Opening Bell: 05.22.14

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BofA Scrapping Market-Making Unit Amid Trading Scrutiny (Bloomberg)
Bank of America Corp. is dismantling an electronic market-making unit created last year to serve the lender’s Merrill Lynch wealth-management division, said two people with knowledge of the decision. Increased regulatory scrutiny of U.S. equity markets and managers’ concerns for the potential perception of a conflict of interest killed the project, said the people. The desk advanced to a testing phase before being abandoned in recent weeks and two executives hired to run it, Jonathan Wang and Steven Sadoff, were told to seek new jobs within the firm, the people said, requesting anonymity because the matter is private.

Deutsche Bank to defend capital increase at annual meeting (Reuters)
Germany's largest bank launched the capital increase in a surprise move only weeks after first hinting that it was unable to retain enough profit to fortify its finances ahead of a regulatory health check slated for later this year. Shareholder approval is not required but some investors will express anger with the issue and with the lack of progress on resolving a long list of investigations that has dogged the bank since the 2008-2009 financial crisis.

Wall Street Finds New Subprime With 125% Business Loans (Bloomberg)
Subprime business lending -- the industry prefers to be called “alternative” -- has swelled to more than $3 billion a year, estimates Marc Glazer, who has researched his competitors as head of Business Financial Services Inc., a lender in Coral Springs, Florida. That’s twice the volume of small loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration.

Hedge Funds Are Betting The Roomba Will Short Circuit (BFB)
A new report from Spruce Point Capital Management issued Tuesday questions the accounting and corporate governance practices at iRobot, the company that manufactures the Roomba, the Scooba and other robotic home cleaning products. The report also claims competition from cheaper, comparable robotic cleaners means iRobot will face mounting financial obstacles to maintaining its growth.

How Old People and Pricey Shrimp Turned Red Lobster Into a Castoff (BusinessWeek)
Seafood sellers have been whacked over the past year by the surging cost of shrimp due to acute hepatopancreatic necrosis syndrome. Billions of young shrimp have died from the disease, which was first detected in farm-raised populations in Asia. Shrimp prices hit a 14-year high earlier this year. Adding insult to injury, Red Lobster was widely known for its $15.99 “Endless Shrimp” promotions designed to get people into the restaurant...Beyond the expenses of procuring shrimp, Red Lobster also attracts an oversize share of older diners who don’t eat out frequently, while younger and spendier patrons eat their fish at more upscale restaurants—places that can cover rising costs better.

Houston Str!pper Sued For Harry Potter DVDs (HP)
Wallace, a Houston-based software developer, thought he was in a "dating relationship" with exotic dancer Nomi Mims. He loaned her $2,000, a laptop and his precious collection of movies based on the J.K. Rowling books, KRIV-TV reports. When the alleged relationship ended May 3, Wallace hoped Mims would return the items. She hasn't so now he says he's suing her to get the money, laptop and Harry Potter DVDs. Fat chance, according to Mims. She says she never dated Wallace and that the items were gifts he gave to her. “I don’t believe in loans because I don’t want to pay anybody back,” she said, according to RawStory.com. “I’ve given him gifts too. You know, how do I get my b00ty and b00bs back?" Although Wallace claims the two were intimate and "building a life together," Mims says they were never more than friends. She concedes that it is unfortunate that she may have given him the wrong impression, MyFoxPhilly.com reports.

Dutch Firm to Buy Goldman Sachs NYSE Floor Trading Business (WSJ)
IMC Financial Markets, a Dutch high-speed trading firm, agreed on Wednesday to acquire Goldman's rights to operate as a designated market maker in more than 600 NYSE-listed stocks, according to Scott Knudsen, IMC's Chicago-based head of trading. IMC will also hire about 15 floor brokers from the Wall Street firm. The sale marks a retreat for Goldman on the NYSE floor, though it plans to remain a broker there executing trades on behalf of clients.

