Opening Bell: 05.08.14

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World Economy Stabilizes in Great Moderation 2.0 (Bloomberg)
Volatility in growth among the main industrial countries is the lowest since 2007 and half that of the 20 years starting in 1987, according to Bloomberg calculations based on International Monetary Fund data. Investors also are becalmed, with a risk measure that uses options to forecast fluctuations in equities, currencies, commodities and bonds around the weakest level in almost seven years.

Hedge Funds Extend Their Slide (WSJ)
Big stumbles by some star managers drove hedge funds to back-to-back monthly declines for the first time in two years, according to researcher HFR Inc. The lackluster showing—the average hedge fund trailed benchmarks for both stocks and bonds in April—was a blow for an industry that charges more than other fund managers but pitches steady returns in both good times and bad. Hedge funds on average dropped 0.17% in April, HFR said Wednesday, following a 0.33% decline in March. Funds hadn't turned in two consecutive losing months since April and May of 2012, HFR said.

Son Makes $58 Billion on Alibaba With Buffett-Type Return (Bloomberg)
With Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. filing to go public, the biggest winner won’t be founder Jack Ma or his fellow executives or even venture capital backers like Silver Lake Management LLC. It’ll be Japan’s Masayoshi Son. Fourteen years ago, Son’s SoftBank Corp. (9984) started with a $20 million bet on a then-unknown Web portal connecting Chinese manufacturers with overseas buyers. That site evolved into China’s biggest Internet shopping mall and SoftBank’s stake is now estimated to be worth about $58 billion, an exceptional return even by Silicon Valley’s standards. The IPO burnishes Son’s reputation as one of the world’s savviest investors and provides more capital to a man on the hunt for deals. After taking control of the U.S. carrier Sprint Corp. last July, Son made no secret of his interest in T-Mobile US Inc. (TMUS) Analysts say he may also pursue European wireless operators or take another look at music labels, after his $8.5 billion bid for Vivendi SA’s Universal Music Group was rebuffed.

Meet the eccentric founder of Alibaba (NYP)
Ma has been described as an eccentric and a “scrappy fighter” who practices kung fu and other Chinese martial arts. Last year, he opened a tai chi school with Jet Li, the Hong Kong star who starred in “Hero” and other martial arts classics...Ma indicated that he is fretting the trap doors that lie within the US capital markets, and not the other way around. In a letter to employees on Tuesday, Ma warned of “unparalleled ruthlessness … lying behind the massive allure of the capital market.” To combat it, he reminded his employees’ to stick to the company’s principle of “customer first, employee second, shareholder third.”

Seeking Tough Justice, but Settling for Empty Promises (Dealbook)
The Justice Department is talking tough. In an unusually frank video statement, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. proclaimed that he was personally overseeing major financial investigations and that his department was poised to bring charges against several large institutions. The United States attorney in Manhattan, Preet Bharara, gave a rousing speech several weeks ago, declaring that the era of “too big to jail” is over...Despite Mr. Holder’s tough-sounding video appearance, it is clear that prosecutors are twisting themselves into awkward yoga poses to minimize the damage any charges against companies might inflict on the larger economy. That’s prudent, of course, but it also suggests that the companies still have considerable leverage in preserving their essential profit centers.

Dog driving car one of a few odd calls for Alamance law enforcement (NR)
Burlington police issued a BOLO, or “be on the lookout,” for a black vehicle apparently being driven by a canine Tuesday afternoon. “There was a car in the area of Cum Park Plaza driving recklessly, and it appeared a dog was driving the vehicle,” Long said. A description of the dog was unavailable, and as of late Tuesday afternoon, police had not located the vehicle. “We have not been able to confirm that the dog was not driving,” Long said.

