Opening Bell: 11.19.14

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Goldman Hits The Mother Lode On Deals (WSJ)
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. has cemented its position as the top Wall Street bank for mergers and acquisitions in one of the busiest years in the business. The New York bank, whose name is synonymous with deal making, this week landed roles on two big acquisitions worth a combined $100 billion: Actavis PLC’s $66 billion agreement to buy Allergan Inc. and Halliburton Co. ’s $34.6 billion planned purchase of Baker Hughes Inc.

Uber Exec Proposes Smearing Female Reporters Who Criticized the App (VallyWag)
Uber's competitors, regulators, and drivers can take a breath. The company, which believes it is worth $25 billion, has a new nemesis: reporters who don't follow the puff piece protocol. A top Uber executive suggested hiring opposition researchers "specifically to spread details of the personal life of a female journalist who has criticized the company," reports Buzzfeed. This vindictive response to aggressive reporting about one of the most high-profile companies in the tech industry was uttered by Emil Michael, Uber's senior vice president of business. Michael previously held a top role at Klout and recently joined a board that advises the Department of Defense. The remarks were made at a chichi gathering at Waverly Inn, the exclusive Manhattan clubhouse, which was attended by Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, Ed Norton, Arianna Huffingon, and "a Buzzfeed editor." The evening's host was Ian Osborne, an Uber consultant who used to advise Prime Minister David Cameron: Over dinner, [Michael] outlined the notion of spending "a million dollars" to hire four top opposition researchers and four journalists. That team could, he said, help Uber fight back against the press — they'd look into "your personal lives, your families," and give the media a taste of its own medicine.

Uber Executive’s Comments Leave Company Scrambling (Bits)
“The remarks attributed to me at a private dinner — borne out of frustration during an informal debate over what I feel is sensationalistic media coverage of the company I am proud to work for — do not reflect my actual views and have no relation to the company’s views or approach,” Mr. Michael said in a statement. “They were wrong no matter the circumstance and I regret them.” Uber has said that the private dinner was supposed to be considered an off-the-record affair.

Pimco’s October Outflows Set a Record in Europe (MoneyBeat)
Investors pulled €11.2 billion ($14 billion) from Pacific Investment Management Co.’s European funds in September and October on the heels of Bill Gross’s sudden departure, according to new figures from investment research firm Morningstar. Of the total, €8.7 billion flowed out of Pimco’s fund range in Europe during October, the highest ever level of outflows in a one-month period in the region, according to Morningstar.

Batista Insider-Trading Trial Starts in Rio (WSJ)
The insider-trading trial of former Brazilian billionaire Eike Batista began Tuesday with law officials contending it could be a step forward in the country’s efforts to protect shareholders from abusive practices. The entrepreneur is charged with manipulating financial markets by not fulfilling a promise to invest as much as $1 billion in his failed oil company and with using privileged information to dump shares of the company before the stock price plunged.

Watch Out for Elephants and Llamas at the Next Wedding You Attend (WSJ)
The llamas were a wedding day surprise arranged by groom Garette Ziem for his wife to be, Kim Dalton, who finds them entertaining and calming. When the two creatures appeared, she “exploded in happiness and tears,” he said. “It meant so much to me that Garette went above and beyond to create this extra special moment,” she said. Mr. Ziem’s nieces, who escorted the pair up the aisle, were billed as “llama girls.” Guests lined up to take selfies with the tall, woolly duo, who were fully trained and didn’t spit, contrary to common belief. “They were well-behaved, just like any household dog, better probably,” said Mr. Ziem, a sales manager who paid $500 to have them attend. “People will remember the wedding more because the llamas were there,” he said. Having Fido serve as a ring bearer or riding to the ceremony in a horse-drawn carriage have been primary ways of integrating animals into weddings over the years. But these days, in ways big (elephants) and small (butterflies), the species playing a role in nuptials and other momentous life events are often more exotic...Yet the mingling of wildlife and humans can go awry. At a wedding he attended in Illinois last May, Roger Boisen saw that firsthand. After the bride and groom recited their vows, dozens of Monarch butterflies were released from boxes. Fluttering about, they added a fairy-tale touch to the celebration. One of them, however, landed on the lawn, where it soon met its fate beneath a bridesmaid’s pump. “People were yelling, ‘Watch out for the butterfly!’ ” recalls Mr. Boisen of Appleton, Wis. “Definitely I felt bad for it, and I know other people did.”

