Opening Bell: 1.21.15

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S&P, SEC, Two States Agree to Roughly $80 Million Settlement (WSJ)
Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services has agreed to pay more than $77 million to settle federal and state charges that it loosened its ratings criteria to win business and did not disclose those changes to investors. The settlement announced Wednesday is with the Securities and Exchange Commission, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. Separately, S&P is still negotiating to pay more than $1.37 billion to the Justice Department and more than a dozen states to resolve claims S&P committed fraud by misrepresenting its ratings as independent and objective during the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis.

ECB Seeks to Inject Up to 1.1 Trillion Euros Into Economy in Deflation Fight (Bloomberg)
Mario Draghi called on the European Central Bank to make its biggest push yet to fend off deflation and revive the economy by unleashing a debt-buying spree of 1.1 trillion euros ($1.3 trillion). The ECB president and his Executive Board proposed spending 50 billion euros a month through December 2016, two euro-area central-bank officials said. The plan still faces a tense debate in the Governing Council and may change before the final decision on Thursday, the people said, asking not to be identified as the talks are private. An ECB spokesman declined to comment.

Druckenmiller Alums at PointState Make $1 Billion on Oil (Bloomberg)
Hedge fund manager Zach Schreiber stood on stage at Avery Fisher Hall in New York eight months ago and made a bold prediction. “We believe crude oil is going lower -- much lower,” Schreiber, 42, told the audience of roughly 3,000 investors, including some of the biggest money managers in the industry. “If you are long, I’m sorry for you.” Then he showed a slide of a car stuffed with clowns. Crude was trading at $99 a barrel that day, bolstered by speculation that Russia’s annexation of Crimea and incursions into Ukraine would crimp shipments. Prices crept up over the next weeks peaking in June at $107. Then, as Schreiber predicted, the dive began. Oil fell more than 50 percent through the end of the year as global supplies piled up, helping Schreiber’s PointState Capital make about 27 percent for the year after fees. The New York-based investment firm’s profit was about $2 billion in 2014 with about half of that from the oil trade, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because the firm is private.

Facebook study shows it’s a job creator — not a killer (NYP)
A report commissioned by Facebook claims the social network generated a whopping $227 billion worth of economic activity and 4.5 million jobs last year. The study, prepared by consulting firm Deloitte, looked at everything from businesses that maintain Facebook pages to consumers who play games on the social network. “People believe that technology creates jobs in the tech sector and destroys jobs everywhere else,” Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg told Reuters. “This report shows that’s not true.” However, critics say the study is confusing cause and effect, and assigns Facebook too much credit for a range of tangential economic activities. For instance, the study attributes 16 percent of smartphone sales to Facebook. It based that finding on a separate European survey that showed an equal number of respondents said they could not live without social media, according to WSJ.com. The study also gives credit for consumers who donated $100 million for the ALS Ice Bucket challenge, saying the social network’s auto-play video ads were a key factor, Reuters reported.

New Hampshire lotto releases bacon-scented scratch-off (UPI)
The New Hampshire Lottery announced the release of its first-ever scratch-and-sniff ticket, which is designed to give off the alluring aroma of bacon. The "I (Heart) Bacon Scratch Ticket," which sells for $1 and offers prizes of up to $1,000, was officially rolled out to stores this month, the lottery announced Monday. "The (NH) Lottery is focused on developing new and fun ways to engage customers. The I Heart Bacon scratch ticket combines two things people love: the chance to win cash and the wonderful, enticing smell of bacon," Charlie McIntyre, executive director of the New Hampshire Lottery Commission, told WMUR-TV.

Middle East Oil Producers Could See $300 Billion Export Loss (WSJ)
Oil export losses for major Middle East crude producers are likely to total $300 billion this year but large cash buffers are allowing the countries to absorb most of the impact of falling oil on their economies, the International Monetary Fund said Wednesday. Those cash reserves are why the IMF only marginally cut its economic outlook for Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Gulf Cooperation Council countries in its latest report on the region. The fund forecast the regional economy to expand by 3.4% this year, 1.1 percentage point lower than it expected last October.

Swiss Add to Russian Corporate Despair as Debt Costs Jump (Bloomberg)
The Swiss National Bank president’s surprise decision to ditch the franc cap last week swelled what Russian corporates owe through the end of next year on debt denominated in the currency by 33 billion rubles ($502 million). Since the Jan. 15 change, the extra yield investors demand to hold OAO VTB Bank’s franc notes due in May 2018 versus its dollar debt jumped 2.70 percentage points. As recently as Dec. 24, the rate was at a record discount of 2.63 percentage points.

Veronica Partridge, Christian Blogger, Vows To Give Up Yoga Pants To 'Honor God And Husband' (HP)
Christian blogger Veronica Partridge has been getting a lot of attention for a blog post earlier this month in which she vows to no longer wear leggings in public because of her religious beliefs. The decision -- which she writes weighed "heavy on her heart" for several months -- was done to inspire fewer "lustful" thoughts in men. Apparently, a discussion about the skintight garment led Partridge’s husband to confess to her that “it’s hard not to look” when he goes somewhere filled with leggings-clad women. “I try not to, but it’s not easy,” he told her, according to her to blog. The revelation that guys might be checking out Partridge’s be-spandexed bum is what led the 25-year-old to quit leggings and yoga pants — a decision she writes weighed “heavy on her heart” for several months...After spending a couple of weeks sans leggings, she writes, her “conscience is clear” and she feels she’s “honoring God and my husband in the way I dress.”

