Opening Bell: 1.30.15

Author:
Updated:
Original:

Currency Tumult Stokes Big Bets (WSJ)
A surging dollar is pummeling currencies around the globe amid efforts to boost economic growth, prompting a wave of investor bets to profit from the upheaval. Many global central banks are weakening their currencies as they try to counter signs of economic gloom, signaled by falling commodity prices, declining inflation and softening growth expectations. Those shifts, together with moves such as this month’s surprise decision by the Swiss National Bank to abandon its three-year-old policy of limiting gains in the Swiss franc against the euro, have fed a jump in the price swings of currencies. These dynamics are tempting investors to make large bets on currency moves, potentially fueling further exchange-rate shifts.

Shake Shack, Born in a Park, Is Going Public With Big Dreams (Dealbook)
Conceived as a homage to the friendly Midwestern fast-food joints of Mr. Meyer’s childhood, Shake Shack has become one of the most prominent purveyors of fast-casual food. That sector, dominated by the likes of Chipotle, has fundamentally reshaped the fast-food industry with its emphasis on using fresh ingredients. In short, Americans seem willing to pay more for fast food made better, so long as they are still served quickly.

Millionaire investor exposes affair rather than make court-ordered payment (NYP)
Last July, Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Shirley Kornreich had ruled that Hugh Levey, co-founder of Gruppo, Levey & Co., owed the Virginia investment firm Pensmore the $1.3 million after he lost the money in a bad investment. But instead of coughing up the cash, Levey engaged in a drawn-out court battle that made public documents about his 12-year affair with business partner and TV talking head Claire Gruppo, according to court papers. The filings also unsealed Levey’s highly confidential net-worth statement that is part of his divorce. It shows that while Levey was cash-poor — he only had $500 in a checking account, $200 cash on hand and zero savings — he’s worth $29 million. The funds are tied up in a $15 million Fifth Avenue apartment, a $5 million Greenwich home and millions in various trusts and personal items. Levey “deliberately keeps himself cash poor in order to avoid judgments, a trick he learned in a personal bankruptcy in the 1990s,” the Pensmore suit says. Meanwhile, the 65-year-old Harvard MBA relies on his mistress, Gruppo, 61, to dole “out money to him directly and indirectly through the various trusts and entities they control together,” the suit says.

Billionaire Ken Griffin seeks trial date in divorce battle (Chicago Sun Times)
Griffin, the state’s wealthiest man, filed a brief in Cook County court Thursday seeking a definite trial date to resolve what has become a contentious divorce from his wife, Anne Dias. In the pleading, Griffin claims his wife, who is the mother of his three young children, wants $1 million a month in what is described as “allegedly ‘child-related expenses.’ ” Griffin claims the amount includes $300,000 per month for a private jet, $160,000 a month for vacation rentals, and $60,000 for an office space and professional staff — “all supposedly for the children,” according to the filing. A spokesman for Dias, who recently reverted to her maiden name, shot back: “This filing is riddled with falsehoods and just another vindictive attempt by Ken Griffin — Illinois’ richest billionaire — to punish his family and avoid his clear responsibility under Illinois law to maintain his children’s lifestyle.

Here's Why Super Bowl Ticket Prices Are Skyrocketing (Bloomberg)
"This is really something we never anticipated," said Will Flaherty, director of growth at SeatGeek. "The cheapest seat on SeatGeek right now is $8,000, but no site seems to have any inventory." Flaherty believes speculative buying is behind the spike. Ticket brokers frequently sell "air" to their customers, taking orders before they have tickets in hand. "We've noticed significantly more speculative selling activity than in recent years," Flaherty said. "Over the last few days, those sellers have been scrambling to buy up tickets to fill their orders, resulting in the Super Bowl ticket version of a short squeeze. Brokers with tickets in hand have been taking advantage of their leverage, raising prices dramatically and arbitrarily withholding some of their inventory." Ety Rybak, co-founder of the high-end brokerage Inside Sports & Entertainment Group, has spent more than anticipated this time around to fulfill orders before the game. "I can tell you some ugly horror stories about what I have had to pay. But that’s part of the business," he said. "If I sold you tickets for $2,500, and I have to pay $7,500 to do it, unfortunately that’s the world that I chose to live in." The flip side to the high costs is a brisk business in late orders.

