Opening Bell: 1.23.15 - Dealbreaker

Opening Bell: 1.23.15

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High-Frequency Probe’s First Target Is Barclays (Bloomberg)
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s 10-month investigation into high-speed trading has so far led to one big target: Barclays Plc. Almost a year after New York’s top cop made a splash with subpoenas of six high-frequency trading operations, the names of some of these firms cropped up in documents filed this week in the state court in Manhattan. The firms aren’t defendants, though. They are listed as part of Schneiderman’s proposed updated complaint against Barclays, which ran the private trading venue, or dark pool, where these firms traded. Schneiderman’s suit doesn’t allege any wrongdoing by the high-frequency trading firms. Its focus, instead, is whether Barclays lied to its customers about what HFT firms were doing inside Barclays’s dark pool, one of Wall Street’s largest in-house trading platforms.

$43 hot dogs at Davos (CNBC)
At the posh Steigenberger Grandhotel Belvédère, a conference hotspot, even humble menu items can be astronomically pricey. A hot dog with pickles, fried onions and mustard is priced at 38 Swiss francs (about $43.50). It's 48 Swiss francs for a chicken Caesar salad with parmesan (about $55) and a draft beer at a local restaurant - in a pint-sized glass - can cost 6.50 Swiss francs, about $7.50.

Bordeaux Is Illiquid and Other Wine Investment Hazards (Bloomberg)
More than half a dozen firms peddling wine investments in the U.K. alone went belly up last year. Why have there been so many flops? “Most funds collapse because they have the wrong structure, the wrong strategy and no focus on how to exit,” says Brian Mota, co-manager of The Wine Trust, a U.S. fund founded in 2010 with $15 million to $20 million in assets. Mota is convinced The Wine Trust’s private-equity-fund-type setup, in which investors’ money is locked in for eight years, is the most appropriate for wine, Bloomberg Markets magazine will report in its February issue. “It’s an illiquid investment,” Mota says, chuckling at the irony of his statement. “You can only maximize returns if you can sell at the right moment.”

The Super Bowl Wings Will Be Fat, Yes, But Pricey Too (Bloomberg)
First the fat part. American farmers are giving their chickens extra feed, taking advantage of plunging corn and soybean costs to help lift poultry production -- as measured by weight -- to a record. But each chicken, of course, still only has two wings, regardless of its size. And the number of actual chickens slaughtered last year fell, causing a drop of about 50 million wings, government data show. That smaller supply is what’s triggering the pricey part of the equation. The cost of wholesale wings sold by processors in Georgia, which sets the benchmark for the nation, has surged 8.2 percent this month to $1.715 a pound, the biggest jump to start a year since 2012. Americans will consume 1.25 billion wings when game day arrives Feb. 1. That estimate, provided by the National Chicken Council, is unchanged from last year’s Super Bowl.

German judge: Man can't be fined for peeing standing up (UPI)
A German judge ruled a tenant can't be held responsible for floor damage resulting from urinating while in the standing position. Dusseldorf Judge Stefan Hank sided with the tenant, whose lawsuit said the landlord refused to return $2,100 of his $3,300 deposit, alleging the resident's urine had damaged the marble floor around the toilet. Hank said the arguments from the landlord and a "technical expert" who confirmed urine was responsible for the marble tile damage were "credible and understandable," but not enough to sway his opinion. "Despite the increasing domestication of men in this regard, urinating while standing up is still widespread," the judge wrote in his ruling. Hank said the landlord should have warned the tenant of the floor's "sensitivity" to urine droplets.

BNY Mellon, State Street get profit boost from forex trading (Reuters)
Foreign exchange revenue at New York-based BNY Mellon, the No. 1 custody bank, surged 31 percent to $165 million from year-ago levels as currency markets underwent more volatility. The bank's total fourth-quarter revenue of $3.69 billion was 2 percent higher than the year-ago period. BNY Mellon Chief Executive Officer Gerald Hassell, who has been under pressure from shareholders and analysts to rein in costs, also said the bank cut staff expenses by 7 percent compared with the year-earlier period. BNY Mellon reported adjusted earnings of $667 million, or 58 cents a share, compared with $629 million, or 54 cents a share. At Boston-based State Street Corp, BNY's largest rival, adjusted net income available to shareholders was $582 million, or $1.37 cents a share. That compared with $514 million, or $1.15 a share, in the fourth quarter of 2013. State Street said fourth-quarter revenue from foreign exchange trading was $168 million, up 34 percent from the year-ago period. Total operating revenue was $2.72 billion, compared with $2.53 billion in the year-ago period.

