Opening Bell: 10.15.14

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BofA Posts Profit on Trading After Mortgage Settlement (Bloomberg)
Net income was $168 million, down from $2.5 billion a year earlier, the Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank said today in a statement. Adjusted earnings per share, which exclude an accounting gain, were 40 cents, beating the 32-cent average estimate of 14 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Chief Executive Officer Brian T. Moynihan, 55, who was named chairman this month, has booked more than $70 billion in costs tied to his predecessor’s takeovers of Countrywide Financial Corp. and Merrill Lynch & Co. He’s said that the firm’s underlying earnings power would become apparent once the litigation costs subsided.

BlackRock Results Top Expectations (WSJ)
Analysts are closely watching the results of BlackRock to see how much the Sept. 26 departure of investor Bill Gross from Pacific Investment Management Co. has helped the world’s largest asset manager. BlackRock has been one of the beneficiaries of money flowing out of Pimco, and it said it saw $11.1 billion of investor inflows into its fixed-income division during the quarter, the most of any of its product segments.

Apple, Facebook to Pay for Female Workers to Freeze Eggs (Bloomberg)
Facebook started providing the benefit, which applies to employees and their spouses or domestic partners, in January. The Menlo Park, California-based social network offers full coverage, or as much as $20,000 in expenses, related to the procedure, which could include surrogacy or court fees. Apple, based in Cupertino, California, said it will start offering similar coverage next year. In a statement, Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet said the iPhone maker wants to “empower women at Apple to do the best work of their lives as they care for loved ones and raise their families.” The decisions come amid a debate about the best ways to recruit and retain women in the technology industry, where women are underrepresented as a percentage of the total workforce. Apple and Facebook are among the first companies to offer an option to freeze eggs.

Where Do the World’s Wealthiest People Live? (RTE)
After the U.S., the United Kingdom, France and Germany added more millionaires than any other countries last year. Of course, the U.S. has a lot of wealthy people because it’s a big country. But the analysis suggests that the U.S. is punching above its weight, even after accounting for population. Total wealth per adult increased by $340,340 in North America, or an increase of 10.2% from the prior year. Total wealth per adult grew by nearly $146,000 in Europe, an increase of 10.4%. By contrast, wealth per adult grew just 2.3% in China and it fell 1.9% in Latin America and 3.1% in India.

Fed Is Silent on Doomsday Book, a Blueprint for Fighting Crises (NYT)
The Doomsday Book, as it happens, is not a book. It is a collection of documents maintained by the New York Fed’s legal department. The contents include “an extensive legal history of Federal Reserve lending activities,” and memos on subjects that deal with the Fed’s authority to make loans to municipalities and restructure debts. There is no comparable collection in Washington. The New York Fed is the central bank’s firefighting department. The New York Fed keeps three full sets, plus an electronic version, and it circulates an index. These facts are on the first page of the index, which the lead lawyer for the plaintiffs, David Boies, read aloud in the courtroom last week. Timothy F. Geithner, who led the New York Fed during the early stages of the financial crisis before becoming Treasury secretary, testified that he kept in his office an abridged version, in a binder about two inches thick, containing the index and a selection of memos. He said he had never seen the full work. Mr. Geithner in his testimony also played down the importance of the Doomsday Book, saying that he had consulted it infrequently during the crisis because the Fed was quickly forced to take measures beyond anything it had done before.

Prosecutor behind 'crack hoes' Facebook post cleared (MN13)
An investigation has cleared a prosecutor for Orange and Osceola County of any wrongdoing after he posted a controversial message on Facebook mentioning "crack hoes" on Mother's Day. Assistant State Attorney Ken Lewis was demoted in May during an internal investigation to see if his comments or political views may have affected cases he worked on for the state of Florida. In an official letter obtained by News 13, Chief Assistant State Attorney Linda Drane Burdick told State Attorney Jeff Ashton she found no evidence that Lewis showed any bias related to his Facebook post in handling any cases assigned to him...Lewis later apologized to the public for his comments, admitting he used a "poor choice of words," but adding his message was the same. Lewis said he didn't think anyone but his Facebook friends would see the comment, but the post was published as public instead of Facebook's optional "friends only" setting for status updates, photos, links and other information.

Lawsky relents on ‘BitLicense’ regulations (NYP)
Benjamin Lawsky, head of the New York Department of Financial Services, appears to have walked back some of the regulator’s tough proposed regulations for the virtual currency that’s been under government scrutiny for money-laundering fears...Lawsky’s proposed “BitLicense” rules, aimed at safeguarding money and stop fraud in New York, won’t apply to individual bitcoin users, software makers, currency converters, and so-called “miners” that use massive computing power to access hidden bitcoins, the regulator said in prepared remarks for a speech Tuesday night.

