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: 05.21.12

JPMorgan CIO Risk Chief Said To Have Trading-Loss History (Bloomberg) Irvin Goldman, who oversaw risks in the JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) unit that suffered more than $2 billion in trading losses, was fired by another Wall Street firm in 2007 for money-losing bets that prompted a regulatory sanction at the firm, Cantor Fitzgerald LP, three people with direct knowledge of the matter said. JPMorgan appointed Goldman in February as the top risk official in its chief investment office while the unit was managing trades that later spiraled into what Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon called “egregious,” self-inflicted mistakes. The bank knew when it picked Goldman that his earlier work at Cantor led regulators to penalize that company, according to a person briefed on the situation. Risk Manager's Past Scrutinized (WSJ) Mr. Goldman joined J.P. Morgan's CIO in January 2008 as a trader. The bank placed him on leave in September 2008 after it learned that NYSE Arca had opened a regulatory inquiry tied to his trading activities at Cantor Fitzgerald, people familiar with the matter said. After J.P. Morgan placed him on leave, Mr. Goldman founded a consulting firm based in New York called IJG Advisors LLC. He rejoined J.P. Morgan in September 2010 in the Chief Investment Office, this time focusing on strategy. Current J.P. Morgan Chase Chief Risk Officer John Hogan chose Mr. Goldman to serve as CRO of the office, a position that had been filled by Peter Weiland, who remains with J.P. Morgan's CIO. Mr. Hogan wasn't aware of the Cantor Fitzgerald incident or the earlier trading losses at J.P. Morgan Chase, said a person close to the bank. Eurobonds To Be Discussed At EU Summit (Reuters) Merkel has said she is not opposed to jointly underwritten euro area bonds per se, but believes it can only be discussed once the conditions are right, including much closer economic integration and coordination across the euro zone, including on fiscal matters. That remains a long way off. Will Greece Be Able to Print Drachma in a Rush? (Reuters) If or when policymakers finally decide Greece should leave the euro, the exit could happen so quickly that "new drachma" currency notes might not be printed in time. "It would be chaos," says Marios Efthymiopoulos, a visiting scholar at Johns Hopkins University Center for Advanced International Studies and president of Thessaloniki-based think tank Global Strategy. "The banks would collapse and you would have to nationalize them. You wouldn't be able to pay anyone except in coupons. There is only one (currency) printing press in Greece. It is in the museum in Athens and it doesn't work any more." Ryanair CEO: ‘No’ Campaigners in Irish Vote Are Crazy (CNBC) “I think Ireland will vote yes in the referendum and Ireland should vote yes. We have no alternative. People who are borrowing $15 billion a year to keep the lights turned on don’t have the wherewithal to vote no to the people that are lending them the money. There is no argument for voting no,” Michael O'Leary, CEO of budget airline Ryanair said. He described “no” campaigners as a “bunch of idiots and lunatics.” Barclays To Sell Entire BlackRock Stake (WSJ) Barclays said BlackRock agreed to repurchase $1 billion worth of the 19.6% stake that the bank holds in the asset-management company. The remainder of the stake will then be listed on a stock exchange. The decision to sell comes as the bank faces pressure from investors to boost its return on equity and prepares to mitigate the effects of regulation that will force the lender to hold a bigger capital buffer. Mark Zuckerberg Gets Married (AP) The couple met at Harvard and have been together for more than nine years, a guest who insisted on anonymity said. The ceremony took place in Zuckerberg's backyard before fewer than 100 guests, including Facebook's chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg. The guests all thought they were coming to celebrate Chan's graduation but were told after they arrived that the event was in fact a wedding. "Everybody was shocked," the guest said. The two had been planning the marriage for months but were waiting until Chan had graduated from medical school to hold the wedding. The timing wasn't tied to the IPO, since the date the company planned to go public was a "moving target," the guest said. Zuckerberg designed the ring featuring "a very simple ruby." Hedge Funds Rebuild Euro Bear Bets On Greek Exit Banks Weigh (Bloomberg) Hedge funds and other large speculators, which pared trades that would profit from a drop in the euro to the lowest levels since November, rebuilt them to a record high last week, figures released May 18 by the Washington-based Commodity Futures Trading Commission showed. The premium for options that grant the right to sell the euro has more than doubled since March. Nasdaq CEO Blames Software Design For Delayed Facebook Trading (Bloomberg) Nasdaq OMX Group, under scrutiny after shares of Facebook Inc. were plagued by delays and mishandled orders on its first day of trading, blamed “poor design” in the software it uses for driving auctions in initial public offerings. Fed Proves More Bullish Than Wall Street Forecasting U.S. Growth (Bloomberg) Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Pierpont Securities LLC, has derided the Federal Reserve for downplaying improvement in the U.S. economy. Yet his 2.6 percent forecast for growth this year is below the midpoint in the central bank’s projection of 2.4 percent to 2.9 percent...“I’ve been banging my head against the wall,” said Stanley in Stamford, Connecticut, a former researcher at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, who had predicted an interest- rate increase as early as last year and now says the Fed probably will tighten in the middle of next year. “They’re willing to let things run for longer and let inflation accelerate more than historically.” Judge mulls suit vs. woman sending messages to driving boyfriend (NYP) In a case believed to be the first of its kind in the country, a New Jersey college student could be held liable this week for texting her boyfriend — knowing he was behind the wheel — and allegedly causing him to crash into a couple riding a motorcycle. “She texts. Instantly, he texts back, and, bang, the accident occurs,” said Skippy Weinstein, attorney for motorcycle enthusiasts David and Linda Kubert, both 59, who lost their left legs in the horrific 2009 accident in Mine Hill. It’s now up to a Superior Court judge in Morristown, NJ, to decide whether Shannon Colonna can be added to the suit against driver Kyle Best.

Opening Bell: 3.1.16

Barclays loses; Valeant under investigation; Mystery Malaysian high roller at center of global money-laundering probe; Canadian banned from owning turtles after smuggling 38 in pants; and more.

Opening Bell: 11.25.15

"Hedge funds stalk battered corner of bond world"; Goldman bankers join Uber; Private equity goes after Premier League; Baby Cheesus; and more.