The Chilly Fallout Between Putin and His Old Oligarch Pals (Bloomberg)
The ruble’s plunge has heightened opposition to Putin’s backing of the rebellion in Ukraine among his wealthiest allies, prompting the president to shrink his inner circle from dozens of confidants to a small group of security officials united by their support for the separatists, two longtime associates said. Putin is increasingly suspicious of men who owe their wealth to their ties to him and who are being hurt the most by U.S. and European sanctions, according to the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid reprisal.

Brazil’s 2015 Economic Growth Will Be ‘Almost Flat,’ Says Finance Minister (WSJ)
Brazil’s economic growth will be “almost flat” in 2015 amid a series of tax increases and spending cuts at home, as well as slower global growth, Finance Minister Joaquim Levy said in an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos. “We have to deal with short-term issues on investment,” Mr. Levy said. “There are lots of things to be done in Brazil.” A survey of economists by the country’s central bank this month forecast that Brazil’s GDP will grow by only 0.5% this year, following an estimated 0.15% expansion in 2014.

Billionaire tells Americans to live more modestly (NYP)
After flying to Davos in a private jet with his wife, kids and two nannies, billionaire Jeff Greene, who amassed a fortune betting against subprime mortgage securities, is lecturing the rest of us to live more modestly. “America’s lifestyle expectations are far too high and need to be adjusted so we have less things and a smaller, better existence,” Coral Gables founder Greene told Bloomberg News at the World Economic Forum, adding, “We need to reinvent our whole system of life.”

Flight attendant gives graphic testimony in Air Canada mile-high sex trial (NEWS AU)
The flight attendant went to investigate and found Mr Chase and Ms Lander in their seats with a coat draped across their laps, the court heard. Ms Lander’s pink G-string was visible between her exposed thighs and Mr Chase’s hand was making an up and down gesture, Mr Dunn said. “Her pants were down around her ankles,” he told the court, Canadian Press reported. “I said, ‘I want you to stop this now. It’s inappropriate.’” Mr Dunn ordered Ms Lander to get dressed and “put her breasts back inside her bra,” before separating the couple for the rest of the flight. When the captain found out about the lovers’ shenanigans, he had the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) meet the plane after landing. The court heard that when officers tried to escort Ms Lander through the airport to an interview room, she became violent. RCMP Constable James Curran said she knocked down a sliding door, hit a police officer and punched holes into walls. She also reeked of alcohol. “At one point she lunged at me as if to bite me,” another RCMP officer, Constable Mac Routliffe, told the court.