The $11 Trillion Advantage That Shields U.S. From Turmoil (Bloomberg)
Call it America’s $11 trillion advantage: Consumer spending is likely to steer the U.S. economy safely through the shoals of deteriorating global growth and turbulent financial markets. The combination of more jobs, falling gasoline prices and low borrowing costs will help lift household purchases. Such tailwinds probably matter more than Europe’s struggles or the slackening in emerging markets that caused the Dow Jones Industrial Average last week to erase its gains for the year.

Citigroup Consumer Chief Plans to Leave (WSJ)
Manuel Medina-Mora, head of consumer banking and chairman of the company’s troubled Mexico unit, is preparing to leave in coming months, according to people with knowledge of the situation.

Financial executives could see up to 10% bonus boost (NYP)
Financial sector executives could see as much as a 10 percent boost to their annual bonuses this year after two of the largest US banks on Tuesday reported profits boosted by profitable trading — the type of business that leads directly to a cushy cash base. That would make it the second straight year of double-digit bonus check bumps. Last year, the average bonus check rose 15 percent to $164,530, according to New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

Thief Pretends To Be Wedding Guest In Connecticut, Police Say (AP)
Police are looking for a man they say posed as a guest at a Connecticut wedding reception and stole gifts from the bride and groom. They say the man fled the Longshore Inn in Westport on Saturday night with a birdcage filled with wedding cards, many apparently containing cash for the couple. Police used dogs to try to track the man. They recovered the empty birdcage. The wedding crasher was seen on video surveillance cameras. Police have released screen grabs in the hope somebody might recognize him.

