nor SAC Capital, which oversees about $14 billion, has been accused of wrongdoing. Four-Week Jobless Claims Average Reaches 2012 High (Reuters) Initial claims for state unemployment benefits slipped 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 387,000, the Labor Department said. The prior week's figure was revised up to 389,000 from the previously reported 386,000. Lawmakers Call For IPO Overhaul (WSJ) A bipartisan group of lawmakers called on regulators to overhaul the way initial public offerings are conducted, concerned that last month's flubbed stock sale by Facebook shows the current system unfairly punishes small investors. In a letter to Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Schapiro, Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.) prodded the agency to revamp rules for pricing and disclosure in IPOs. Mr. Issa, who wrote the letter on behalf of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said the social-networking company's steep share-price decline since its May 18 offering is a sign that investment banks are able to "dictate pricing while only indirectly considering market supply-and-demand." Separately, the Democratic chairman of a subcommittee of the Senate Banking Committee said regulatory changes are needed to bolster investor confidence sapped by Facebook's botched debut. Facebook’s 22% Rally Helps Stock Avoid Worst IPO Return In U.S. (Bloomberg) So that's something! Riskier Bets Pitched To Asia's Rising Rich (WSJ) In Japan, brokers are dangling what they claim is a tasty product in front of wealthy investors: a "triple-decker" that uses options to squeeze higher returns from stocks, "junk" bonds or other assets. If a triple-decker doesn't suit an investor's fancy, there is the increasingly popular—and slightly less complex—"double-decker." Elsewhere in Asia, so-called hybrid bonds and other high-yield varieties can be had. Investors in Singapore recently could buy so-called perpetual bonds through ATMs. Across Asia, brokers are pushing to sell increasingly complex products to the region's expanding ranks of investors, especially wealthy ones. These types of products appeal to those hungry for yield who normally focus on stocks and real estate but are worried about falling equity markets and the sudden shortage of initial public offerings. BlueMountain Said To Help Unwind JPMorgan’s Whale Trades (Bloomberg) A hedge fund run by a former JPMorgan Chase executive who helped create the credit- derivatives market is aiding the lender as it unwinds trades in an index at the heart of a loss of more than $2 billion. BlueMountain Capital Management LLC, co-founded by Andrew Feldstein, has been compiling trades in Series 9 of the Markit CDX North America Investment Grade Index in recent weeks, then selling the positions to the New York-based bank, according to three people outside the firms who are familiar with the strategy. JPMorgan tapped BlueMountain as a middleman after trades in its London chief investment office grew so large that the bank was creating price distortions that hedge funds sought to exploit, said the market participants, who asked not to be identified because they weren’t authorized to discuss the trades. BlueMountain was one of the funds that benefited from the price dislocations, the people said. US Olympic committee send cease and desist letter to knitting Olympics (TNT) The US Olympic committee has sent a cease and desist letter to the social networking group Ravelry, who had organised a Ravelympics in which contestants would compete in events such as ‘scarf hockey’ while watching the actual Games on TV...The US Olympic Committee has said that “the athletes of Team USA have spent the better part of the entire lives training for the opportunity to compete at the Olympic Games and represent their country in a sport that means everything to them” and that “using the name ‘Ravelympics’ for a competition that involves an afghan marathon and sweater triathlon tends to denigrate the true nature of the Olympic Games”. Romney Campaign Said To Ask Scott To Downplay Job Gains (Bloomberg) Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign asked Florida Governor Rick Scott to tone down his statements heralding improvements in the state’s economy because they clash with the presumptive Republican nominee’s message that the nation is suffering under President Barack Obama, according to two people familiar with the matter. Scott, a Republican, was asked to say that the state’s jobless rate could improve faster under a Romney presidency, according to the people, who asked not to be named. Lonely Hedge Fund Bullish On Greece Tries To Woo Investors (Bloomberg) In March, Elliott met with the investment chief of a family office in London who said within seconds of sitting down that the firm had no interest in giving money to a hedge fund wagering on Greece. The executive merely wanted to hear his story, Elliott, the founder of