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Opening Bell: 08.02.12

Knight Says Glitch Cost It $440 Million (WSJ) Knight, in a press statement Thursday, said the problematic software had been removed from its systems and that the firm would conduct business making markets and trading on behalf of its clients Thursday. Knight's broker-dealer subsidiaries are in compliance with requirements to hold capital, the company said. The estimated $440 million loss disclosed Thursday by Knight follows a $35.4 million hit taken by the company in the problematic stock-market debut of Facebook. Goldman Leads Foreign Banks Accelerating Job Cuts In Japan (Bloomberg) Goldman Sachs led foreign banks in accelerating job cuts at their Japanese brokerages last fiscal year as employees relocated to other Asian financial centers and firms trimmed costs amid a global industry slump. The number of staff at nine global securities firms in Japan fell by 537, or 7.3 percent, to a combined 6,796 as of March 31, more than double the previous year’s 3.2 percent reduction, according to company regulatory filings. Wall Street and European banks have been eliminating jobs and transferring staff from Japan to Hong Kong and Singapore to reduce expenses as the euro region’s debt woes dent global investor confidence. The worst may be over as Japan recovers from last year’s nuclear crisis and some U.S. firms start hiring junior bankers for mergers advice and asset management, said Katsunobu Komizo, a Tokyo-based recruiting consultant. BNP Paribas Second Quarter Net Falls, Hits Capital Goal Early (Reuters) Second-quarter net income fell to 1.85 billion euros ($2.27 billion), beating the average of analyst estimates of 1.74 billion in a Reuters poll. Revenue dropped 8 percent to 10.10 billion, broadly in line with the poll average of 10.13 billion. The bank hit an 8.9 percent core Tier 1 ratio under stricter new Basel III methodology due to come into force from 2013. It is six months ahead of its target to hit 9 percent by end-2013. AIG Pushing Plan For Independence (WSJ) Several analysts who follow the company say the government's stake could be cut below 30% before the November elections, if asset sales expected by AIG in the coming months help the company raise a total of $10 billion to $15 billion in excess capital. The buybacks are likely to accompany one or more public share offerings of AIG stock by the Treasury, which over the past 16 months has reduced its stake from a peak of 92% through a series of at-market sales. Boulder police: Longmont man urinated on woman at bar after she rejected his advances (CD) Boulder police arrested a Longmont man who witnesses said urinated on a woman at a local bar after she rejected his advances Saturday night, according to a report. The woman told police she was standing next to the bar at Shooters Grill and Bar, 1801 13th St., about 11:45 p.m. Saturday when a man -- later identified as Timothy Paez, 22 -- came up behind her and put his arm around her. The woman turned around and said, "Um, really?," and Paez took his arm off her, according to the report. According to police, a few seconds later, the woman said she felt some sort of liquid hitting her leg. She initially thought Paez was spilling his beer on her, but when she turned around she told police she saw Paez with his penis exposed urinating on her leg and the front of the bar. Berkshire Benefits As Buffett Wagers On U.S. Housing (Bloomberg) “I don’t know if he’s lucky, smart or patriotic, but it’s worked out for him,” Cliff Gallant, an analyst at KBW Inc., said in a phone interview. He estimates that Berkshire will post an operating profit of $1,750 a share for the second quarter, a 6.7 percent increase from a year earlier. Bacon To Return $2 Billion (NYP) Louis Moore Bacon plans to give back $2 billion, or 25 percent of his main hedge fund, to investors, saying it may be too big for him to achieve past returns as “liquidity and opportunities have become more constrained.” Bacon, who seeks to exploit macroeconomic trends such as changes in interest rates and currencies, returned a “disappointing” 0.35 percent in the first half and a “tolerable” 6 percent in the past year, according to a letter sent yesterday to clients. He has gained on average more than 18 percent a year since starting the Moore Global Investments fund in 1989. Jobless Claims Increase (WSJ) Initial jobless claims, an indication of layoffs, increased by 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 365,000 in the week ended July 28, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had forecast 370,000 new applications for jobless benefits last week. Your 119 Billion Google Searches Now A Central Bank Tool (Bloomberg) Margo Sugarman spent months last year searching on Google for the appliances to complete her dream kitchen, scouring the Internet for information on the latest double ovens and low-noise mixers. Not only did those queries guide the Tel Mond, Israel, resident to the best deals for her 70,000-shekel ($17,680) renovation, they also helped the Bank of Israel, which looks to searches like Sugarman’s to assess the state of the nation’s $243 billion economy. The central bank stands at the forefront of the world’s hunt for new economic indicators, analyzing keyword counts for everything from aerobics classes to refrigerators -- reported by Google almost as soon as the queries take place -- to gauge consumer demand before official statistics are released. The Federal Reserve and the central banks of England, Italy, Spain and Chile have followed up with their own studies to see if search volumes track trends in the economies they oversee. For Retiring GE Executive, $89,000/Month Not to Work (WSJ) John Krenicki is giving up his General Electric paycheck. But he's going to be collecting an allowance. As part of a deal to keep the veteran executive from joining a competitor for an usually long three years, the conglomerate has agreed to pay Mr. Krenicki $89,000 a month until 2022. The payment to Mr. Krenicki, who is 50 years old, was dubbed a retirement allowance by GE and is worth $1 million a year.

Opening Bell: 5.27.15

Greece not getting money any time soon; RBS will (probably) pay another $4.5 billion fine; FIFA arrests; Hank Greenberg; Activists v. Tech; "NYPD boss spent $60K on dance studio for cops"; and more.

Opening Bell: 2.23.15

Morgan Stanley FBI informant fired; Greece reform; iCar; Tech sexual harassment trial; Guy who ate 6 lbs of bacon in 5 minutes felt fine; AND MORE.

Opening Bell: 2.18.15

Snapchat thinks it's worth $19 billion; Volatility is interrupting nat-gas traders' sleep; BATS is going to try this IPO thing one more time; 12k snake deal ends in murder; AND MORE.