Airbnb to turn over host records to Schneiderman (NYP)
Airbnb said it will hand over data on the website’s users to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who is trying to root out New York City hosts who have been breaking subletting laws and failing to pay taxes. The records initially will be provided to the AG in a way that protects users’ identities, according to the agreement announced Wednesday. Once Schneiderman reviews the data, he can then request specific names and other personal data to go after users he suspects are breaking a law that bans short-term rentals when the primary resident isn’t home...In New York, it is illegal to rent out an apartment for less than 30 days unless the owner of the residence is also present. Schneiderman has also argued that Airbnb hosts should be paying the city’s 14.7 percent hotel occupancy tax.

Web Retailer JD.com's IPO Shows Hunger For China (Dealbook)
Even though the company has lost money for the last several years, its stock sale valued the company at $25.7 billion, a valuation even higher than Twitter’s at its market debut last fall. The warm reception for JD.com reflects investor hunger for the wave of fast-growing Chinese companies that are going public in the United States to stake their claim as global technology powers.

Photos of Hamster Rear Ends Are Hit in Japan (JRT)
Two books devoted to images of hamsters’ posteriors have already sold nearly 40,000 copies combined in Japan, according to the publishers, with a third book set for release later this month. Fans of the craze have coined the term “hamuketsu,” which combines “hamster” and “ketsu,” or buttocks in Japanese. “The photos in the book are all shots of hamuketsu,” Yukako Minami, a spokeswoman at Sekai Bunka Publishing Inc., said. The company released “Kawaisa-ni Monzetsu Hamuketsu,” or “Hamuketsu–So Cute You Could Faint,” on April 19, with an initial print run of 7,000 copies. “We’ve had multiple reprints and already shipped 30,000 copies total” since then, Ms. Minami said. The 72-page collection features all kinds of hamsters in a variety of sizes and colors, but in each case the creature’s backside faces the camera. Male hamsters appear to be more popular because they have bigger and rounder buttocks, according to the publisher. The pictures of furry roundness help “soothe the hearts” of viewers, said Ms. Minami.

