Opening Bell: 3.12.15

D*ck-pic messaging service valued at $15 billion; White-Collar Felon Registry; "'Suspicious' Avocado Shipment Turned Out To Contain A Literal Ton Of Weed"; AND MORE.
Author:
Updated:
Original:

Alibaba Deal Values Snapchat at $15 Billion (WSJ)
The Chinese e-commerce giant has invested $200 million in Snapchat, according to two people familiar with the transaction. The deal values Snapchat at $15 billion, one of those people said.

Exclusive: Former risk chief warned Deutsche Bank on stress test, emails show (Reuters)
In the weeks leading up to the U.S. Federal Reserve's annual stress test of major banks, a former risk executive of Deutsche Bank AG repeatedly warned senior managers of the German bank's U.S. unit that they were painting a far too rosy picture of the bank's health. The warnings weren't about this year's stress test. They were written by William Broeksmit in December 2013 and January 2014 as the bank was preparing its Fed-mandated, internally run stress test. At the time, Broeksmit was serving as a director of the U.S. unit. The bank needed to "stress harder," Broeksmit wrote in one email to senior managers. The bank's forecasts were "way too optimistic," he wrote in another. In others, he said that forecast losses were "way too small compared to history," and that the full board had to be briefed on the discrepancies, which were "way too important" to be glossed over. Deutsche Bank's senior U.S. managers rebuffed Broeksmit's warnings, according to the emails, copies of which were reviewed by Reuters.

Wedding Costs of $31,213 Show U.S. Consumers Reengaging (Bloomberg)
Spending on nuptials reached an average $31,213 in 2014, up 3 percent from the year before and the most expensive since 2009 adjusted for inflation, according to an analysis of data released Thursday by XO Group Inc., which owns wedding website TheKnot.com. Spending per head was at its highest level since the company began surveying brides in 2007, as the size of the average guest list shrank to 136 people, the lowest on record. The return of big-budget weddings may be one sign that the U.S. consumer is finding her economic footing again following the biggest recession in the post-World War II era.

250-year-old pretzel unearthed in Germany (UPI)
Archaeologists in southern Germany announced the discovery of a 250-year-old pretzel dubbed "the oldest ever found." Silvia Codreanau-Windauer of the Bavarian State Bavarian Bureau for the Conservation of Historic Monuments said the pretzel was found alongside other baked goods including rolls and a croissant dough during an archaeological dig last summer in Regensburg. "It is an archaeological sensation," Codreanau-Windauer told NBC News. "In my 30 years in the business I have never found an organic object." She said carbon dating indicates the baked goods date back to between 1700 and 1800. "The baked goods, which were typical for the religious fasting period, are very well preserved because they were originally burnt in the baking process," Codreanau-Windauer said.

Utah Passes White-Collar Felon Registry (Dealbook)
With just a point and a click, you can browse a face book of felons, a new government website that will warn of the danger these criminals pose to society. Only these are not the faces of sex offenders and serial killers. These criminals are mortgage schemers and inside traders, most likely armed with nothing more than an M.B.A. or a law degree. Their faces will soon appear online courtesy of the Utah Legislature, which on Wednesday approved a measure to build the nation’s first white-collar offender registry, appending a scarlet letter of sorts on the state’s financial felons. The registry — quirky even by the standards of a legislature that this week reinstated firing squads as a method of execution — will be replete with a “a recent photograph” of Utah’s white-collar offenders and, in case they try to run or hide, their “date of birth, height, weight, and eye and hair color.”

SEC Chairman White Insists Banks Not ‘Too Big to Bar’ (WSJ)
Ms. White, speaking at Georgetown University, waded into a long-simmering debate among the SEC’s five commissioners over so-called waivers, which allow financial firms and other businesses to continue certain activities—like selling stakes in hedge funds—despite being automatically barred from such activities when they settle enforcement cases with U.S. authorities. The agency has granted waivers for a number of firms in recent months, including Citigroup Inc., and Oppenheimer & Co., which requested reprieves from restrictions that would have crimped their activities following settlements with the SEC and other regulators.