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Opening Bell: 02.12.13

Obama Address to Focus on Economy, Social Issues (WSJ) President Obama's chief spokesman, Jay Carney, said Monday the core emphasis in the president's big speeches remains the same: "The need to make the economy work for the middle class, because the middle class is the engine that drives this country forward and which will, if it's given the right tools and the right opportunities, will drive us forward in the 21st century." Republicans welcome the president's expected focus on the economy, but also say he hasn't done enough. "The White House says they're talking about jobs and the economy. I welcome that engagement," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) said in an interview Sunday. "It seems as if the president is constantly trying to pivot back to jobs and the economy. The reason you see that happening is he's never pursued it." Mr. Obama will also address a series of automatic spending cuts set to kick in March 1—the so-called sequester—which could threaten economic growth, national—security preparation and the jobs of thousands of federal employees. Mr. Obama has called on Congress to pass a temporary measure of spending reductions and new taxes to replace the across-the-board cuts. Barclays to Cut 3,700 Jobs After Full-Year Loss (Bloomberg) Barclays Plc will cut 3,700 jobs to reduce annual costs by 1.7 billion pounds ($2.6 billion) as Chief Executive Officer Antony Jenkins revamps the lender following its first full-year loss in two decades. About 1,800 positions will go this year at the firm’s investment bank and 1,900 in its loss-making European consumer and business banking unit, Jenkins said in a statement today. The lender posted a net loss of 1.04 billion pounds for 2012, wider than the 307 million-pound estimate of nine analysts surveyed by Bloomberg, as it set aside an additional 1 billion pounds in the fourth quarter for compensating clients wrongly sold interest-rate swaps and loan-repayment insurance. BNY Mellon loses U.S. tax case, to take $850 million profit hit (Reuters) BNY Mellon Corp said on Monday it will take an $850 million charge against first-quarter profit after losing a high-stakes tax case to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, a move that will also erode some of its capital. The BNY Mellon case was the first to go to trial since the IRS accused several U.S. banks of generating artificial foreign tax credits through loans with London-based Barclays. The IRS challenged a $900 million tax benefit claimed by BNY Mellon that stemmed from a $1.5 billion loan from Barclays. The funding was so cheap that at one point Barclays actually paid BNY Mellon to take Barclays' money, according to court papers. Nasdaq Steps Up Pursuit Of A Partner (WSJ) Nasdaq, long on the hunt for a partner, has ramped up its conversations about strategic options ranging from joint ventures to a sale, according to people familiar with the talks, as rival NYSE Euronext moves ahead with a merger that will form an even-bigger competitor. Twinkie Brand Heads For Sale (WSJ) Judge Robert Drain of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in White Plains, N.Y., cleared Hostess on Monday to proceed with several of the sale processes it has unveiled during the past several weeks. Private-equity firms Apollo Global Management LLC and Metropoulos & Co. are now officially set to kick off the contest for most of the Hostess cakes business, with a $410 million offer for brands such as Twinkie, Dolly Madison, Ho Hos and Ding Dongs. That so-called "stalking horse," or lead, bid also covers five bakeries and certain equipment. McKee Foods Corp., the maker of Little Debbie snack cakes, is the stalking-horse bidder for Hostess's Drake's brand. The $27.5 million offer from McKee, based in Collegedale, Tenn., doesn't include the Drake's plant in New Jersey. Tesla CEO Clashes With New York Times Over Model S Review (Bloomberg) Elon Musk, the billionaire chief executive officer of Tesla Motors Inc. said a range test of the Model S electric sedan by the New York Times was “fake” as the reporter didn’t disclose all the details of his drive. “NYTimes article about Tesla range in cold is fake,” Musk said in a Twitter post yesterday. “Vehicle logs tell true story that he didn’t actually charge to max & took a long detour.” The Times on Feb. 8 published a story by John M. Broder on its website detailing how the Model S he drove failed to meet the electric sedan’s 300-mile (483-kilometer) range “under ideal conditions” while driving in temperatures as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit (minus-12 Celsius). The Times also published a blog post by Broder about the test-drive on the same day, detailing his plan to use Tesla’s new “supercharger” stations. Broder followed instructions he was given in “multiple conversations with Tesla personnel,” Eileen Murphy, a spokeswoman for the Times, said in an e-mail message. The story was “completely factual, describing the trip in detail exactly as it occurred,” Murphy said. “Any suggestion that the account was ‘fake’ is, of course, flatly untrue.” Dispute over mashed potatoes turns dangerous (TBN) A disagreement over mashed potatoes turned dangerous over the weekend when a victim said tempers escalated and a woman came at her with box cutters. Shaquina S. Hill, 23, of Fourth Street was charged with second-degree menacing and second-degree harassment as a result, city police said. An 18-year-old woman told police she and Hill argued about mashed potatoes just before 9 p.m. Sunday at a Fourth Street address, and things escalated from there. The younger woman told police Hill grabbed box cutters and waved them at her, then dropped the knife and started throwing things at her, including a heavy ceramic vase and coffee table. She told police Hill also punched her in the chest. U.K. Regulator to Investigate Autonomy (WSJ) The Financial Reporting Council, the regulator tasked with promoting good corporate governance and financial reporting in the U.K., announced the investigation Monday on its website. It said the probe will look at Autonomy accounts published between Jan. 1, 2009, and June 30, 2011. New York fund manager arrested on Ponzi scheme charges (Reuters) Federal prosecutors charged Jason Konior, 39, with defrauding investors by promising to match their investments in his fund, Absolute Fund LP, many times over. Prosecutors said he used $2 million of the money he collected from three hedge funds to pay his own expenses and cover redemption requests from prior investors, according to the criminal complaint dated February 7. Treasury’s Brainard Says G-20 Must Refrain From Devaluation (Bloomberg) “The G-20 needs to deliver on the commitment to move to market-determined exchange rates and refrain from competitive devaluation,” Lael Brainard, the Treasury’s undersecretary for international affairs, said at a news conference in Washington today. Brainard said “global growth is weak and vulnerable to the downside,” and strengthening demand must be a top priority for G-20 finance ministers and central bankers meeting in Moscow Feb. 15-16. Ex-Fund Manager Avoids Jail Time (WSJ) The cooperation of Ali Far, co-founder of Spherix Capital LLC, led to the convictions of at least five people, including Galleon Group founder Raj Rajaratnam, prosecutors said. Mr. Rajaratnam, who was convicted on conspiracy and securities-fraud charges, is serving an 11-year prison sentence, one of the longest terms ever imposed for insider trading. Mr. Far secretly agreed to cooperate with the government's probe shortly after he was approached by federal agents in April 2009, prosecutors said. Mr. Far, a former Galleon employee, recorded about 244 calls, including calls with Mr. Rajaratnam, prosecutors said. He also was prepared to testify at Mr. Rajaratnam's trial as a government witness in 2011 but was never called, they said. "I am truly sorry for my mistakes and I am ashamed," Mr. Far said at a hearing in Manhattan federal court Monday. U.S. District Judge Robert Patterson sentenced Mr. Far to one year's probation. He also imposed a $100,000 fine. The Perils of Being A Dog Show Judge (WSJ) Cindy Vogels had a litter of options for Best in Show at last year's Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. As the final judge, she could have chosen a German Shepherd, a Doberman pinscher or even a Dalmatian. Instead she picked a Pekingese named Malachy—and everyone else judged her. One person, Vogels said, called the Pekingese "that awful dog." Vogels recalled another saying: "Why would you give Best in Show to the dog that couldn't walk?" "The American public was horrified," Vogels said. "The public has no appreciation for a Pekingese." It is the ultimate honor for a show judge to name the Best in Show winner at Westminster, the year's glitziest dog show, which concludes Tuesday at Madison Square Garden. But it also can bring out the worst in people. The math behind this logic is basic: There are 187 breeds, only seven will win their groups and just one will win the opinion of Michael Dougherty, the Best in Show judge on Tuesday. "You go in there alone," said Elliott Weiss, the 2010 Best in Show judge, "and you come out alone."