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Opening Bell: 08.07.12

Probe May Hit UK Bank's Clean Image (WSJ) Last week, Standard Chartered PLC Chief Executive Peter Sands told analysts that "our culture and values are our first and last line of defense." On Tuesday, allegations by a New York financial regulator that Standard Chartered hid illegal Iranian transactions seemed to breach that line, sending the lender's shares down and wiping £7.65 billion ($11.9 billion) off its market value. In the U.K., Mr. Sands has long been heralded as a voice of reason in the country's turbulent banking sector. The former consultant, who was named Standard Chartered CEO in 2006, regularly espoused the importance of sound governance and sensible investment. While several of its British peers were being bailed out by taxpayers, Mr. Sands was guiding the Asia-focused bank to record profits boosted by growing trade between emerging nations. The executive stressed the fact that Standard Chartered doesn't have an investment bank and didn't need European Central Bank cheap loans to keep its business ticking over. Italian's Job: Premier Talks Tough in Bid to Save Euro (WSJ) During an all-night European summit in June, Mario Monti, the Italian prime minister, gave German Chancellor Angela Merkel an unexpected ultimatum: He would block all deals until she agreed to take action against Italy's and Spain's rising borrowing costs. Ms. Merkel, who has held most of the euro's cards for the past two years, wasn't used to being put on the defensive. "This is not helpful, Mario," Ms. Merkel warned, according to people present. Europe's leaders were gathered on the fifth floor of the European Union's boxy glass headquarters in Brussels, about to break for dinner. "I know," Italy's premier replied. Bill Gross: Stay Away From Europe (CNBC) “Investors get distracted by the hundreds of billions of euros in sovereign policy checks, promises that make for media headlines but forget it’s their trillions that are the real objective,” Gross wrote. “Even Mr Hollande in left-leaning France recognizes that the private sector is critical for future growth in the EU. He knows that, without its partnership, a one-sided funding via state-controlled banks and central banks will inevitably lead to high debt-to-GDP ratios and a downhill vicious cycle of recession.” “Psst…investors: Stay dry my friends!” Gross said. Richest Family Offices Seeing Fastest Growth As Firms Oust Banks (Bloomberg Markets) They call it “money camp.” Twice a week, 6- to 11-year-old scions of wealthy families take classes on being rich. They compete to corner commodities markets in Pit, the raucous Parker Brothers card game, and take part in a workshop called “business in a box,” examining products that aren’t obvious gold mines, such as the packaging on Apple Inc.’s iPhone rather than the phone itself. It’s all part of managing money for the wealthiest families, says Katherine Lintz, founder of Clayton, Missouri- based Financial Management Partners, which runs the camp for the children of clients. Supplying the families with good stock picks and a wily tax strategy isn’t enough anymore. These days, it’s about applying the human touch, she says. Lintz, 58, is on to something. Her 22-year-old firm was No. 2 among the fastest-growing multifamily offices in the second annual Bloomberg Markets ranking of companies that manage affairs for dynastic clans, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its September issue. The assets that FMP supervises grew 30 percent to $2.6 billion as of Dec. 31, just behind Signature, a Norfolk, Virginia-based family office that expanded 36 percent in 2011 to $3.6 billion. MS Takes Trading Hit (NYP) Morgan Stanley, which had the largest trading-revenue drop among major US banks last quarter, lost money in that business on 15 days in the period, up from eight days a year earlier. Morgan Stanley traders generated more than $100 million on three days in the period, compared with seven days in the second quarter of 2011, the company said in a regulatory filing yesterday. None of the daily losses exceeded the firm’s value-at-risk, a measure of how much the bank estimates it could lose on 95 percent of days. Morgan Stanley had a 48 percent year-over-year decrease in trading revenue, excluding accounting gains, led by a 60 percent drop in fixed-income revenue. Former Lloyds Digital Security Chief Admits $3.76 Million Fraud (Bloomberg) Lloyds Banking Group's former head of digital banking fraud and security pleaded guilty to submitting false invoices totaling more than 2.4 million pounds ($3.76 million)...Jessica Harper admitted to submitting fake invoices between 2007 and 2011 and then laundering the proceeds, the CPS said. She will be sentenced on Sept. 21, and faces as long as 24 years in prison for the two charges, a CPS spokesman said, although she will get credit for the guilty plea. Ex Lehman Exec Requests Rehab To Avoid Jail Time (NYP) Former Lehman Brothers Co-Chief Operating Officer Bradley H. Jack, arrested twice in less than a year on charges of prescription forgery, said he is willing to undergo a program for drug and alcohol treatment to avoid prosecution. Jack applied for the program at a hearing yesterday in Connecticut Superior Court in Norwalk. Judge Bruce Hudock ordered a doctor’s report to determine if he is eligible for the new program, which the judge said would be “a rare event.” Fed Official Calls For Bond Buying (WSJ) Eric Rosengren, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, called on the Fed to launch an aggressive, open-ended bond buying program that the central bank would continue until economic growth picks up and unemployment starts falling again. His call came in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, the first since the central bank signaled last week that it was leaning strongly toward taking new measures to support economic growth. Mr. Rosengren isn't currently among the regional Fed bank presidents with a vote on monetary policy. Although all 12 presidents participate in Fed deliberations, only five join the seven Fed governors in Washington in the formal committee vote. Tokyo Exchange Glitch Halts Derivatives Trading (WSJ) The Tokyo Stock Exchange on Tuesday temporarily suspended all derivatives trading soon after the morning open due to an unidentified system problem, the second significant trading glitch on the exchange this year. Amazon Exec Swindled By Tom Petty Con Artist (NYDN) Brian Valentine simply wanted to give his wife the wedding present of a lifetime - a performance by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. The senior vice president of Amazon, instead, fell victim to fraud, losing a whopping $165,000 to a Las Vegas man who pretended to be a concert booking agent, the Smoking Gun reported. FBI agents arrested the fraudulent agent, Chad Christopher Lund, on Aug. 2 in Illinois, after a private investigator Valentine had hired found that Lund had skipped town. But the ordeal began almost ten months before in late 2011, a year after Valentine, 52, popped the question to fellow Amazon employee, Gianna Puerini, 39, according to a wire fraud complaint unsealed by the U.S. District Court. Valentine decided that he wanted the "Won't Back Down" singer to perform a set at the couple's wedding reception since he proposed to Puerini at a Petty concert in Seattle. He turned to the Internet, where he found the website of Lund's firm, lundlive.com, boasting to have booked acts like Petty, Run-DMC and Ludacris. Lundlive.com no longer exists. Valentine connected with Lund over email and by October 2011, Lund told the Amazon exec that he had negotiated with Petty's representatives "down to a price of $330,000 for the performance." Later in the month, Lund sent Valentine a contract with the forged signature of Petty's manager, Tony Dimitraides. Valentine sent Lund a $165,000 down payment in return. Valentine finally uncovered the fraud in early April 2012, when the wedding was just three months away. He contacted Petty's management to discuss the performance only to find out that they had no idea about the planned appearance. "We have never heard of Chris Lund or his agency," Dimitraides wrote in an email to Valentine. "We are not aware of any deal for Tom Petty to play Seattle in July and I have never signed a contract for any such." "It looks like you have been defrauded."

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: 4.28.15

Flash crash trader fails to make bail; Tsipras says Greeks will have to give final say on deal; Apple Apple Apple; Mac and cheese causes evacuation; and more.