Fed Cuts Bond Buys, Sees Growth Pickup (WSJ)
The Federal Reserve said Wednesday it would reduce its bond purchases to $45 billion a month and it was starting to see a growth pickup in recent weeks after a harsh winter that hit the U.S. economy. The Fed is effectively in watch, wait and plan mode. The $10 billion cut in monthly bond purchases, the fourth this year, was widely expected by investors and represents a continuation of the policy strategy laid out in the past few months by Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen, who took over in February, and former Chairman Ben Bernanke.
U.S. Economy Starts Year With a Whimper (WSJ)
Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of goods and services produced across the economy, grew at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 0.1% in the first quarter, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. It marked the second-worst quarterly performance since the recession ended in mid-2009...Harsh weather likely slowed first-quarter business investment and discretionary consumer spending. It could have even blocked exports—which notched their sharpest decline since the recovery began—from reaching ports.
Moguls Winfrey, Geffen, Ellison Weigh Bid for Clippers (Bloomberg)
Winfrey, the former talk-show host turned network owner, is discussing a joint bid for the Clippers with fellow billionaires David Geffen, the ex-music industry executive, and Oracle Corp. Chief Executive Officer Larry Ellison. Earvin “Magic” Johnson, the Hall of Fame basketball player and part owner of baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers, said he was interested. “I will be owning an NBA team at some time,” Johnson said yesterday at the Milken Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California. “It has to be the right situation. Is the Clippers the right situation? Of course, it’s one of the premier franchises. Despite what we think of him, he’s done a good job with the business,” Johnson said of team owner Donald Sterling. “So we’ll just have to see.”
Buffett Pressures Coca-Cola Over Executive Pay (WSJ)
Coca-Cola likely will revise its executive-compensation plan before it goes into effect next year, bowing to pressure from billionaire investor Warren Buffett, according to people familiar with the matter. The potential changes come as a surprise after voting shareholders approved Coke's plan last week—and Mr. Buffett declined to vote against it. Mr. Buffett aired his reservations about the plan privately in recent weeks to Coke Chief Executive Muhtar Kent in three conversations, including at a dinner in Mr. Buffett's hometown of Omaha, Neb., according to some of the people familiar with the matter.
Accounting Group Taps Michael Bloomberg, Mary Schapiro (WSJ)
The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board, which sets voluntary accounting standards for publicly traded companies, is expected to announce the appointments Thursday. Mr. Bloomberg will serve as chair of its board and Ms. Schapiro as vice chair.
Mayor Rob Ford 'ready to take a break' (Toronto Sun)
Mayor Rob Ford says he’s “ready to take a break” from the mayoral election campaign to “go get help.” The decision to immediately step away from the campaign — while staying on the ballot — came after the Toronto Sun exclusively obtained a new raunchy audio recording of Ford ranting and swearing in an Etobicoke bar. The Globe and Mail also published a report that a new video surfaced of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford smoking what has been described as crack-cocaine early Saturday morning. Ford told the Sun columnist Joe Warmington that he realizes “it’s time” and that he “wants” to “deal with his issues.” He said he is being urged to not leave the mayoral race by people around him. The audio recording, covertly taped by a patron of Sullie Gorman’s Monday night, captures the mayor being unruly as he’s ordering booze at the Royal York Rd. bar, complaining about his wife Renata and making lewd comments about mayoral contender Karen Stintz. “I’d like to f-----g jam her (Stintz), but she doesn’t want ... I can’t talk like this...I’m so sorry,” Ford is heard saying on the recording. “I forgot there’s a woman in the house.” According to one witness, Ford was seen buying shooters and tequila and trying to fight with patrons Monday. “He was really wasted,” said the witness. “And he was acting like a real ass.” [...] The mayor said he didn’t recall saying any of the things on the recording, but confirmed he was at Sullie Gorman’s that night. “I wouldn’t say that — I wouldn’t say the word, ‘jam,’ — that’s not my terminology,” he said in a phone interview with Warmington Wednesday afternoon. “I am appalled (at what I said). I’d like to verify this (audio) first. Of course, I’m just joking around. Clearly, that’s what I mean.” [...] Ford is heard using threatening language: “Give me a shot right now or I’ll f-----g break your legs. I want another one.” A few moments later, he says, “If you don’t give me a shot I’m going to knock your f-----g teeth out.”