Opening Bell: 11.09.12

RBS, UBS Traders Said to Face Arrest in Libor Probe (Bloomberg) U.K. prosecutors are poised to arrest former traders and rate setters at UBS, Royal Bank of Scotland Group and Barclays within a month for questioning over their role in the Libor scandal, a person with knowledge of the probe said. The arrests will be made by police under the direction of prosecutors at the Serious Fraud Office within the next month, said the person, who declined to be identified because the matter isn’t public. Arrests in the U.K. are made at an early stage of the investigation, allowing police and prosecutors to question people under caution and may not lead to charges. The SFO has 40 people working on the probe into manipulation of the London interbank bank offered rate, a benchmark for financial products valued at $360 trillion worldwide, and has involved the City of London Police, said David Green, the agency’s director. “Significant developments” in the case are coming “in the near future,” Green said yesterday in an interview at his office in London without giving further details and declining to comment on any possible arrests. Pressure Mounts On Fiscal Crisis (WSJ) The CBO on Thursday detailed its view that if Washington policy makers don't act before the end of the year, the economy would contract by 0.5% in 2013. The unemployment rate would jump from 7.9% to 9.1% by the end of 2013, according to the CBO—a nonpartisan arm of Congress. Ex-Goldman Bankers See Crisis Opportunity in Greek Insurance (Bloomberg) Alexis Pantazis and Emilios Markou are on a three-year odyssey to become next-generation car insurance executives in Greece that’s a million miles from their previous incarnation as bankers for Goldman Sachs. “One of our investors says you cannot wipe out a country,” said Pantazis, 36, a consultant at Boston Consulting Group before working as an executive director at Goldman Sachs from 2005 to 2008. “A country like Greece has 11 million people and these people need basic services. They need bread, they need milk, they need car insurance.” As French banks Credit Agricole and Societe Generale sell their Greek units to exit the only euro area country that’s in need of a second rescue package, Pantazis and Markou see an opportunity. After swapping business-class lounges and sushi for budget flights and sandwiches, the pair began pitching their Internet-based vehicle policies to Greeks two months ago. SEC Left Computers Vulnerable to Cyberattacks (Reuters) Staffers at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission failed to encrypt some of their computers containing highly sensitive information from stock exchanges, leaving the data vulnerable to cyberattacks, according to people familiar with the matter. While the computers were unprotected, there was no evidence that hacking or spying on the SEC's computers took place, these people said. The computers and other electronic devices in question belonged to a handful of employees in an office within the SEC's Trading and Markets Division. That office is responsible for making sure exchanges follow certain guidelines to protect the markets from potential cyber threats and systems problems, one of those people said...The security lapses in the Trading and Markets Division are laid out in a yet-to-be-released report that by the SEC's Interim Inspector General Jon Rymer. The Last Days Of Romneyland (NBC) From the moment Mitt Romney stepped off stage Tuesday night, having just delivered a brief concession speech he wrote only that evening, the massive infrastructure surrounding his campaign quickly began to disassemble itself. Aides taking cabs home late that night got rude awakenings when they found the credit cards linked to the campaign no longer worked. "Fiscally conservative," sighed one aide the next day. In conversations on Wednesday, aides were generally wistful, not angry, at how the campaign ended. Most, like their boss, truly believed the campaign's now almost comically inaccurate models, and that a victory was well within their grasp. (Outside Republicans and donors are another story. Some are angry over what they felt was an overly rosy picture painted by the campaign, and at what amounts to the loss of their investment.) New York Subway Repairs Border ‘on the Edge of Magic’ (NYT) There were some hiccups. At West Fourth Street, unexpected third-rail and switch problems delayed the return of the D, F and M trains. As the authority prepared to bring the G train back this week, a transformer blew, keeping the train offline for the morning rush hour on Wednesday. There were still service gaps on the N train, the A train in Far Rockaway and the R line, among others. On Thursday morning, inside his office, Joseph Lhota, the chairman of the transportation authority, checked his BlackBerry often, hoping for an update on the L train. Moments later, he placed a call to Howard B. Glaser, Mr. Cuomo’s director of state operations, whom he wanted to brief on the Queens-Midtown Tunnel. The tunnel could open Friday, he told Mr. Glaser, remarking that Mr. Bloomberg, “like an idiot,” had predicted publicly that the tunnel might open over the weekend. “He’s making it up,” he said, after a brief hail of profanity in which Mr. Lhota wondered aloud who, exactly, Mr. Bloomberg had been talking to. “It’s wrong,” he told Mr. Glaser. “It’s just wrong.” Mr. Lhota also spoke of the L line’s importance, as if his audience needed convincing. “You know who knows where the L train goes?” he barked into the phone. “All the hipsters in Williamsburg.” The BlackBerry buzzed on the table in front of him. He grabbed it quickly, then put it back. No good news yet on the L, he said. Hours later, that would change. “Ladies and Gentlemen,” he wrote on Twitter. “The L train is back. Enjoy your trip home tonight.” Whistleblower To Get Big Payment In Bank Of New York-Virginia Deal (WSJ) Bank of New York Mellon Corp. has reached an agreement with the state of Virginia to resolve accusations the bank charged hidden markups on currency transactions to Virginia's employee pension fund, in a deal that will also involve a $1.1 million payment to a whistleblower group, according to a person familiar with the negotiations. The whistleblower group includes Grant Wilson, who spent two years as a secret informant while sitting on the bank's Pittsburgh trading desk. Mr. Wilson's identity was disclosed in a page-one article in The Wall Street Journal last year. As part of the agreement, Virginia won't pursue litigation against BNY Mellon, and the bank will offer reduced fees in the future under a new custodial deal, according to people familiar with the negotiations. Nearly Half Of Britons Want EU Exit (Reuters) Nearly half of Britons would vote in a referendum to leave the European Union and less than a third to stay in, according to a poll highlighting divisions facing Prime Minister David Cameron. Polling company YouGov said on Thursday 49 percent favoured leaving the EU, 28 percent would vote to stay in the 27-nation bloc, 17 percent were undecided and the rest would not vote. Crédit Agricole Posts Record Loss After Greek Sale (WSJ) The Paris-based lender, France's third-largest bank by market value, posted a third-quarter net loss of €2.85 billion ($3.63 billion), well below analyst forecasts of a €1.76 billion net loss. The bank reported a €258 million profit in the same quarter a year earlier. Rochdale Traders Await Rescue (NYP) Sixteen days after a rogue trader rocked Stamford, Conn.-based Rochdale Securities, the broker-dealer, still hasn’t reached a deal with a deep-pocketed investor, sources said. Fla. principal resigns after offering promotions for sex (WPBF) A Florida high school principal who offered teachers' promotions in exchange for sex has resigned from his position. Steve Van Gorden's resignation comes after a 300-page investigative report by Pasco County school officials into allegations of sexual harassment. Several teachers claim Van Gorden, who is also the mayor of Zephyrhills, sent text messages offering career boosts in exchange for sex and threatened them if they refused. Van Gorden said he's sorry. "The bottom line is I'm truly sorry for what occurred, and it's not going to happen again," Van Gorden said. Van Gorden has a year and a half left on his term as mayor.