Youngest Oil Tycoon Finds Fortune After Washout as Trader (Bloomberg)
The oil industry drew Sheffield in partly because the world of interest-rate swaps and sovereign debt pushed him out, Bloomberg Markets magazine will report in its December issue. Sheffield says his income never cracked $100,000 a year on the trading desk. “I was a scratch trader. I was drinking beer while my friends were ordering hundred-dollar bottles of wine.” [...] His family connections helped him get started, and his relatives’ knowledge of the fields around Midland gave him direction. Pace says, however, that Sheffield built his success mostly through his own smart decisions. “It’s easy now for people to connect the dots and say he got lucky,” Pace says. “I watched it, and there’s a lot of skill to get from point A to point B. The key is, he executed really well, and his team is fantastic.”

In Hong Kong, One-Bedroom Apartments That Could Fit in a Bedroom (NYT)
There are breathtaking views of Victoria Harbor from a 23rd-floor apartment that recently sold for $722,000 in the new Le Riviera building. The high-end German appliances and marble countertops evoke European luxury. In the entrance of the building, colorful wire mesh sculptures by Spanish artists hang from the ceiling. There is just one catch. The apartment is only 275 square feet, with a bedroom just large enough to accommodate a double bed. “If we don’t buy now, we might not be able to afford it later,” said Frank Wu, 60, the new owner of this so-called microflat in Shau Kei Wan, a former fishing village on the northeastern edge of Hong Kong Island. Real estate in Hong Kong defies logic. The city is one of the most expensive places in the world to live and it has smashed one real estate record after another for years. As property costs continue to soar, even once improbable living spaces are now getting snapped up at astronomical prices.

Brace for Thanksgiving Traffic as Car-to-Plane Gap Swells (Bloomberg)
Drivers will make up about 89.5 percent of holiday travelers this year, a gain of 0.1 percentage point from 2013, while air passengers will drop by the same amount to 7.5, forecasts prepared by Englewood, Colorado-based IHS Inc. (IHS) show. A 0.1 point increase may not seem like a lot, but based on last year’s estimate that 39.6 million people traveled by car for Thanksgiving, that would roughly equate to at least another 40,000 people piling onto America’s highways.

BNP Officials Examined in Insider-Trading Probe (WSJ)
Paris prosecutors, who opened the preliminary investigation earlier this month, are trying to determine how much senior BNP Paribas directors and top executives knew about the bank’s exposure to litigation risks in the U.S. when they sold shares last year, the person said. The list of BNP Paribas officials targeted by the investigation is fluid, the person said, because investigators continue to pore over the details of stock sales by a number of company officials.

School library steam cleaned following porn shoot (UPI)
Australia's Newcastle University said its library was steam cleaned after officials discovered a student was using the facility to film pornographic videos. Officials said staff at the Auchmuty library were informed in October that a student had been filming sexually explicit videos in the facility and posting them to a pay-per-view pornographic website. Parts of the library were ordered to be steam cleaned and pictures of the student were given to staff with instructions to alert security if she entered the library, officials said. A university spokeswoman told the Newcastle Herald administrators were "very disappointed" to learn the student was "using internet facilities inappropriately on campus."

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Opening Bell: 7.18.16

Draghi will ask governments to help counter Brexit fallout; Bridgewater slows hiring; HSBC to cut bond traders; Man quits job to become full-time ‘Pokemon Go’ player; and more.