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Opening Bell: 11.02.12

Economy Adds 171,000 Jobs (WSJ) U.S. payrolls increased by a seasonally adjusted 171,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department said Friday. The politically important unemployment rate, obtained by a separate survey of U.S. households, rose one-tenth of a percentage point to 7.9%. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires expected a gain of 125,000 in payrolls and a 7.9% jobless rate. Hedge Fund Cashes In On Greek Bonds (Reuters) London-based hedge fund Adelante Asset Management has made a 70 percent gain on a sale of Greek bonds, showing the potential for big profits from betting on a recovery in the fortunes of a country effectively off-limits to investors a few months ago...Since the restructuring, Greek government bond prices have strengthened, allowing Adelante to sell them for around 24 cents on the euro, having bought them for around 14 cents in June, the company said. A Greek government bond maturing in 2042, for example, is currently trading at around 20.8 cents on the euro, Thomson Reuters data shows. Other hedge funds have made similar bets. Third Point, a high profile New York hedge fund, for example, has been a significant buying of cut-price Greek bonds. RBS Eyes Libor Settlement Soon (WSJ) RBS wants to seal a settlement with regulators over its alleged rigging of key interest rates in the coming months, as the partstate-owned bank looks to draw a line under the scandal. Speaking to reporters at the bank's third-quarter results presentation, Chief Executive Stephen Hester said he would be "disappointed" if he couldn't provide details on a settlement by February. "We are up for settling with all and everyone as soon as they are ready. But each regulator has to satisfy itself that it has all the facts," he said. Deutsche Bank Faces Top Surcharge as FSB Shuffles Tiers (Bloomberg) Deutsche Bank would be required to hold more capital and Bank of America Corp.’s burden stands to be reduced as global regulators shuffled the competitive balance among the world’s biggest banks. Citigroup, HSBC and JPMorgan join Deutsche Bank as firms that will be targeted for a capital surcharge of 2.5 percent, according to an updated list published yesterday by the Financial Stability Board. The change means Bank of America already exceeds requirements, while Deutsche Bank would be more than 2 percentage points below the new minimum of 9.5 percent. “That limits earnings potential for Citigroup, JPMorgan and Deutsche Bank compared to Bank of America, all other things being equal, so it’s certainly a competitive advantage for them,” said David Kass, a professor at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. Short-Sellers of Europe Set to Be Unmasked (CNBC) The European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA), the EU regulator, has issued new rules on the short-selling of securities indicating that anyone with short positions of greater than 0.2 percent in an EU company’s shares must report it to regulators. Positions of more than 0.5 percent will be publicly released, naming both the company and the short-seller. Public disclosure is triggered any time that level is hit with each 0.1 percent increase or decrease after that. NYSE Open For Business Shows Wall Street Still Vulnerable (Bloomberg) The Securities and Exchange Commission may consider whether exchanges’ emergency regimens need to be bolstered, according to a person familiar with the regulator’s thinking who asked not to be named because the matter is private. The industry’s decision to halt equities and bond trading shows the challenge of maintaining markets when a catastrophe threatens New York City, home to 168,700 securities industry workers. “One of the purposes of having electronic exchanges and basing them away from New York City is for the market to be more robust and stay open,” Charles Jones, a finance professor at Columbia Business School in New York, said in a phone interview. “This is what the back-up plans were designed for. But the markets didn’t open.” David Blaine Entertains New Yorkers After Hurricane Sandy (NYP) When a backup generator at Old Homestead Steakhouse sputtered, the restaurant started serving hundreds of pounds of steaks, burgers, lobster tails and shrimp on the street outside for downtown denizens. David