Growing Pains For A Goldman Sachs Fund (Dealbook)
One of Goldman Sachs’s most notable investment vehicles, Petershill, has been less than extraordinary, effectively saved by one good bet among a number of duds, and the bank even came close to selling it to Credit Suisse in 2012. So when Goldman started a second version of Petershill, which buys stakes in big-name hedge funds, it came as something of a surprise to people in the industry. Now as the second incarnation seeks to raise money, will the original Petershill cast a long shadow? Goldman says it is satisfied with the pace of fund-raising, but investors do not appear to be flocking to the new fund as quickly as they did to the first one.

Silicon Valley Sees ‘Grave Threat’ in Internet Toll Roads (Bloomberg)
Amazon, Google, and more than 100 other software, social-media and technology companies said they oppose a U.S. proposal to let Internet-service providers charge them extra for faster routes to Web users. The rules may let telephone-service and cable providers “discriminate both technically and financially” and would be “a grave threat to the Internet,” the companies said today in a letter to the Federal Communications Commission. Other signers included Facebook, Netflix, and Microsoft Corp.

Subway tests hummus, thinner meat slices (AP)
The hummus test comes at a time when many Americans are trying to cut back on how much meat they eat. In particular, Pace noted that people in their 20s are more "nutritionally aware" than any other past generation. In coming years, he predicted their eating habits will force the restaurant industry to adapt their menus...In a separate interview, Subway co-founder Fred DeLuca said the chain also started testing thinner slices of deli meat in December. In the test, which is taking place at restaurants in Illinois, DeLuca said franchisees are putting 12 slices of meat on a Footlong sandwich, instead of eight. He said the meat is the same but that it's just sliced thinner to improve its "bite" and appearance. "For some reason, it looks better. It looks like more meat," DeLuca said.

"Prom draft" at California high school flagged by principal (CBS)
A long-lasting tradition, in which male students of an Orange County high school hold an NFL-style draft to find prom dates, is under scrutiny. According to CBS Los Angeles, a number of students at Corona Del Mar High School find the tradition offensive, while others say they are indifferent. "They just pick numbers randomly to see, like who gets first pick, and last pick, and in between," student Veronica Varol said. "And then they pick who they want to take to the dance." For 2014 prom, a reported group of about 40 boys, consisting mostly of seniors, gathered at a clubhouse, dressed fully in sport coats, to hold their draft. Among the people protesting the tradition are a number of parents. "If they treat women this way at this age, what will they do then when they're of legal age," parent Vivian Rowe said. "They're drafting them. That's not exactly respectful." On the other hand, a number of students told CBS2/KCAL9′s Kristine Lazar that they feel the draft is not a big deal, and that the entire issue is blown out of proportion. "It's pretty, just like, an organized way of doing it," Varol said.