Opening Bell: 04.13.12

JPMorgan Profit Slips (WSJ) J.P. Morgan reported a profit of $5.38 billion, down from $5.56 billion a year earlier. On a per-share basis, earnings were $1.31, up from $1.28 as the share count outstanding declined. The latest quarter included a net 8-cent per-share loss tied to litigation expenses and changes in the value of the bank's debt. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected a per-share profit of $1.18, excluding debt-related charges. Revenue rose 6.3% to $27.42 billion. Analysts were looking for $24.68 billion. Wells Fargo reports higher first-quarter profit (Reuters) Wells Fargo, the nation's fourth-biggest U.S. bank, said net income was $4.25 billion, or 75 cents a share, in the quarter, compared with $3.76 billion, or 67 cents, a share in the same period a year earlier. The average estimate from analysts was 73 cents per share. JPMorgan Said to Transform Treasury to Prop Trading (Bloomberg) Achilles Macris, hired in 2006 as the CIO’s top executive in London, led an expansion into corporate and mortgage-debt investments with a mandate to generate profits for the New York- based bank, three of the former employees said. Dimon, 56, closely supervised the shift from the CIO’s previous focus on protecting JPMorgan from risks inherent in its banking business, such as interest-rate and currency movements, they said. Some of Macris’s bets are now so large that JPMorgan probably can’t unwind them without losing money or roiling financial markets, the former executives said, based on knowledge gleaned from people inside the bank and dealers at other firms. Bank Bonus That Tops Salary May Be Banned by EU Lawmakers (Bloomberg) Governments and lawmakers in the 27-nation EU are considering rules for lenders that would go far beyond international agreements approved by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision. Denmark, which holds the rotating presidency of the EU, has proposed empowering nations to set surcharges of up to 3 percent across their banking systems. Karas yesterday suggested adding language to the legislation that would ban banker bonuses that exceed fixed pay, following calls from other lawmakers to rein in excessive compensation. IMF Lifts Growth Forecast, Cautiously (WSJ) Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, said the world economy is marked by "a high degree of instability" even though prospects for global growth are better than they were a few months ago. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Ms. Lagarde said the IMF, which marked down its 2012 forecast for global growth in January to 3.3%, has now marked it up to reflect improving conditions in the world economy. But she said the new forecast, to be released next week, remains more pessimistic than the one it made last September, which predicted 4% growth. Europe remains the biggest single risk to the global economy, the former French finance minister said. Hedge Fund Driver Guns DownArmed Robber (NYP) A retired NYPD lieutenant blew away a drugstore bandit yesterday as the suspect tried to gun down three police officers during a foot pursuit, sources said. Thomas Barnes, Barnes — a driver for hedge fund manager Philippe Laffont, was filling his tank at the BP station on East 119th Street and First Avenue at around 11 a.m. when he saw gunman Rudolph Wyatt running from the store, and sprang into action. He crouched behind his hedge-fund boss’ Mercedes SUV and squeezed off three shots, killing Wyatt, 23. The trigger-happy thug — wanted on warrants for two other shootings — lay dead in a pool of blood on the sidewalk wearing a black stocking mask with a wad of stolen cash spilling out of his pocket, witnesses said. “Part of the back of his head was missing. He had a large head wound and there was tons of blood,” said witness John Brecevich, 59, owner of the Original Patsy’s restaurant nearby. “It was a scene straight out of NYPD Blue.” Trustees Aim For MF Execs (NYP) The trustee tasked with clawing back money for burned customers of MF Global is training his sights on the brokerage firm’s executives — a list that likely includes former CEO Jon Corzine. In a statement yesterday, trustee James Giddens said he is considering pursuing claims against “certain responsible individuals” who worked for MF at the time customers’ trading accounts were improperly tapped. Kent Jarrell, a spokesman for Giddens, declined to name names but said the trustee is considering civil suits against “officers, directors or other employees” of both the brokerage firm and the holding company. Fed Officials Differ on Need to Keep Rates Low to 2014 (Bloomberg) William C. Dudley, president of the New York Fed, and Vice Chairman Janet Yellen said the 2014 time-frame is needed to lower unemployment from 8.2 percent. Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota said rising inflation may prompt an interest-rate increase as early as this year, while Philadelphia’s Charles Plosser said policy should hinge on economic performance, not a calendar commitment. Newark Mayor Cory Booker: Race into home fire was a "come to Jesus moment" (CBS) Booker arrived home last night to discover his next-door neighbor's house on fire, and rescued a young woman trapped upstairs by carrying here through the flames, suffering second-degree burns in the process. The mayor's security team discovered the fire and pounded on the door to alert residents, when an elderly woman said that her daughter was trapped upstairs. At first, Newark Police Detective Alex Rodriguez would not let Booker into the burning house. "He basically told me, 'This woman is going to die if we don't help her,' and what can I say to that?," Rodriguez said. "I let him go and without thinking twice, he just ran into the flames and rescued this young lady." Booker said that as he jumped through the kitchen on the second floor, "I actually wasn't thinking. When I got there and couldn't find her in all the smoke, looked behind me and saw the kitchen really erupting with flames all over the ceiling, that's when I had very clear thoughts that I'm not going to get out of this place alive and got ... very religious. He admitted he was "not gentle" with her - "I just sort of threw her over my shoulder and dragged her through the kitchen."