Naftilia Asset Management Ltd., said in a telephone interview from his office in Athens. Elliott, 39, responded by asking a few questions of his own, including whether the executive had invested in Russia after its 1998 currency crisis, in Argentina 10 years ago after the nation defaulted on its debt or in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (SPX) in March 2009, when the benchmark plunged to its lowest point in 13 years. Finally, Elliott questioned whether the family office’s investment chief had ever bought shares of Apple. In all cases, the answer was no. “Then you are not qualified to be discussing Greece with me because you have missed the best investment opportunities over the past 20 years,” Elliott retorted. National Bank Of Greece To Sell Luxury Resort As Slump Bites (Bloomberg) If you know anyone who's interested: The 3.3 million-square-foot (307,000 square-meter) Astir Palace complex has already drawn investors’ interest, according to Aristotelis Karytinos, general manager of real estate at the lender. The Athens-based bank and Greece’s privatization fund, which owns part of the property, will put out a public tender in coming months, he said. Fed Warns Of Risk To Economy (WSJ) Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke made clear in a news conference after the policy makers' meeting that he is prepared to take further action if he doesn't see progress on bringing down unemployment, which was 8.2% in May. "I wouldn't accept the proposition though that the Fed has no more ammunition," Mr. Bernanke said. He added, "if we don't see continued improvement in the labor market we'll be prepared to take additional steps." Australian mega-brothel gets go-ahead (AP) A Sydney brothel has received the green light for a multi-million-dollar expansion which will see it become Australia's largest sex premises, with rooms featuring multiple beds and pool tables. Plans to double the number of rooms at inner Sydney's "Stiletto" into a mega-brothel complex were knocked back late last year by the city council on the grounds that it was too big. But the owners won an appeal to the Land and Environment Court this week, with Commissioner Susan O'Neill ruling the Aus$12 million ($12.2 million) development, including a wing for group bookings, should go ahead...Stiletto promotes itself as "the world's finest short-stay boutique hotel and Sydney brothel". Its standard hourly rate of Aus$370 includes room, lady of choice and beverages.

Opening Bell: 07.25.12

Sandy Weill: Break Up The Big Banks (CNBC) “What we should probably do is go and split up investment banking from banking, have banks be deposit takers, have banks make commercial loans and real estate loans, have banks do something that’s not going to risk the taxpayer dollars, that’s not too big to fail,” Weill told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” He added: “If they want to hedge what they’re doing with their investments, let them do it in a way that’s going to be market-to-market so they’re never going to be hit.” Bank Of England Spotted Risks At JPMorgan (WSJ) More than a year before JPMorgan racked up billions of dollars in losses from bad trades in its London investment office, Bank of England officials raised concerns internally about potential risks arising from some of the office's activities, but didn't formally alert other regulators, according to people involved in the central bank's talks. In late 2010, employees at the central bank worried that the London arm of J.P. Morgan's Chief Investment Office had come to dominate some important corners of the city's financial markets—including residential mortgage-backed securities—and they were concerned about the potential impact that could have on the stability of U.K. markets, these people said. The concerns were relayed to a top central-bank oficial. But the Bank of England doesn't appear to have acted on the concerns or flagged them to regulators responsible for supervising J.P. Morgan. Private-equity bigs: no proof of bid-rigging (NYP) A handful of the country’s wealthiest and most powerful private-equity firms have asked a federal judge to toss an explosive investor lawsuit that claims the group conspired to rig the bids on $270 billion in deals over four years. The firms — including KKR, Bain Capital, Blackstone Group and Apollo Global Management — agreed not to bid on specific deals headed by a rival, thus fraudulently depressing the value of the deal. As a result, investors in those publicly-traded companies were short-changed. The group of 11 financial giants named in the suit, including Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase, claim there is no evidence of a vast bid-rigging conspiracy. New York Fed Faces Questions Over Policing Wall Street (Dealbook) In recent years, the New York Fed has beefed up oversight. Under the president, William C. Dudley, the regulator has increased the expertise of its examiners