Related

Opening Bell: 07.12.12

Fed Weighs More Stimulus (WSJ) A few Fed officials were ready to move aggressively when the Fed met in June and several others said they might want to take new measures if the recovery loses momentum or their growth and employment forecasts are cut once again. That is according to minutes of the central bank's June 19-20 meeting, which were released Wednesday with their usual three-week lag. Gold to Hit $2,000 by Year-End on More Fed Easing: Merrill (CNBC) "We think that $2,000 an ounce is sort of the right number,” Francisco Blanch, Head of Global Commodity & Multi-Asset Strategy Research at the investment bank, said Thursday. Regulators’ Shake-Up Seen as Missed Bid to Police JPMorgan (NYT) After the financial crisis, regulators vowed to overhaul supervision of the nation’s largest banks. As part of that effort, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in mid-2011 replaced virtually all of its roughly 40 examiners at JPMorgan Chase to bolster the team’s expertise and prevent regulators from forming cozy ties with executives, according to several current and former government officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity. But those changes left the New York Fed’s front-line examiners without deep knowledge of JPMorgan’s operations for a brief yet critical time, said those people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because there is a federal investigation of the bank. Forced to play catch-up, the examiners struggled to understand the inner workings of a powerful investment unit, those officials said. At first, the examiners sought basic information about the group, including the name of the unit’s core trading portfolio. Neb. Man Jailed for Bomb Threat on Job Application (AP) the Legacy 272 Lounge employee who reviewed 38-year-old Jason Dornhoff's application last Thursday called police when he read the threat that closed with: "If you be quiet and help me, you won't die." Police arrested Dornhoff, of Heartwell, Neb., at gunpoint and searched his truck, but didn't find any bomb. Court documents say Dornhoff told police he uses methamphetamines and went to the restaurant hoping to find a way to fulfill his sexual fantasies. Clock Is Ticking On Crisis Charges (WSJ) Federal laws under which the Securities and Exchange Commission usually goes after alleged fraud and other misdeeds have a five-year statute of limitations. The five-year limit is causing SEC officials to race to file lawsuits in some cases and ask lawyers representing the targets of certain investigations to give the agency more time, according to people close to the investigation. The SEC intends to file charges against firms and people involved in the creation of a $1.6 billion mortgage-bond deal called Delphinus CDO 2007-1, people close to the investigation said. Credit Suisse Clients Targets Of Tax Probe (WSJ) German tax inspectors in recent weeks have been raiding the homes of Credit Suisse Group AG clients suspected of evading taxes, according to bank and German government officials. The investigation is centering on about 5,000 clients who between 2005 and 2009 allegedly bought insurance policies at a Bermuda-based subsidiary of the Swiss bank. In These Knife Fights, Only Pride Gets Wounded (WSJ) Donavon Phillips windmilled his arms. He hopped a few times to get the blood flowing in his legs. A light sweat formed under his black-and-red jersey—just the right dew. "You can't go into this cold, because it's an all-out sport," said Mr. Phillips, pulling his right arm across his chest. He was warming up for a cutthroat event: the 10th annual World Championship Cutting Competition. It takes razor-sharp focus to be a cutting champ, along with a blade that resembles a bulkier, sharper version of a kitchen meat cleaver. Mr. Phillips is one of a few who have helped make a sport out of demonstrating they can swiftly, flawlessly slice through a dozen water bottles or chop a rolling tennis ball in half. Having won the national title in May, he is a favorite on the cutting circuit. SEC Votes To Require Consolidated Audit Trail For Markets (Bloomberg) “A consolidated audit trail that accurately tracks orders throughout their lifecycle and identifies the broker-dealers handling them will provide us with an unprecedented ability to effectively oversee the markets we regulate,” said SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro. The rule is a “great leap forward,” she said. BofA Execs Dodge A Bullet (NYP) Bank of America won a federal court ruling dismissing claims against former Chief Executive Officer Ken Lewis and others in a securities-fraud lawsuit over the bank’s use of an electronic mortgage registry. Buffett: US Economic Growth Slowing, US Slipping "Pretty Fast" (CNBC) Despite the slowdown, Buffett says the U.S. economy is still doing better than "virtually any other big economy" around the world. New York Fed to Release Libor Documents Friday, Official Says (Reuters) The Federal Reserve Bank of New York will release on Friday documents showing it took "prompt action" four years ago to highlight problems with the benchmark interest rate known as Libor and to press for reform, an official at the regional U.S. central bank said on Wednesday. 'Con artists' scammed Hamptons homeowners by turning rentals into teen party pads: officials (NYP) Two real-estate con artists made hundreds of thousands of dollars by renting homes in the Hamptons and using them as post-prom and graduation-party crash pads for raucous teens, authorities said. Officials and outraged homeowners said the front man, 25-year-old Lee Hnetinka, of Jericho, would rent the mansions saying he intended to use them for his own family reunions. “He said it was his aunt having a party at his house,” said Lucy Sachs, 64, who rented her family’s East Hampton home to Hnetinka for $30,000 a month. When a neighbor called on June 8 to tell her that a “party bus with a disco ball had arrived” at Sachs’ place in the middle of the night, she rushed over, confused. What Sachs found was a houseful of nearly 100 teens smoking and drinking in the century-old building. Hnetinka allegedly teamed up with Leslie Jennemann (both inset), a Hamptons real-estate agent who in 2002 was convicted of running over and killing a migrant potato picker on her way home from a party, Southampton officials said...The suspects charged students $355 each for three days at the house, homeowners said. Scarlato estimated that the pair brought in $60,000 to $80,000 a weekend and had as many as 10 rentals. Another East Hampton homeowner, Eli Braha, rented to Hnetinka and became suspicious after a landscaper called to ask about all the trash and as many as 30 inflatable beds in the home.