Funds for Troubled Mortgages Are on the Rise (Dealbook)
Donald R. Mullen Jr., the manager of Goldman Sachs’s subprime mortgage trade during the housing bubble, is raising $1 billion for a fund to be managed by his investment firm, Pretium Partners. Deepak Narula’s Metacapital Management also plans to start a fund to invest in delinquent mortgages, said a person briefed on the matter who was not authorized to speak publicly. Both Mr. Mullen and Mr. Narula are jumping into an increasingly crowded space. The hedge funds Ellington Management Group, One William Street Capital and Angelo, Gordon & Company are either already in the market or planning their own funds. Other institutional investors that are active in the so-called nonperforming loan market include the Blackstone Group, Oaktree Capital and Lone Star Funds.
IMF signs off on $17bn Ukraine package (FT)
The fund will disperse $3.2bn immediately, after its executive board agreed a two-year standby agreement. That will keep the government in Kiev afloat and able to service its debts, including gas debts to Russia.
N.J.’s Christie Used Chopper Almost Every Three Days (Bloomberg)
Flight logs for Christie, a 51-year-old Republican, were released to Bloomberg as a result of a New Jersey Open Public Records Act request. Christie has stepped up his air time even as he imposes municipal budget constraints and insists that public workers must pay higher costs for pensions and benefits. The flights last year compare with 23 in 2010, his first year in office; 66 in 2012; and 70 in 2011, records show. Christie, who took office promising to “tear up the state’s credit card,” was criticized in 2011 after he arrived at his son’s high school baseball game on a State Police helicopter, then re-boarded for a political meeting at the governor’s mansion in Princeton. He and the Republican Party, some of whose fundraisers were courting Christie to run for president in 2012, reimbursed the state for the trips...On Aug. 25, the governor and his friend, the best-selling novelist Harlan Coben, were inducted into the Little League Hall of Excellence in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania. The governor flew to Williamsport Regional Airport aboard a $12.5 million State Police-owned AgustaWestland AW139. The flight log included eight unnamed passengers, and the aircraft was engaged for eight hours, with almost three hours of flight time.
Exclusive: Faulty technology triggered CME trading outage - chairman (Reuters)
The worst-ever trading outage on the world's most important agricultural markets was triggered when sophisticated technology tripped over a trading halt in a single market, the executive chairman of exchange operator CME Group Inc told Reuters. The April 8 outage stopped electronic trading in 31 agricultural markets that influence global prices for food staples such as wheat, corn and pork, and sent a flood of traders into CME's (CME.O) normally deserted open-outcry futures pits to execute transactions. The electronic trading platform handles around 95 percent of the volumes in grain futures on a typical day, and market participants have been in the dark about the cause of the failure, with CME only saying a "technical issue" was to blame.
Mother-of-four sets world record for eating 12lbs of pudding worth...in only 3 minutes (DM)
Nebraska-based Molly Schuyler, 34, a competitive eater with several food guzzling accolades to her name already, smashed the previous world record, which was a paltry 2lbs 15oz of pudding in the same time. The stomach-churning feat was performed on Dish Nation and uploaded to YouTube, and sees the slim brunette consume a whopping 15,120 calories in one sitting - that's the equivalent of over seven days' worth of recommended calorie intake for a woman. In the three minute stunt, which tows the fine like between revolting and riveting, Ms Schuyler crouches eagerly over the enormous glass bowl of creamy pudding and shovels it down her throat with hawk-like concentration and lightning-fast spoon-to-mouth motion. The five hosts behind her observe slack-jawed with disbelief, one repeatedly questioning: 'Is she even breathing?' 'I don’t think she’s swallowing, I think it’s just, like, this natural gravitational pull', observes another...it's far from the first time she has demonstrated her eating prowess for the world to see. She is currently ranked the number one Female Independent Competitive Eater in the world. Other records include demolishing a 12lb sandwich washed down with 1lb of French fries in just under an hour - the only woman to even finish this particular challenge.