Lumber Liquidators offers free home tests to assuage fears (Reuters)
Lumber Liquidators Holdings, facing government probes over claims of dangerous levels of a cancer-causing substance in its laminate flooring, defended the safety of its products and gave a blow-by-blow account of its testing process in an effort to assuage investors’ concerns. The hardwood flooring retailer said it would offer free home tests for its customers and promised additional tests if results were above accepted levels. It, however, did not say anything about a possible recall. The company’s shares rose as much as 9 percent to $35.60 in early morning trading Thursday after the retailer also said it had sufficient liquidity to fund its operations “for the foreseeable future.”

NCAA pool is worth $15,000—if you can write code (CNBC)
Ryan Boesch enters a March Madness pool with family members every year. But after developing a knack for algorithms at Stanford University, he stumbled upon "the nerd way" to compete. "I'm the type of person who loves playing cards but would have more fun writing the model for code to compete against someone else's code," said Boesch, a graduate student in electrical engineering. Boesch and other tech-savvy sports fans have jumped into alternative March Madness pools where participants pit their best data-driven computer models against each other. A contest held by data science site Kaggle—which will award $15,000 in prize money—has already drawn entries from 273 teams. Their algorithms will attempt to predict this year's college basketball championship, which starts next week.

'Suspicious' Avocado Shipment Turned Out To Contain A Literal Ton Of Weed (HP)
On March 4, staff alerted the Cook County Sheriff’s Office to what seemed like a “suspicious shipment” of more than one thousand boxes that had arrived with instructions for an “urgent pick-up,” according to a Cook County Sheriff’s Office press release issued Wednesday. While some of the boxes contained only frozen avocado pulp, others contained bricks of weed. Altogether, officials confiscated around 2,100 pounds of marijuana, at a total estimated street value of $10 million. The investigation into the origins and destination of the drugs is ongoing.

Related

DeliciousCoffee

Opening Bell: 9.8.16

Wells Fargo is in trouble; ECB stands pat; Wall Street vs Trump; Felon named Coffee charged with coffee attack on fellow inmate; and more.