Blaine, the modern-day Harry Houdini who spent days recently being shocked in a steel suit, pitched in to provide spontaneous street entertainment. “David was rumbling by on his motorcycle, and he stopped to see why there was a line on 14th Street,” said a spy, adding 800 chowed down. Blaine then asked restaurant co-owner Greg Sherry if there was a deck of cards in the house. Blaine used the full deck and some spare silverware to perform magic tricks outside for an hour and a half. The magic man, an Old Homestead regular, was offered a doggie bag but said he’s on a special diet in preparation for his next stunt. Romney Faces Sale With A Win (WSJ) Mr. Romney's assets, valued at between $190 million and $250 million, include investments in hedge funds, private-equity funds and partnerships at Bain Capital, which he ran for 15 years. These entities have ownership stakes in dozens of companies that could be affected by government action, such as radio firm Clear Channel Communications Inc. and a video-surveillance firm based in China. Many businessmen and wealthy individuals have entered government service and sold off holdings. But a Romney sale would be especially complicated. Investments in private-equity funds can be difficult to value and seldom change hands. Any sale would have to be handled carefully to avoid any appearance that the incoming president was getting favorable treatment from a buyer. What Do Asia Markets Fear? Romney As President (CNBC) At a time of heightened uncertainty, with the ongoing European debt crisis and the upcoming leadership transition in China, a new president in the world’s largest economy will cause additional nervousness among Asian investors, experts told CNBC. “Asian traders don’t like change in leadership. You would see weakness in the markets if Romney won, because people would question how well he would deal with the impending doom of the ‘fiscal cliff.’ Obama would be a safer bet, as investors would enjoy continuity at a time of a lot of uncertainty,” said Justin Harper, market strategist, at IG Markets...Besides, Romney’s stance on China is particularly worrying feels Harper. The presidential hopeful has said he will name China a “currency manipulator,” which could lead to more tensions with the mainland, including on the trade front. “You would expect trade between the two nations to suffer, this would have a knee-jerk reaction on trade in the region,” he added. Fed Up With Fees (NYP) The manager of a large public pension’s private-equity program said for the last 24 months he has not committed money to any new private-equity fund that doesn’t give all fees it charges its companies back to investors. He is doing this because he wants an alignment of interest where he and the private-equity firm only make money by reselling a business. PE firms, he believes, will stop charging their companies fees if there is little in it for them. So, KKR, for example — responding to pressure — has agreed to give all fees it charges its companies in its new fund back to investors, the pension manager said. KKR is not the only firm making this change. Apax Partners, Blackstone Group, Centerbridge Partners, Providence Equity and TPG Capital are among those making the same concessions, the pension manager said. Local shelter mistakenly euthanizes family pet (WRCB) After waiting 10 days to be reunited with his dog, a local college student learned the family's pet had been euthanized by mistake. The Lab mix was being held at McKamey Animal Center, where administrators say a paperwork mix up led to the dog's death. Matt Sadler adopted the three-year-old Lab mix when he was just a puppy. "That was my best friend," Sadler says. "He was there for me through my parents' divorce and a lot of really hard tough times in my life." It was hard for Matt when Zion was quarantined last week, after jumping on a pizza delivery driver. "The lady didn't want to press charges, it wasn't anything serious, but the law has a 10-day quarantine period," he says. Because Zion was a month past due on his yearly rabies vaccine, he was held for the full 10 days at McKamey Animal Center. Thursday, Matt eagerly returned to the facility to take Zion home. "She says, ‘I'm sorry, Matt, we accidentally euthanized your dog'," Sadler says...McKamey has offered to cremate Zion, and allow Matt to adopt any dog he chooses.