Opening Bell: 11.14.12

Austerity Strikes Sweep Across Europe (WSJ) Unions in Spain, Portugal and Greece went on strike Wednesday to protest government austerity plans amid a wide economic contraction across Europe's periphery, but questions remained about the unions' ability to influence economic policy. The general strike led to minor violent incidents in Spain, even though morning business activity seemed to remain relatively normal. Spain's government said 32 people had been arrested since midnight, and national TV showed small clashes with police, as well as rallies held by union members in transportation hubs like train and subway stations. The Spanish unions are protesting austerity cuts and an unemployment rate at 25% of the workforce. Geithner Warns Against Delaying Solution to US Fiscal Crisis (Reuters) With lawmakers and the White House bickering over how to put the country on a sustainable fiscal path, a number of lawmakers and think tanks have argued for more time. "That will leave all the uncertainty you don't like on the table," Geithner said at an event sponsored by the Wall Street Journal in his first public comments on the looming fiscal crisis since President Barack Obama won re-election last week. Facebook Investors Brace For Big Round Of Unlocked Shares (Bloomberg) Restrictions lift today on 804 million shares held by former employees and those who sold at the initial public offering, almost doubling the total available for trading, according to a regulatory filing. Geithner’s Money Fund Overhaul Push Sparks New Opposition (Bloomberg) Geithner, heading a Washington meeting of the Financial Stability Oversight Council, a group formed by the Dodd-Frank Act to address systemic financial risks, won unanimous approval for a draft recommendation to the SEC spelling out three ways to overhaul the $2.6 trillion industry. A new option would require capital buffers of as much as 3 percent of assets, while two other solutions he offered were opposed earlier by the fund industry and rejected in August by an SEC majority. Representatives for the fund industry, who last month put forth their own plan, immediately denounced the proposals as stale and unhelpful. While Geithner has said the SEC is best positioned to address money funds, he has also said that the regulators’ panel, often referred to as FSOC, might intervene and subject funds to oversight by the Federal Reserve if the SEC fails to act. SEC Expands Knight Probe (WSJ) The Securities and Exchange Commission has deepened its probe into whetherKnight Capital Group Inc. did enough to police its trading systems before computer errors nearly destroyed the brokerage. The inquiry, which began after Knight's errant Aug. 1 trades saddled it with more than $450 million in losses, initially focused more narrowly on what caused the errors. The probe has broadened to look further at the company's risk-control procedures and Knight's compliance with a rule implemented last year—called the market-access rule—that requires brokerages to guard against these sorts of problems, say people familiar with the investigation. Blankfein Warns Over Cuts (FT) The financial industry should not go “overboard” in cutting costs in reaction to current market conditions, the chief executive of Goldman Sachs said yesterday. “Our industry has a long history of letting too many people go at the bottom of the cycle and hiring too many at the top,” Mr. Blankfein told an industry conference in New York. Pepsi's New Fat Blocking Soda Unleashed On Japanese Consumers (Forbes) Up until recently, soda manufacturers have at least tacitly acknowledged that their carbonated swills aren’t healthy options. Up until recently. [Then] yesterday, Pepsi-Cola in Japan launched a fiber-infused iteration of its cola drink. According to Suntory, the sole distributor of Pepsi in Japan, the beverage contains “indigestible dextrin,” more commonly known as dietary fiber. This magic ingredient, Suntory’s website claims, helps reduce the amount of fat that’s absorbed into the body, hence the tagline of the new drink as a “fat-blocking soda.” Suntory also proffers that the drink quells the rise in triglycerides in the blood that normally follows a meal. Rochdale May Be At The End Of Its Rope (NYP) Stamford, Conn.-based Rochdale Securities is struggling to secure a deep-pocketed buyer three weeks after a former trader, identified as David Miller, saddled the firm with $1 billion in “unauthorized” Apple trades that it wasn’t able to cover. CEO Dan Crowley has been working around the clock to identify a “white knight” willing to save the 55-person broker dealer, according to sources. But staffers of the 37-year old firm worry ongoing investigations will turn off suitors and impede the firm’s ability to operate as a broker dealer. BNY Mellon Unit Settles Madoff Suits (WSJ) The Ivy Asset Management unit will pay $210 million to resolve a series of lawsuits claiming that it concealed doubts about the business operated by convicted Ponzi schemer Bernard L. Madoff. Shareholders To Citi: Break This Company Up (AP) Trillium Asset Management, a shareholder advisory firm with more than $1 billion in assets under management, effectively renewed call made recently by Sandy Weill, Citigroup’s former CEO and one of the founding fathers of the “financial supermarket” concept that helped turn Citi into a global banking behemoth. Siewert In Line For Goldman Partnership (NYP) Hired only last March, Richard “Jake” Siewert, the head of corporate communications, could be among the 70 or so new partners the 144-year-old bank is set to announce this morning...Siewert’s predecessor, Lucas Van Praag, made partner in 2006 — five years after joining the firm. Paula Broadwell Warned Gen. Allen Against "Seductress" Jill Kelley (CBS) A senior official has told CBS News correspondent David Martin the vast majority of the emails between Allen and Tampa socialite Jill Kelley were "completely innocuous," and the general believes many of the 20-30,000 pages under scrutiny are duplicates. The official said that in some of the emails, Kelley would say things like, "saw you on television and you were terrific," and Allen would write back with "thanks, sweetheart." The official said the two never discussed sex and that Allen had never been alone with Kelley. Nonetheless, CBS News correspondent Bob Orr says Pentagon and FBI sources describe the communications as "potentially inappropriate" and "flirtatious," and another source says they were likely more than just innocent exchanges -- noting that the Pentagon's Inspector General is involved for a reason. Among the hundreds of emails exchanged between Allen and Kelly - Orr reports that investigators are focusing on one from several months ago. In it, Allen told Kelley he'd just received an anonymous email warning him to stay away from her. Sources say that the anonymous email came from Broadwell, Petraeus' mistress, who allegedly warned Gen. Allen that Kelley was "a seductress." Broadwell allegedly sent similar warnings to other military officers at the U.S. Central Command, located near Kelley's Tampa home. Broadwell, who had been out of sight since the scandal emerged on Friday, was spotted Tuesday night preparing dinner and drinking a glass of wine inside her brother's Washington home.