Opening Bell: 05.30.12

Anger Over Christine Lagarde's Tax-Free Salary (Independent) Lagarde was accused of hypocrisy yesterday after it emerged that she pays no income tax – just days after blaming the Greeks for causing their financial peril by dodging their own bills. The managing director of the International Monetary Fund is paid a salary of $467,940 (£298,675), automatically increased every year according to inflation. On top of that she receives an allowance of $83,760 – payable without "justification" – and additional expenses for entertainment, making her total package worth more than the amount received by US President Barack Obama according to reports last night. Unlike Mr Obama, however, she does not have to pay any tax on this substantial income because of her diplomatic status. EU Proposes 'Banking Union' (WSJ) The 17 countries that use the euro should consider setting up a "banking union" that allows them to share the burden of bank failures, the European Union's executive arm said Wednesday in a report on the currency union's crisis-fighting efforts. To further stop expensive bank bailouts from pulling down governments' own finances, allowing the euro zone's new rescue fund to directly boost the capital of banks "might be envisaged," the European Commission said. Greeks Flock To Germany Even As They Criticize It (CNBC) Germany, Europe's economic powerhouse and a country which has been criticized by many Greeks over its harsh demands for austerity cuts in return for bailout cash, has experienced an influx of young skilled immigrants. Der Spiegel magazine noted that while Greek newspapers "printed cartoons depicting the Germans as Nazis, concentration camp guards and euro zone imperialists who allow their debtors to bleed to death," the Greeks have kept arriving — bringing an "anything is better than Athens" attitude with them. Pissarides Says Euro Exit Would Aid Rich Greeks At Cost To Poor (Bloomberg) Nobel economics laureate Christopher Pissarides said wealthy Greeks would benefit at the expense of poorer citizens were the country to exit the euro. “A lot of Greeks” have withdrawn money and deposited it with banks elswhere in the 17-nation currency zone, Pissarides said in an interview in London today. If the country returned to the drachma, the new currency would be so devalued they could buy it cheaply on international markets with the cash they’d exported, enabling them to buy more assets in Greece. While poorer Greeks are equally able to appreciate the difficulties facing their country, they’re not as able to shield their funds from an exit from the common currency, Pissarides said. They need to preserve quick access to their savings, which isn’t as easy to do if it’s held at a foreign bank, and such lenders may not always accept small deposits. Zuckerberg Drops Off Billionaires Index As Facebook Falls (Bloomberg) The 28-year-old’s fortune fell to $14.7 billion yesterday from $16.2 billion on May 25, as shares of the world’s largest social-networking company dropped 9.6 percent to $28.84. Woman's Boyfriend Took Car Without Permission Before She Slammed It Into House (NYP, earlier) Dan Sajewski, 23, arrived at his family’s Huntington estate last weekend with Anderson, 21, his on-again, off-again waitress girlfriend. While his parents vacationed on Long Island’s North Fork, the duo helped themselves to his mother’s 2003 Mercedes-Benz CLK 320, a birthday gift from Sajewski’s anesthesiologist father, a source said. They took a joyride to the Hamptons, where they had a little too much fun. A field Breathalyzer test revealed that Anderson drove home with a .30 Blood-Alcohol Content — nearly four times the legal limit and the equivalent of about 15 drinks, prosecutors said at her arraignment yesterday. They drove back to Huntington and she was speeding along Southdown Road when she failed to turn at a T-instersection — ramming through the front of Indiere’s house, obliterating her kitchen, and exiting through the back wall, prosecutors said. “We can’t believe he just let this girl drive a car he wasn’t even supposed to have in the first place,” a Sajewski family member said. “He’s done this before; he took his sister’s Jeep and just took off. “He was trying to get the car home before the family got home from their own Memorial Day weekend. He’s not exactly the model son.’’ The relative added that Sajewski didn’t call his father about the accident until two hours later. In the police report, Anderson told cops “her power steering got stuck, causing her to crash,” and that she only drank “three beers.” Housing Market Crawls Back (WSJ) Housing prices across the U.S. fell in March, but not as much as in earlier months, according to a report Tuesday that offered fresh evidence of a real-estate market on the mend. Compared with February, prices fell just 0.03% in March, and after adjusting for seasonal factors, they rose 0.09%, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city home-price index. "This is the first flat report we've had in quite some time," said David M. Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Indices. Still, "while there has been improvement in some regions, housing prices have not turned" everywhere, he said. Bankers Hired By Blackberry Maker (NYP) Research In Motion said yesterday it hired investment banks JPMorgan and RBC to review its “options,” which most investors took to mean a potential sale, and warned of another quarterly loss. Gold Investors Rush For The Exits (WSJ) Investors in SPDR Gold Shares and iShares Gold Trust, two high-profile exchange-traded funds that hold physical bullion, also have pulled back recently. Through Friday, the two funds had reduced the number of tons of gold they're holding this month. As of May 15, hedge funds, pension funds and other money managers also had slashed their bets that gold prices will rise in the futures market, to the lowest level since January 20, 2009, according to weekly data released by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission. The bullish bets rose slightly last week, but remain near the low for the year. Police Find Another Human Body Part In Package In Ottawa (OC) Police found a human hand at the Ottawa Postal Terminal Tuesday night, hours after a bloody foot was delivered to the Conservative party's Ottawa headquarters just blocks from Parliament Hill. Ottawa police were still trying to understand what they were dealing with even as detectives in Montreal combed through a crime scene where a torso was found in a suitcase in that city's Snowdon district. Police discovered the second package, sent from the same place as the package sent to Tory headquarters, Tuesday evening. Officers carried it from the huge Riverside Drive terminal in a brown paper bag, which they X-rayed before they opened it to find the hand. The gruesome events began shortly before noon when access to the Conservative party's headquarters was restricted after the fire department's Hazmat team was called in to investigate a suspicious package. A party staffer had started to open a blood-stained box sent to the office at 130 Albert St. before police were called to investigate. At first, it was thought there was a human heart inside, but after the box was X-rayed, police confirmed that it contained a foot.

Opening Bell: 3.11.15

Gundlach can't believe these "blockheads" at the Fed; New Credit Suisse CEO knows about risk unlike some people; Stress tests; Bales of weed for everyone; AND MORE.

