Russian Woes Worsen as Recession Looms With Banks in ‘Panic’ (Bloomberg)
Speaking a day after President Vladimir Putin said Russia is scrapping a proposed $45 billion pipeline to Europe, the government predicted the economy will contract next year and canceled a bond auction. It was also forced to pledge 39.95 billion rubles ($740 million) to support OAO Gazprombank, at least the third lender to secure a capital injection since U.S. and European Union sanctions curbed their ability to borrow.
Lower Oil Prices Will Help Boost Global Economy, IMF’s Lagarde Says (WSJ)
International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde on Monday said falling oil prices will help boost economies in the U.S. and across much of the globe, a net positive for a world struggling with slowing growth. “It is good news for the global economy,” Ms. Lagarde said at The Wall Street Journal CEO Council annual meeting. Oil prices tumbled to multiyear lows last week after the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries decided to maintain its production quotas, rather than lowering its output target. Lower oil prices are good for most consumers, who pay less for gasoline, but could squeeze energy companies and the economies of some major producers like Russia and Venezuela.
Encouraging Public Service, Through Wall Street’s ‘Revolving Door’ (NYT)
The issue — which some commentators have tagged as part of the revolving door problem between regulators and the industries they cover — moved into the headlines recently when Antonio Weiss, a Lazard banker who has been nominated for under secretary of the Treasury for domestic finance, disclosed that his firm would pay him about $20 million in stock and deferred compensation if he were to win confirmation. Mr. Weiss would not be entitled to that money if he were to leave the firm for a rival bank. “It feels icky,” Ms. Slavkin Corzo told me about the compensation policy. “We are looking at this from a shareholder perspective,” she added, allowing that she’s “open to the other side. We are asking questions. They are fair.”
Fed Leak Tipped Traders to Historic Stimulus Move, Prompted Secret Inquiry (Bloomberg)
Minutes of the FOMC, the 12-member panel that sets monetary policy, are so sensitive that an accidental leak in April 2013 caused a stir. The Fed inspector general was asked to examine how the Board of Governors handled confidential information and released a report to the public detailing weaknesses. More recently, the question of Fed leaks has focused on the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, where an employee passed confidential information to a banker at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. That episode raised concern about ties between government agencies and the financial industry.
$157,000 teddy bear collection headed for auction (UPI)
A teddy bear collector preparing to move from Britain to Hong Kong is putting his $157,000 collection of vintage Steiff bears up for auction. Jena Pang, who named all of the bears in his collection, said the 32 vintage bears from German manufacturer Steiff will be auctioned Dec. 24 by Special Auction Services in Newbury, England, because they wouldn't do well with the humidity when he moves to Hong Kong. The vintage collection, which Pang has been amassing since 2002, includes a 1904 bear considered to be the first teddy bear sold to the public. Similar bears have sold for more than $7,000 in previous auctions. "They are more than just collector's items -- they come with me most places I go, whether it be to dinner, the theatre or away on travel," Pang told The Daily Mail. "I am selling them because I am planning on moving to Hong Kong, and the bears simply wouldn't survive the humidity."
Blackstone selling IndCor Properties to Singapore’s GIC for $8.1B (NYP)
Steve Schwarzman’s Blackstone Group said it would sell its US industrial platform IndCor Properties to affiliates of Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC for $8.1 billion. As a result of the deal, IndCor will no longer pursue an initial public offering filed in September, Blackstone said in a statement.
Business Roundtable: CEOs Expect Less Capital Spending, More Hiring (RTE)
The Business Roundtable, a group of CEOs, said its CEO Economic Outlook Index declined to a reading of 85.1 in the current quarter from 86.4 in the third quarter. The survey of 129 CEOs measures expectations for the next six months of sales, capital spending and employment. The drop largely reflected lower expectations for business capital spending, though expectations of sales also declined. One bright spot: The executives boosted their forecast for hiring. Overall, company executives said they expect the U.S. economy to grow 2.4% in 2015, matching their expectation for growth in 2014.
For Uber, Airbnb and Other Companies, Customer Ratings Go Both Ways (NYT)
Travelers are often asked to review their hotel, restaurant and car service. But increasingly, it goes both ways. Drivers for Uber and Lyft, for example, rate their passengers from one to five stars at the end of each ride. If a rider receives three stars or fewer, the driver and passenger will not be paired up again. And at OpenTable, the restaurant booking system, customers are banned if they do not show for a reservation too many times. These are among the ways that sophisticated rating systems can turn on the customer, identifying the best and worst among them. Harry Campbell, an Uber driver in Orange County, Calif., says he reserves his lowest rating only for the most egregious cases. He recalled picking up two young women who “didn’t seem that drunk,” only to have one of them vomit in his car. “I was done for the night,” he said. He gave her the lowest rating and charged her for the cleaning fees. Another time, Mr. Campbell said, a passenger asked him to go to an A.T.M. to withdraw money, drive to another part of town and wait five minutes while the passenger disappeared briefly into a run-down house, and then take him to a final destination. “That looked like a drug buy, and I didn’t want to drive that guy again so I gave him a low score,” he said.
Man Accused Of Making Meth In Park Bathroom (HP)
Police in Volusia County, Florida, have arrested a man for allegedly making meth in the bathroom of a local park. Justin Hill, 20, of New Smyrna Beach, was arrested last Tuesday and charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, manufacture of methamphetamine and possession of cannabis. Hill's alleged bathroom meth lab was discovered when a construction worker called 911 around 8 a.m. to report smoke emanating from the men’s bathroom at Detwiler Park. The worker said the smoke smelled like chemicals and acid. He said he saw a man running from the area carrying a bag, the Daytona News-Journal reports. When investigators arrived, they found remnants of a one-pot meth lab in the bathroom, according to the Miami Herald.