Haliaeetus_leucocephalus5

Opening Bell: 9.20.16

Mike Mayo thinks Wells chief sucks but should stay on; Jack Ma’s finance biz may be worth more than Goldman Sachs; Bald eagles trained to snatch hostile drones; and more.

By Sachyn Mital (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Opening Bell: 6.15.16

Caspersen's lawyer says fraud was fueled by gambling addiction; Fed expected to hold steady; Billionaire gets approval to build NYC mega-mansion; Sean Penn was going to name his son Steak; and more.

Opening Bell: 01.03.13

Fresh Budget Fights Brewing (WSJ) If Congress doesn't do more in the coming months, Moody's warned, the company could follow Standard & Poor's in downgrading U.S. debt. "Further measures that bring about a downward debt trajectory over the medium term are likely to be needed to support the AAA rating," Moody's said Wednesday. But the battles on how to do that are far from over. Republicans say any further deficit reduction or legislation to avoid across-the-board spending cuts should come from reducing spending. President Obama and many Democrats advocate a combination of tax increases and spending cuts. The most serious skirmish will arrive toward the end of February, when the U.S. Treasury is expected to be unable to pay all the government's bills unless Congress boosts the federal borrowing limit. Then on March 1, the across-the-board spending cuts of the fiscal cliff, deferred in this week's deal, are scheduled to begin slicing into military and domestic programs. And on March 27, a government shutdown looms unless Congress approves funding for government operations for the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. CEOs Pan Fiscal Cliff Deal, Vow to Continue Debt Fight (Reuters) "I think this deal's a disaster," said Peter Huntsman, chief executive of chemical producer Huntsman Corp. "We're just living in a fantasy land. We're borrowing more and more money. This did absolutely nothing to address the fundamental issue of the debt cliff." Former Wells Fargo CEO Dick Kovacevich said the agreement confirms that Washington and both parties are totally out of control. "I think it's a joke," Kovacevich said of the deal. "It's stunning to me that after working on this for months and supposedly really getting to work in the last 30 days that this is what you come up with." Obama’s Warning to Boehner Started Road to Budget Plan (Bloomberg) President Barack Obama had a warning for John Boehner at a Dec. 13 White House meeting: Stop opposing higher tax rates for top earners, or the president would dedicate his second term to blaming Republicans for a global recession. The next day, the House speaker called the president and said he was open to a tax-rate increase on annual income of more than $1 million...While the budget deal Obama and Boehner were negotiating fell apart, the speaker’s concession on tax rates ultimately allowed Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, to craft the last-minute plan Congress passed Jan. 1. Nouriel Roubini: US Will Soon 'Get Messy' Again (CNBC) "It won't be long before there is another crisis. Two months, in fact." Pershing to Take 'Passive Shareholder' Role in General Growth (WSJ) Pershing Square Capital Management LP agreed to sell $271.9 million in General Growth Properties warrants to Brookfield Asset Management Inc., as part of a deal between the mall owner's two biggest shareholders that would resolve their recent disputes and see Pershing become a passive shareholder. Brookfield, in turn, offered to sell the warrants, which represent the right to acquire 18.4 million shares of General Growth stock, back to General Growth for the same purchase price. Pershing also agreed to limit its ownership stake in General Growth to no more than 9.9% and intends to become a passive shareholder. Brookfield agreed to limit its ownership in General Growth to 45%. Bank Of Canada won’t discuss melting plastic bills, says national security behind silence (NP) Disclosing details of behind-the-scenes discussions about tales of melting banknotes could endanger national security or international relations, says Canada’s central bank. In response to a formal request from The Canadian Press, the Bank Of Canada released 134 pages of