Opening Bell: 05.10.12

Greek Socialist Make Last-Ditch Attempt At Government (Reuters) With new elections likely in three or four weeks and Athens, due to run out of cash in June, needing to impose new austerity measures in exchange for funds, the financial daily Kerdos to warn on its front page: "Time is running out." Bernanke Gets 75% Approval From Investors (Bloomberg) Bernanke, whom Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said he wouldn’t reappoint for running too lax a monetary policy, receives a favorable assessment from three of four of those surveyed in the latest Bloomberg Global Poll. Respondents to the survey of investors, analysts and traders who are Bloomberg subscribers also rate U.S. financial markets highly: 46 percent say they will be among the best performers over the next year, double the percentage that select China, in second place. Goldman Had One Day Of Losses In First Quarter (WSJ) The loss was up to $25 million, the firm said. In contrast, Goldman reported 24 days of trading gains of $100 million or more. US Jobless Claims Decline (Bloomberg) Jobless claims dropped by 1,000 to 367,000 in the period ended May 5, in line with the median forecast in a Bloomberg News survey and the lowest since the end of March, the Labor Department said today in Washington. The number of people on unemployment benefit rolls was the smallest since July 2008. Goldman Redeems $250 Million Hedge-Fund Stakes on Volcker (Bloomberg) Under the Volcker rule provision of the Dodd-Frank financial-reform law, federally backed banks are required to limit their investments in private equity and hedge funds to no more than 3 percent of the fund or 3 percent of the bank’s Tier 1 capital. Goldman Sachs’s fund stakes were worth $17.2 billion at the end of March and the firm was committed to providing an additional $7.77 billion to the funds, the filing showed. “We currently expect to redeem up to approximately 10 percent of certain hedge funds’ total redeemable units per quarter over 10 consecutive quarters, beginning March 2012 and ending June 2014,” Goldman Sachs said in the filing. “In addition, we have limited the firm’s initial investment to 3 percent for certain new funds.” John Manning, a Bloods gang member, told police outside City Hall he wanted to fight Mayor Michael Bloomberg (NYDN) John Manning, 27, of Newark, a gang member with 12 arrests in the Garden State, showed up at the security entrance of the government building while the mayor held an outdoor press conference on the city’s new bike share program on Monday. “I want to take on the mayor in a fight. Man vs. man, and knock him out,” he told cops at the Broadway and Murray St. entrance around 11:30 and to attend the event. When he was asked to leave, Manning refused, saying, “I'll wait as long as it takes.” He was arrested and charged with trespassing and obstruction of government administration. Five Arrested At Bank of America Protest (AP) Five people have been arrested as they tried to force their way into the annual Bank of America shareholders' meeting in Charlotte, and police used a new ordinance to declare the gathering an extraordinary event subject to special restrictions. Hundreds gathered on the streets Wednesday morning as dozens of police officers worked to contain the protest. Johnny Rosa of Framingham, Mass., was one of those arrested. Before being taken into custody, Rosa said his home had been foreclosed. He wanted to tell shareholders the foreclosure was wrong because he wanted to make payments. By law, if a gathering in Charlotte is deemed an extraordinary event, authorities can designate areas where people aren't allowed to carry backpacks, magic markers and other items. Brian Gets Broiled At BofA Meeting (NYP) “Let Bank of America take care of America,” one attendee yelled at Moynihan. “This is America. Listen to the people in this room.” One shareholder even called the bank “a felon.” “We abide by the law every day,” Moynihan shot back. Citi’s Buiter: Time for 'Helicopter Money Drops' (CNBC) “We think central banks in the U.S., euro area, Japan, and the U.K. could and should do much more” to stimulate growth, said the firm’s economists, led by Willem Buiter. Yes, these institutions, which have already pushed their respective interest rates to historic lows and made unprecedented efforts to buy government bonds and other securities, are not being aggressive enough, the firm argues. Extremely rare calico-colored lobster found at Massachusetts restaurant (NYDN) The unusually colored “calico” lobster is marked by bright orange and yellow spots. But the extraordinary find could have easily ended up in someone's belly at Jasper White's Summer Shack restaurant in Cambridge. “We happened to be cleaning the tank and I happened to be there," White said. "One of my guys said, 'Chef, look at this lobster,' and from across the room I knew it was special." The lobster is destined for the Biomes Marine Biology Center in Rhode Island, with a stopover at Boston's New England Aquarium, which released a photo on Wednesday. White named the lobster Calvin.

(Getty Images)

Opening Bell: 7.31.17

JPMorgan rolls out trading robot; HSBC lives; Floyd Mayweather will make a "shit ton of money" from an ICO; the weird, sad world of bespoke porn; and more.