Holiday Bell: 12.29.14

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Hot Funds Take Wrong Turn (WSJ)
Investors yanked more than $5 billion so far this year from the largest and most popular “liquid-alternative” mutual fund as losses mounted on bad bets tied to the global economy, according to fund-research firm Morningstar Inc. Assets in the MainStay Marketfield fund have fallen 45% from a February peak of $21.5 billion. The fall is a blow to a segment of the investment world that has exploded in popularity. Liquid-alternative funds mimic hedge funds by using strategies such as buying stocks while betting against others, and investing in futures, commodities and other derivatives. Proponents say the funds offer affordable access to once-exclusive investing tactics that protect against volatility in the financial markets. Critics say they foist too much risk and complexity on relatively unsophisticated investors.

Lion Capital Is Said to Push American Apparel to Consider Sale (Bloomberg)
American Apparel received a letter from Lion on Sunday asking the retailer to form a special committee to review its options, the person said, asking not to be identified as the matter is private. Lion also said it plans to name founding partner Lyndon Lea to American Apparel’s board instead of previous nominee Gene Montesano, one of the entrepreneurs behind Lucky Brand Jeans, the person said. The move adds pressure to a company already reeling from an acrimonious split with Dov Charney, its founder and former chief executive officer. Lion has been a longtime ally of the controversial Charney, who is trying to reassert his influence at the retail chain after he was fired this month.

Bill Ackman seeks dismissal of insider trading lawsuit (NYP)
Allergan filed its suit in August, as the botox maker’s defense of the Ackman/Valeant bid reached a fevered pitch. It claims Ackman and Valeant breached securities laws by taking “substantial steps” toward a hostile deal before making their efforts public. Ackman and Valeant deny the charge. In late November, Ackman and Valeant walked away from their $50 billion offer when Allergan struck a richer deal with Actavis: a $66 billion stock and cash offer worth $219 per share. Their retreat made most of Allergan’s claims moot, Ackman’s motion to dismiss claims.

Credit Suisse vows to fight New York mortgage securities case (Reuters)
Credit Suisse Group AG said on Monday it would fight a U.S. lawsuit which accuses the Swiss bank of deceiving investors in mortgage-backed securities it had issued. The Zurich-based bank said a New York State Supreme Court justice had last week rejected its request to dismiss the case, in which New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman accuses the bank of misrepresenting the quality of loans underlying residential mortgage-backed securities sponsored and underwritten by Credit Suisse in 2006 and 2007. Investors suffered $11.2 billion in losses on the securities, according to Schneiderman's lawsuit.

Greek Shorts Ascendant in Hedge Against Syriza Victory (Bloomberg)
Bearish bets on an exchange-traded fund tracking Greek shares climbed this month to the highest level since May 2012, just before the benchmark ASE Index fell to a low in the wake of the nation’s debt restructuring. The measure is down 34 percent this year, the biggest decline after Russia’s dollar-denominated RTS Index, while intraday swings in the ASE have been the wildest in 2 1/2 years this month. The gauge sank as much as 11 percent today.

Meet the women who are getting ‘breakup Botox’ (NYP)
And, it’s not only women who are heading to the derm after a split. Dr. Robert Schwarcz, one of New York’s top plastic surgeons, revered for Botox and fillers around the eyes, says about 15 percent of his patients are there to feel better after a breakup or divorce -— and his newly single patients are both men and women. The different sexes, he says, approach the procedure “with totally different mindsets.” Women, he says, do it “for themselves…like buying a new pair of expensive shoes.” His male clients, on the other hand, are typically over 40 and looking to appear younger and date younger. And they don’t just want Botox. “The first thing the newly single guys do is dye their hair, if they have hair. Then they’ll tan, lose some weight, work out, change their wardrobe, and then come in and I’ll do their eyelids, some liposuction, maybe a neck lift,” he says. “Then they’re back on the dating scene and they’re pretty fierce about it.”

Texans Discover Oil Grows on Olive Trees as Crude Drops (Bloomberg)
Five years after one of the biggest oil booms in decades boosted royalty checks, a steep decline in oil prices has Texans seeking new ways to stay ahead. About 70 farmers across the state -- up from 24 in 2008 -- are hoping to cash in on America’s growing appetite for olive oil, a small part of the latest effort to diversify the economy of the second most-populous U.S. state. In 2013 Texas farmers planted about 500,000 olive trees, up from 80,000 trees in 2008, according to figures from the Texas Olive Oil Council. The council expects around two million trees to be planted by the end of next year.

Munis Dominate in Yearlong Advance Wall Street Analysts Missed (Bloomberg)
Munis have gained 9.4 percent this year through Dec. 24, the most since 2011 and eclipsing the 6.8 percent return for investment-grade company debt and 5.4 percent for Treasuries, Bank of America Merrill Lynch data show. A 0.22 percent December return puts munis on pace to gain in every month of 2014, an unprecedented streak. Longer-dated munis were the year’s best performers -- bonds maturing in at least 22 years have surged 16.5 percent, beating a gain of about 15 percent gain on the Standard & Poor’s 500 index of stocks.

Icahn Discloses Stake in Manitowoc, Seeks Breakup (WSJ)
Activist investor Carl Icahn disclosed a 7.77% stake in Manitowoc Co. on Monday and said he plans to push the company to split itself in two, mirroring an activist campaign launched in June by Relational Investors LLC. Mr. Icahn will push for Manitowoc to separate its crane and foodservice segments and could also seek board representation, his firm said in a regulatory filing. Mr. Icahn and his firm haven’t yet engaged in talks with the company, which sells heavy construction machinery, including crawler and tower cranes, and commercial foodservice equipment.

Woman Busted For Prophylactic Attack On Beau (TSG)
A 19-year-old Florida woman was arrested early Sunday morning for domestic battery after allegedly striking her live-in boyfriend in the eye with a box of condoms. According to police reports, Dominique Claridge and William Hessian, 19, got into a verbal argument that turned physical around midnight. The squabble took place inside a car being driven by Hessian near the couple’s Bradenton home. Claridge told cops that the pair argued about Hessian “talking to some other girl.” At one point, Claridge threw a box of condoms at Hessian, striking him in the left eye. The alleged prophylactic attack left Hessian with “minor bruising to the eye area,” police noted. Investigators did not describe the size of the condom box that struck Hessian, who works as a welder.

Programming Note: We’re on an abbreviated, vacation-esque schedule this week. Opening and closing wraps, with some light posting/moral support throughout the day for those at l'office.

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