Opening Bell: 04.18.12

IMF Says Recovery Remains Fragile (WSJ) "An uneasy calm remains," IMF chief economist Olivier Blanchard said. "One has the feeling that any moment, things could well get very bad again." Worst Yet to Come as Crisis Rescue Cash Ebbs, Deutsche Bank Says (Bloomberg) The worst may be yet to come in the global financial crisis as the central bank spending that kept defaults low runs out, according to Deutsche Bank AG. Credit-default swap prices imply that four or more European nations may suffer so-called credit events such as having to restructure their debt, strategists led by Jim Reid and Nick Burns said in a note. The Markit iTraxx SovX Western Europe Index of contracts on 15 governments including Spain and Italy jumped 26 percent in the past month as the region’s crisis flared up. “If these implied defaults come vaguely close to being realised then the next five years of corporate and financial defaults could easily be worse than the last five relatively calm years,” the analysts in London said. “Much may eventually depend on how much money-printing can be tolerated as we are very close to being maxed out fiscally.” BNY Mellon Profit Falls as Record-Low Rates Cut Returns (Bloomberg) Net income fell to $619 million, or 52 cents a share, from $625 million or 50 cents, a year earlier, BNY Mellon said today in a statement. Analysts (BK) had expected the New York-based company to report a profit of 51 cents a share, according to the average of 15 estimates in a Bloomberg survey. Flat BlackRock Profit Tops Forecasts (WSJ) BlackRock reported a profit of $572 million, or $3.14 a share, compared with a year-earlier profit of $568 million, or $2.89 a share. Stripping out one-time items, per-share earnings rose to $3.16 from $2.96 a year ago. Revenue slipped 1.4% to $2.25 billion. Analysts expected earnings of $3.04 a share on $2.23 billion in revenue, according to a poll conducted by Thomson Reuters. Paulson Goes Short on German Bunds (FT) Paulson told investors in a call on Monday that he was betting against the creditworthiness of Germany, regarded in markets as among the safest sovereign borrowers, because he saw the problems affecting the euro zone deteriorating severely, said a person familiar with his strategy. Guy With Spreadsheet of Match.com ‘Prospects’ Says He Was Just Trying to Be Organized (Jezebel, earlier) "I work with spreadsheets a lot," he said. "It's a great additional tool. I work long days, go to the gym, go out on a couple of midweek dates or what not, get home late...how am I going to remember them? I'm not. So I made the spreadsheets. My comments aren't malicious or mean. This was an honest attempt to stay organized." He said he sent the spreadsheet to his date because "she works with spreadsheets a lot too" and she "seemed like a very sweet girl." Italy Puts Back Balanced Budget Goal by a Year (Reuters) Italy will delay by a year its plan to balance the budget in 2013 due to a weakening economic outlook, according to a draft document due to be approved by the cabinet of Prime Minister Mario Monti on Wednesday. The draft Economic and Financial document (DEF), which has been obtained by Reuters, raises the budget deficit forecasts for 2012-2014 and slashes this year's economic growth outlook. Bank of America Faces Bad Home-Equity Loans: Mortgages (Bloomberg) Bank of America, whose home- equity mortgage portfolio exceeds its stock market value, probably will say about $2 billion of junior loans are bad assets tomorrow even as some borrowers are still paying on time. That’s what Barclays Capital estimates the bank will report in its first-quarter results, following decisions by JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Citigroup to reclassify $4.1 billion of junior liens as nonperforming. In Facebook Deal For Instagram, Board Was Little Involved (WSJ) On the morning of Sunday, April 8, Facebook Inc.'s youthful chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, alerted his board of directors that he intended to buy Instagram, the hot photo-sharing service. It was the first the board heard of what, later that day, would become Facebook's largest acquisition ever, according to several people familiar with the matter. Mr. Zuckerberg and his counterpart at Instagram, Kevin Systrom, had already been talking over the deal for three days, these people said. Negotiating mostly on his own, Mr. Zuckerberg had fielded Mr. Systrom's opening number, $2 billion, and whittled it down over several meetings at Mr. Zuckerberg's $7 million five-bedroom home in Palo Alto. Later that Sunday, the two 20-somethings would agree on a sale valued at $1 billion.