hamster

Opening Bell: 2.9.18

Shutdown over fast; Global stocks still getting hammered; Brexit still a mess; Florid woman mercy flushes emotional support hamster; and more!

Opening Bell: 08.08.12

Standard Chartered Probe Said To Require Up To $700 Million (Bloomberg) Standard Chartered might be asked to pay as much as $700 million to resolve money laundering allegations filed by New York’s banking superintendant after his department grew impatient with inaction by federal regulators, a person familiar with the case said. Benjamin Lawsky, who heads up New York’s Department of Financial Services, tried unsuccessfully a few months ago to get U.S. regulators to punish the London-based bank for conduct involving disguised Iranian money transfers, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the matter is confidential. The transfers have been under investigation by federal agencies for more than two years, according to Lawsky’s Aug. 6 order. US Regulators Irate at NY Action Against Stanchart (Reuters) The U.S. Treasury Department and Federal Reserve were blindsided and angered by New York's banking regulator's decision to launch an explosive attack on Standard Chartered over $250 billion in alleged money laundering transactions tied to Iran, sources familiar with the situation said. ‘F-bomb’ banker fingered (NYP) The Standard Chartered Bank executive whose expletive-filled anti-US rant stands at the center of allegations that the bank improperly did business with Iran appears to be Richard Meddings. Meddings, 54, the Oxford-educated finance director at the UK bank, angrily dismissed concerns by his New York colleagues in 2006 that doing business with Iran’s despotic regime could sully the bank’s image, it is alleged. “You f—ing Americans,” Meddings shot back. “Who are you to tell us, the rest of the world, that we’re not going to deal with Iranians?” The Department of Financial Services did not identify Meddings by name in its report — but disclosed the executive’s position, which Meddings occupied at the time. Standard declined to comment. Greece Credit-Rating Outlook Lowered By S&P As Economy Weakens (Bloomberg) The outlook on Greece’s CCC rating, already eight levels below investment grade, was revised to negative from stable, S&P said yesterday in a statement. The change reflects the risk of a downgrade if Greece is unable to obtain the next disbursement from the European Union and International Monetary Fund rescue package, the rating company said. The Bonds, They Are A-Changin' (WSJ) Bob Dylan's music was the soundtrack for the counterculture of 1960s America. Now it has become a selling point for an unusual bond offering being marketed to institutional investors and wealthy individuals. A privately held Nashville, Tenn., company is preparing a $300 million bond backed by the cut it receives as a middleman between music companies and songwriters and the outlets that broadcast their music. The company, Sesac Inc., has the exclusive rights to the public broadcast or performance of the music of Mr. Dylan, pop singer Neil Diamond, Canadian rock band Rush and jazz singer Cassandra Wilson. Woman in chase fled because she was topless, deputies say (TGS) Mandy Ramsey, 35, of Fort McCoy, was speeding south on County Road 318 in a Ford F-250 pickup truck when a patrol car chased after her to pull her over, according to a Marion County Sheriff's Office report. After seeing the patrol car in pursuit, the woman turned onto Northeast 220 Street and then continued down Northeast 10th Avenue, running a stop sign and eventually hitting an oak tree. The deputy lost Ramsey during the chase in the area, but soon found the truck parked behind a mobile home with its passenger side mirror broken with an oak tree leaf in it, according to reports. Deputies made contact with the vehicle's owner, Ramsey's boyfriend, who said he hadn't driven the truck in more than two hours. Ramsey then admitted to deputies that she didn't stop because she was driving topless and wanted to surprise her boyfriend. Rival Citadel Bid For Knight (WSJ) The offer, which was considered and discussed by Knight's board, was for a $500 million loan to Knight in exchange for a controlling stake in Knight's currencies trading platform Hotspot FX, plus a minority stake in the company of less than 20%, these people said. It followed an earlier offer on Friday, which Knight also reviewed, they said. The Citadel offer represented the potential for lesser dilution to existing Knight shareholders, by giving Citadel the right to as much as a 20% stake in the company, far less than the 73% stake anticipated in the investor group's deal, according to people familiar with the discussions. But Knight and its advisers believed there wasn't enough time to complete Citadel's deal, said people familiar with Knight's thinking. Further, they said, the Knight board and advisers viewed the Citadel terms as onerous for shareholders and the company, which not only would have had to repay the loan, but also surrender control of Hotspot, a "crown jewel" asset. The board also disagreed with Citadel's valuation of Hotspot, these people said. China Reforms Fail to End Stocks’ Bad Run (FT) When Guo Shuqing became China’s top securities regulator in October, investors hoped that he would bring a reformist zeal to the job that would help break the stock market’s two-year losing streak. They were right about the zeal but wrong about the impact on the market. Barely a week has gone by without the regulator announcing another new measure to improve the functioning of the country’s beleaguered market. But after a brief climb upwards, the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index is down nearly 13 percent since Mr. Guo took office. Deutsche Bank Is Stuck on RREEF (WSJ) Deutsche Bank on-and-off effort to sell its giant real-estate fund group is taking its toll on one of the world's largest property-investment businesses. Nine months after the bank first raised the possibility of selling the business known as RREEF, investors are still wondering about its future. The bank's lack of clear direction is putting its real-estate fund group at a competitive disadvantage, some investors and consultants say. Many pension funds have been shifting to safer property funds and looking for new managers, and they may be hesitant about putting their money with RREEF because of the uncertainty, they say. Deutsche Bank's new management team is nearing completion of a companywide strategic review. That includes RREEF, which has $56 billion under management and invests primarily in commercial real estate globally. It is considered one of the jewels of Deutsche Bank's broader asset-management business, which has about $694 billion. While it isn't clear what the review will mean for RREEF, some analysts speculate that all or some of the group may be back up for sale. But some within RREEF expect the bank to keep the business, according to people who have spoken with RREEF staff. Wendy's debuts Lobster and Caviar Burger in Japan for $16-$20 (NYDN) The Lobster and Caviar Burger has lobster chunks, lobster salad and caviar. The Surf and Turf Burger features lobster and red onion. The Ocean Premium Salad has lobster, caviar, avocado, vegetables and an egg...Each seafood addition will range from $16 to $20. The current Japan Premium lineup features the Porcini Grilled Chicken Sandwich and the Foie Gras Rossini. Wendy's left Japan in 2009 but started up again in late-2011, according to Burger Business. For its returned, Wendy's reassessed its game plan and decided to situate itself as classier fast food.

Opening Bell: 2.12.16

Pimco bets on battered banks; AIG avoids wrath of Icahn; Deutsche buys back; Ted Cruz yanks ad featuring porn star; and more.

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Opening Bell: 6.29.16

Moody's downgrades 12 UK banks; Soros bets against Deutsche Bank; Saudi Arabia beating off bankers with a stick; Cops say woman wielded hatchet after her demands for sex were rebuffed; and more.