Guys Transporting Pot Report Themselves to Idaho Police by Mistake (NewsRadio)
Eastern Idaho police say two men transporting marijuana from California to Montana called 911 while in Idaho after mistakenly believing undercover officers had discovered their secret. But police in Rexburg say they weren’t aware of the drugs until the two men called on Friday to report their location and the 20 pounds of pot worth $16,000. The Idaho State Journal reports that police arrested 21-year-old Leland Ryan Kaimipono Ayala-Doliente and 22-year-old Craig Sward Holland.

Activist Investors in Japan Find Some Doors Cracking Open (WSJ)
Aggressive investors have long faced a tough slog in Japan, where the corporate culture traditionally has favored the status quo and shunned big disruptions like split-ups or spinoffs, moves typically high on an activist investor’s wish list. But lately some activist investors, who call themselves “engagement” funds, are finding some corporate doors open to them. The receptivity, according to these investors, comes partly as companies seek to improve their use of capital and relations with shareholders, both important elements of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ’s recent drive to revitalize the corporate sector to restore growth.

Goldman Set to Be Largest Dow Member After Visa Stock Split (Bloomberg)
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is poised to become the most heavily weighted component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average after Visa Inc. completes a 4-for-1 stock split. The Dow, which was created in 1896 by Dow Jones & Co. co-founder Charles H. Dow, is weighted based on the share prices of the 30 companies in the average. Visa, which closed today at $248 a share, announced the stock split Thursday when it reported fiscal first-quarter results. The split will take effect March 19, Foster City, California-based Visa said in a statement. Shares of New York-based Goldman Sachs climbed 1.7 percent to end the day at $175.99. The next biggest Dow components based on today’s close are 3M Co. and International Business Machines Corp.

Oil’s fall pushes Germany into deflation (FT)
Germany’s Federal Statistics Office said on Thursday it expected harmonised consumer prices, calculated to fit with the broader eurozone calculation, to decline 0.5 per cent in the year to January — a fall from a rise in costs of 0.1 per cent in the year to December. The plunge was almost entirely down to the collapse in oil prices, with energy costs falling 9 per cent over the 12 months. The last time prices fell in the eurozone’s largest economy was in September 2009 and the latest dip all but confirms that deflation across the currency area worsened in January.

Greece’s Feisty Finance Minister Tries a More Moderate Message (Dealbook)
In the first days after the election victory of the leftist party Syriza in Greece, Yanis Varoufakis, the new finance minister, has lobbed some rhetorical grenades, referring to his country’s foreign-imposed austerity budgets as “fiscal waterboarding” and calling Greece’s international bailout deals “a toxic mistake.” Now, needing to make good on promises to negotiate debt relief for his beleaguered nation, he seems eager to send a more moderate message. During an interview on Thursday morning in his office, Mr. Varoufakis, 53, poured a cup of coffee and took a large swallow. It had been a late night. On Wednesday, the day after he was sworn in, the Athens Stock Exchange had plunged on concerns that the Syriza-led government might wage a battle with Greece’s international creditors, and he had stayed up to monitor developments. In his view, the markets, as well as leaders in some national capitals, overreacted to the perceived threat from Syriza. The party swept to power Sunday on promises to reject the belt-tightening policies — a condition of 240 billion euros, or about $272 billion in international bailout loans — that have stifled the Greek economy. “People have described this as a Wild West showdown,” he said, sighing in frustration, “but it is not a ‘yes or no, take it or leave it’ situation.”

Man blames ‘vindaloo curry and too many pints’ after defecating on club dancefloor (Metro UK)
The 36-year-old was heavily intoxicated when he squatted down and defecated at Bubbles nightclub on Tangier Street, Whitehaven, on Saturday night...the man later took to social media to apologise for his behaviour, writing on his Facebook profile page that ‘a vindaloo curry and too many pints’ were responsible for the incident, the Whitehaven News reports. ‘We are not pressing charges as a public apology has been given and compensation to the person who had to clean up the mess has been sorted,’ Angela Walker, co-director of the club, told the paper.