and hired new senior officials. Even so, the JPMorgan debacle and the interest-rate investigation have raised questions about the New York Fed. They highlight how the regulator is hampered by its lack of enforcement authority and dogged by concerns that it is overly cozy with the banks. Fed Moves Closer To Action (WSJ) Amid the recent wave of disappointing economic news, conversation inside the Fed has turned more intensely toward the questions of how and when to move. Central bank officials could take new steps at their meeting next week, July 31 and Aug. 1, though they might wait until their September meeting to accumulate more information on the pace of growth and job gains before deciding whether to act. Sidekick of Soccer Mom Madam to court: It's not prostitution if you just pay to watch (NYDN) Jaynie Mae Baker, the woman busted with accused Manhattan brothel operator Anna Gristina, revealed in court papers filed Tuesday that the undercover cop who arrested her watched two women have sex but didn’t participate in any. Baker’s lawyer, Robert Gottlieb, says the only recorded conversation in evidence that includes Baker took place July 19, 2011, at a Manhattan restaurant where his client, Gristina and the cop had lunch. The cop tells Baker and Gristina he is “looking for a little adventure" and to “please corrupt me," but there's no talk of arranging payment, Gottlieb says in the filing. Six days later in the sting operation, the cop is secretly videotaped in a room with two other women at Gristina's alleged brothel on E. 78th St., but he does not participate in the sex. “The undercover officer apparently remains fully clothed and merely observed the two women perform for him,” Gottlieb writes...Gottlieb says there “was not a scintilla of evidence that was produced ... establishing Ms. Baker’s involvement in arranging payment in exchange for any kind of sexual activity.” What occurred not prostitution because the undercover cop was not a participant, Gottlieb says. If watching is prostitution, then every strip club and porno director is guilty, too, he said. Germans React Coolly To Moody's Warning (WSJ) Wolf Klinz, a German member of the European Parliament from the pro-business Free Democrats, Ms. Merkel's junior coalition partner, said he doesn't dispute Moody's conclusions about Germany's risks, but rather the timing of the announcement. "There are no hard facts yet" about Germany's ultimate price tag, Mr. Klinz said. "Why come out with this right now? It may have political implications" even if that wasn't the intention, he said. Preet hit with suit by law student (NYP) Second-year law student Benula Bensam sued Bharara, along with the US Marshals Service and the Justice Department, in Manhattan federal court for “unreasonable search and seizure” after the marshals took her cell phone away during the trial of ex-Goldman Sachs director Rajat Gupta. The 25-year-old Bensam, who is representing herself, said the marshals kept her phone overnight after she refused to answer their questions about letters she wrote to Judge Jed Rakoff during Gupta’s insider-trading trial. Bensam, who attends law school at Yeshiva University and lives in the Woodside section of Queens, stopped writing Rakoff about the case after he reprimanded her. In the complaint, Bensam said Bharara “may have instigated” her dispute with the marshals. Euro Zone as We Know It Has 2 Years Left: Jim O’Neill (CNBC) “Two years maximum is my perception of the time the euro zone has left to survive in its current form, though the reality is probably far less than that. Markets being markets we’ve unveiled a degree of speed with the Spanish and Italian bond yields and I can’t see us getting through the summer without some serious consequences,” said Jim O’Neill, Chairman at Goldman Sachs Asset Management. Child Treated After Being Bit By Rabid Bat Woman Gave Go-Ahead To Touch (CBS) Even as the summer fun rolls on for JoJo Keefe, a freshly healed cut on the 10-year-old’s finger reminds her of a scary detour. “I was like oh my God it bit me!” She’s talking about a rabid bat that sunk its tiny teeth into her finger last Tuesday during a visit to the Spencer Town Beach on Lake Whittemore. The small bat was attracting quite a bit of attention on the shoreline just beyond the picnic area. The trouble really began when a woman picked it up and began asking the children gathered around her if they wanted to hold it. “Another little girl said ‘oh I want to hold it will it bite me?’ And the lady was like no it’s the friendliest thing ever,” she says...Her mother retrieved the sick animal which then tested positive for rabies. Soon after, JoJo was getting the first in a series of life saving antibiotic shots (you can’t wait with rabies).

Opening Bell: 5.26.16

Dong Energy targets $16 billion IPO valuation; Top UK model agencies accused of price fixing; Cheap bros have found a new way to get out of paying for dates; and more.