internal records — almost completely blanked out — concerning allegations its new polymer bills melted in the scorching summer sun. The bank began issuing $100 polymer banknotes in late 2011, saying they were harder to counterfeit than paper notes and would last much longer. Unconfirmed reports of cooked currency emerged in July when a Kelowna, B.C., bank teller said she had heard of cases in which several bills had melted together inside a car. Soon after, Mona Billard of Cambridge, Ont., reported that she had returned eight plastic bills in January, after her son stashed his $800 Christmas bonus in a tin can and hid it near a baseboard heater. When he retrieved them the next day to make a deposit, the $100 banknotes had shriveled and melted. Ms. Billard exchanged clean bills for the shrunken, unusable ones. “The leather couch is up against the baseboard heater, it doesn’t melt,” she said. “The kids’ toys are back there, they don’t melt.” The Bank of Canada will reimburse damaged notes, but only if they clear an examination by an Ottawa laboratory. Paulson&Co Added To Abacus Suit Against Goldman (Bloomberg) Paulson & Co. was named as a defendant in a proposed revised lawsuit by ACA Financial Guaranty Corp. against Goldman Sachs over a collateralized debt obligation called Abacus. Paulson conspired with Goldman Sachs to deceive ACA Financial, which provided financial guaranty insurance for the deal, ACA Financial said in papers filed yesterday in Manhattan. Private Sector Added 215,000 Jobs Last Month (WSJ) Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires expected ADP to report a gain of 150,000 private jobs. Preet Bharara and other financial heavyweights opposing Paul Singer's attempt to get Argentina to pay debt (NYP) US Attorney Preet Bharara and BlackRock CEO Larry Fink are among the latest bold-faced names to oppose Singer’s attempt to get Argentina to pay him and others $1.3 billion on defaulted debt. Singer, the hedge fund billionaire who runs Elliott Management, is among the 8 percent of Argentina debtholders who refused to accept a 70 percent haircut following a 2001 default by the embattled South American country. Singer inched closer to winning the epic legal showdown in November when a federal judge ruled Argentina could not pay Fink’s BlackRock or other holders of the reorganized debt without putting money in escrow for Singer’s band of investors. An appeals court slowed Singer’s victory parade but refused to set aside the judge’s order. Now, Bharara, Fink’s $3.67 trillion bond firm and others are urging the appeals court to throw the case out. Basel Becomes Babel as Conflicting Rules Undermine Safety (Bloomberg) While higher capital requirements, curbs on banks trading with their own money and other rules have reduced risk, they have magnified the complexity of supervision, according to two dozen regulators, bankers and analysts interviewed by Bloomberg News. Even if the new regulations can be enforced, they don’t go far enough to ensure safety, said Robert Jenkins, a member of the Bank of England’s financial policy committee. Cops: Woman, 50, Battered Boyfriend, 32, Because Six Came Before Nine (TSG) Jennie Scott, 50, was booked into the Manatee County lockup on a misdemeanor charge stemming from the 11 PM encounter in the Palmetto bedroom of Jilberto Deleon, 32. Scott has dated Deleon “for the last 5 years on and off,” according to a sheriff’s report. Deputies were summoned to Deleon’s home by a witness who heard the couple arguing and saw Scott atop Deleon “punching and scratching him.” She also allegedly struck Deleon with a stick and threatened to hit him with a wrench before the tool was taken from her hand by the witness. When questioned by a cop, Scott explained that she and Deleon “were giving each other oral pleasure in the bedroom” when Deleon “finished first and stopped pleasuring her.” Scott added that she “became upset and they began arguing.” A deputy noted that Scott said that she was also mad at Deleon because she had “heard [him] having sex with another woman over the phone earlier in the day.” Scott struggled with deputies before being placed in a police cruiser, where she kicked a window until being warned that she would be maced unless she stopped.