Related

Opening Bell: 11.27.12

Greece's Creditors Reach Aid Deal (WSJ) struck a deal in Brussels to cut Greece's debt to a level below 124% of gross domestic product by 2020, officials said. To satisfy IMF concerns that Greece's debt must fall even more to be considered "sustainable," euro-zone ministers agreed to bring the government's debt to under 110% of GDP in 2022. The deal will allow Greece to receive loan payments of about €44 billion ($57 billion) to be paid in three installments early 2013, tied to Greece's implementation of the continuing measures, said Eurogroup president Jean-Claude Juncker. The deal will lower Greece's debt through a mix of interest-rate cuts on loans to Athens, a buyback of Greek debt at sharply discounted prices and the European Central Bank returning profits linked to its holdings of Greek bonds to the Greek government. London Bankers Bracing for Leaner Bonuses Than New York (Bloomberg) nvestment bankers and traders at European banks should expect at least a 15 percent cut in pay this year, while U.S. lenders may leave compensation unchanged, three consultants surveyed by Bloomberg said. That’s because bonus pools at European banks may be reduced by as much as half, while those at U.S. firms, which can cushion the impact of falling fees in the region with earnings from home, may fall 20 percent, they said. “The real split is coming, and we will see the quantum divide this year,” said Tom Gosling, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP in London, referring to the difference in pay between the two financial centers. “U.S. regulators don’t have the same obsession with pay structures that European regulators have.” Dimon Would Be Best to Lead Treasury in Crisis, Buffett Says (Bloomberg) “If we did run into problems in markets, I think he would actually be the best person you could have in the job,” Buffett said in response to a question about Dimon from Charlie Rose, according to the transcript of an interview that was scheduled to air yesterday on PBS. “World leaders would have confidence in him.” [...] Dimon, once dubbed Obama’s “favorite banker” by the New York Times, said in a 2011 CNBC interview that he could never work as Treasury secretary and was “not suited to politics.” Carney Abondons A Haven, Leaping Into British Storm (WSJ) Philipp Hildebrand, the former head of the Swiss National Bank, described Mr. Carney as one who "speaks bluntly and politely." The son of a professor and a teacher, Mr. Carney grew up in Edmonton, the capital of Canada's western province, Alberta. He played hockey as an undergraduate at Harvard. Mr. Carney has close links to Britain, having studied in Oxford University in the early 1990s. He worked for a time in Goldman Sachs' London office...Known as a diplomat, Mr. Carney, who supports the Edmonton Oilers NHL team, in his Ottawa office displays a mock street sign alluding to one of Canada's other pro teams, the Ottawa Senators. He cultivates an everyman image, recently discussing his musical tastes—from AC/DC to the hip-hop group Down with Webster—in local media interviews. Fiscal Cliff Compromise Elusive as Congress Returns (Bloomberg) “There’s still a great deal of ground that has to be covered before they get anywhere near a budget deal, and time is running” short, said Phil English, a former Republican congressman from Pennsylvania and now a lobbyist at Arent Fox LLP in Washington. The Secret Powers Of The Son-In-Law (WSJ) In couples where the husband initially reported being close to his wife's parents, the risk of divorce over the next 16 years was 20% lower than for the group overall. Yet when the wife reported being close to her in-laws, that seemed to have the opposite effect: The risk of divorce with these couples was 20% higher. Dr. Orbuch has a possible explanation: The wife who feels close with her husband's parents may find it difficult to set boundaries and over time may come to see their close relationship with her as meddling. "Because relationships are so important to women, their identity as a wife and mother is central to their being," says Dr. Orbuch, author of the 2012 book "Finding Love Again: 6 Simple Steps to a New and Happy Relationship." "They interpret what their in-laws say and do as interference into their identity as a spouse and parent." Men, for the most part, don't have this problem. Their identity as a father and a husband is often secondary to their identity as a provider, Dr. Orbuch says. As a result, they don't tend to take what their in-laws do so personally. Chicago, Illinois charges woman $105,761 for parking infractions she did not commit (TN) Jennifer Fitzgerald is fighting back against the city, her ex-boyfriend and United Airlines with a lawsuit filed November 2 in Cook County Circuit Court. According to the complaint, the somewhat confusing story starts when her former boyfriend Brandon Preveau, bought a 1999 Chevy Monte Carlo from Fitzgerald's uncle for $600 in 2008. Despite paying all the fees associated with owning a vehicle (registration, title and insurance) he put the vehicle's registration in