Opening Bell: 04.17.13

BofA Misses Estimates as Mortgage Banking Weighs on Results (Bloomberg) Net income advanced to $2.62 billion, or 20 cents a share, from $653 million, or 3 cents, a year earlier, according to a statement today from the Charlotte, North Carolina-based company. The consensus of 25 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg had predicted 23 cents a share. Chief Executive Officer Brian T. Moynihan, 53, has sold more than $60 billion in assets, settled more than $40 billion in mortgage claims and repaired the bank’s balance sheet since taking over in 2010. He’s now focused on trimming $8 billion in annual expenses and adding revenue, which dropped 8.4 percent on an adjusted basis to $23.9 billion. BNY Mellon Has Net Loss of $266 Million on Tax Expense (Bloomberg) BNY Mellon had a net loss of $266 million, or 23 cents a share, compared with a profit of $619 million, or 52 cents, a year earlier, the New York-based bank said today in a statement. Earnings were cut by $854 million, or 73 cents, because it wasn’t allowed to take foreign tax credits. Excluding the item, BNY Mellon earned $588 million, or 50 cents a share. Analysts had expected BNY Mellon to report an adjusted profit of 52 cents a share, the average of 22 estimates in a Bloomberg survey. IMF Renews Call To Ease Austerity (WSJ) Seeking to keep a fragile global recovery on track, the International Monetary Fund on Tuesday called on countries that can afford it—including the U.S. and Britain—to slow the pace of their austerity measures. The fund warned that "overly strong" belt-tightening in the U.S. will slow growth this year. Across-the-board government spending cuts, known as the sequester, were the "wrong way" to shrink the budgetdeficit, it said in its semiannual report on economic growth. Bitcoin Investors Hang On For The Ride (WSJ) Norman Vialle, a 53-year-old car dealer in Kansas, invested in his share of winners and losers during the Internet bubble of the 1990s. Now he is clinging to a stash of Bitcoin, even though the fledgling virtual currency has lost about 70% of its value in the past week. "It's volatile because it's new, but it's still a lot higher than it was a month ago," Mr. Vialle says. In addition to investing in the currency, Mr. Vialle recently began accepting bitcoins for payment at Overland Park Jeep Dodge Ram Chrysler. One of his customers is planning to pay for a $40,000 Jeep with the currency next month. Grantham man explains why he has Margaret Thatcher tattooed on his leg (ITV) The unusual design features Baroness Thatcher's head sitting on an ice cream cone. Louis Maier, aged 32, wanted to have the six-inch work of art on his right calf to honour her. Cyprus Finance Minister Sees Gold Sale Within Next Months (Bloomberg) The Cypriot government plans to sell part of its gold reserves within the next months, a decision that needs to be approved by the country’s central bank, Finance Minister Haris Georgiades said. “The exact details of it will be formulated in due course primarily by the board of the central bank,” Georgiades, 41, told Bloomberg TV’s Ryan Chilcote in an interview in Nicosia. “Obviously it’s a big decision.” Gold's Fall Costs Paulson $1.5 Billion This Year (FT) The estimated losses for Mr. Paulson, who has made and lost more money on gold than almost any other hedge fund manager, reflect a bold all-in bet on the precious metal While many investors hold some gold in case of financial calamity or a return of the rampant inflation of the 1970s, since 2009 Mr. Paulson has allowed clients of Paulson & Co to denominate their holdings in gold, rather than US dollars. Mr. Paulson enthusiastically embraced the option, according to people familiar with the situation, and has about 85 percent of his personal capital in the firm linked to the gold price. Gold's Great Unraveling Had a Few Harbingers (WSJ) The gold-price rout began taking shape in the early morning hours Monday, after a sharp Friday selloff in a market that had risen steadily for a decade left traders girding for a downdraft. Some in London began arriving at work Sunday night ahead of the market's Asia opening to prepare for the onslaught, while others arrived as early as 4 a.m. Monday, even though a paucity of traders at this time limits most trading options until about 8 a.m. Forget Gold, the Gourmet-Cupcake Market Is Crashing (WSJ) The craze hit a high mark in June 2011, when Crumbs Bake Shop, a New York-based chain, debuted on the Nasdaq Stock Market under the ticker symbol CRMB. Its creations—4" tall, with fillings such as vanilla custard, caps of butter cream cheese, and decorative flourishes like a whole cookie—can cost $4.50 each. After trading at more than $13 a share in mid-2011, Crumbs has sunk to $1.70. It dropped 34% last Friday, in the wake of Crumbs saying that sales for the full year would be down by 22% from earlier projections, and the stock slipped further this week. Crumbs in part blamed store closures from Hurricane Sandy, but others say the chain is suffering from a larger problem: gourmet-cupcake burnout. "The novelty has worn off," says Kevin Burke, managing partner of Trinity Capital LLC, a Los Angeles investment banking firm that often works in the restaurant industry. Crumbs now has 67 locations, nearly double the number it had less than two years ago. "These are singularly focused concepts," says Darren Tristano, executive vice president at Technomic Inc., a Chicago research and consulting firm that specializes in the food industry. "You're not going to Crumbs every day." "It's a short-term trend and we're starting to see a real saturation," he adds. "Demand is flat. And quite frankly, people can bake cupcakes."