Fitzgerald's name -- something the West Side Chicago resident claims was done without her knowledge...the couple broke up at the start of 2009 and Preveau took the car with him after their split. He used the Monte Carlo to drive to work at O'Hare Airport where he was employed by United Airlines. Preveau would leave the vehicle in O'Hare parking lot E, a secured outdoor lot surrounded by high chain link fencing, that is open to the flying public but also utilized by airport employees. The parking lot is owned by the city of Chicago and operated by Standard Parking Corporation, but according to the complaint, United Airlines leases spaces in the lot for use by airline employees. Unbeknownst to Fitzgerald, Preveau abandoned the vehicle. According to the complaints, "On or before November 17, 2009, Brandon drove the automobile into the parking lot and never drove it out again." While the car Preveau drove began receiving parking tickets at the O'Hare lot as early as May 23, 2009, the key date for this story is November 17, 2009. On that day the vehicle was issued seven different parking tickets including being in a hazardous and dilapidated condition, no city sticker, broken headlights, missing or cracked windows, expired plates, being an abandoned vehicle and most importantly a violation for parking a vehicle for more than 30 days in a city-owned lot. Intrade, Facing Charges, Won't Take U.S. Bets (WSJ) The online-predictions exchange Intrade—known for offbeat markets on presidential politics and the Academy Awards—said it would no longer accept bets from U.S. residents. The move came just hours after U.S. regulators filed a civil complaint against the firm over its commodities-focused markets. "We are sorry to announce that due to legal and regulatory pressures, Intrade can no longer allow U.S. residents to participate in our real-money prediction markets," the Dublin-based company said in a statement on its website. Intrade said that existing customers must exit their trades and close their accounts. In China, Hidden Risk of 'Shadow Finance' (WSJ) Shadow finance in China totals about 20 trillion yuan, according to Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., or about a third the current size of the country's bank-lending market. In 2008, such informal lending represented only 5% of total bank lending. The sector is lightly regulated and opaque, raising concerns about massive loan defaults amid a softening economy, with ancillary effects on the country's banks. Harvard Doctor Turns Felon After Lure of Insider Trading (Bloomberg) Today, Joseph F. "Chip" Skowron III, 43, is serving a five-year term for insider trading at the federal prison at Minersville, Pennsylvania. At FrontPoint, Skowron lied to his bosses and law enforcement authorities, cost more than 35 people their jobs and stooped to slipping envelopes of cash to an accomplice. FrontPoint is gone. Morgan Stanley, which once owned FrontPoint, is seeking more than $65 million from Skowron, whose net worth a year ago was $22 million. Until he’s a free man, his wife of 16 years will have to care for their four children and Rocky, their golden retriever, on her own...Health care has become America’s sweet spot for insider traders like Skowron. Among researchers, physicians, government officials and corporate executives, the lure of easy money in health-care insider trading has become epidemic. Since 2008, about 400 people were sued by regulators or charged with insider trading; of those, at least 94 passed or received tips involving pharmaceutical, biotechnology or other health-care stocks. Man Arrested For Saying He Had Dynamite in His Luggage at Miami International Airport (NBC) A man was arrested for telling a TACA ticket agent that he had dynamite in his luggage, which prompted the partial evacuation of Concourse J at Miami International Airport on Monday, Miami-Dade Police said. Alejandro Leon Hurtado, 63, a doctor from Guatemala, faces a charge of false report bomb/explosives at airport, the arrest affidavit said. It wasn't immediately known if Hurtado had an attorney. The ticket agent had just accepted Hurtado luggage, when he asked him about whether it contained hazardous materials. Hurtado answered that he had dynamite in the baggage, and the ticket agent asked him again if he had dynamite in his bag, and he replied that he did and started laughing, the affidavit said. "Once the Defendant was told that police were going to be called the Defendant stated that he was joking," the affidavit said. Hurtado admitted he did say he had dynamite in his bag, but that it was a joke. Hurtado was in custody on an immigration hold Monday night, according to online Miami-Dade Corrections records.

Opening Bell: 6.19.15

No deal for Greece; Elliott eyes Asia's family-run firms; State Street gets Wells notice; Man literally gives ex-wife half of everything they owned (because he sawed all their belongings in half); and more.

Opening Bell: 1.13.16

Everyone (in DC) (supposedly) hates Wall Street; BofA economist says chill; "Cops: Woman Battered Fiancee Over Ring Regift"; and more.