Opening Bell: 5.18.15

Greece is screwed; Puerto Rico is screwed; Hedge funds are screwed; "Parrot Won't Stop Cursing In Spanish"; and more.
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Greek Endgame Nears for Tsipras as Bank Collateral Hits Buffers (Bloomberg)
Greek banks are running short on the collateral they need to stay alive, a crisis that could help force Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s hand after weeks of brinkmanship with creditors. As deposits flee the financial system, lenders use collateral parked at the Greek central bank to tap more and more emergency liquidity every week. In a worst-case scenario, that lifeline will be maxed out within three weeks, pushing banks toward insolvency, some economists say.

Debt-Choked Puerto Rico at Fiscal Brink (Bloomberg)
The Caribbean island is hurtling toward the fiscal brink. After years of borrowing to paper over deficits, and with $630 million due to investors on July 1, Puerto Rico may confront the unthinkable: a default. The prospect has set Wall Street on edge as bond yields surpass those of Argentina and Greece; about half of municipal mutual funds hold commonwealth debt.

Human Stock Pickers Gain Against Indexes (WSJ)
The numbers add up to a rare rebound for active fund managers, who long dominated the business but have been losing ground to far-less-expensive index funds, especially since the financial crisis. The stock market’s recent slowdown has given old-school stock pickers more chances to shine.

Hedge Funds Close Doors, Facing Low Returns and Investor Scrutiny (Dealbook)
For decades, nearly everything that the billionaire Julian Robertson touched turned to gold. Mr. Robertson, founder of the hedge fund Tiger Management, seeded a network of hugely successful “Tiger Cubs” — companies that in turn seeded more talent. It became the closest thing the hedge fund industry had to a dynasty. Since the start of this year, however, the managers of three firms spun out of that gilded empire have called it quits after volatile performances and sometimes steep losses. They will return money to investors and focus on managing their own wealth. TigerShark, Tiger Consumer and JAT Capital Management are just three examples among a recent wave of hedge funds that have closed their doors to investors in the face of choppy markets. They are a reminder that the hedge fund industry is not all spectacular returns.

Parrot Won't Stop Cursing In Spanish, Says Neighbor (HP)
A woman in Tracy, California, is fed up with her neighbor's parrot, and not just because it barks, meows and makes sounds like a drill. The bird also allegedly squawks a vulgar word that means "whore" in Spanish. "All day long, the bird is saying that word," neighbor Jessica Baca told NBC-affiliate KCRA. She told the outlet she's concerned because her grandchildren started repeating it. The bird's owner, Rita Canisales, said she's only taught the bird English words and thinks it is saying its own name, Rula, rather than the Spanish word, puta. But the owner admitted to KCRA that the bird may be flirtatious toward women.

Bond-Market Crash Has Wall Street Divided on What’s Next (Bloomberg)
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. warns that government debt is still expensive, but a growing number of investors are finding value after the four-week exodus sent yields soaring. Prudential Financial Inc.’s Robert Tipp is buying because tepid U.S. growth will keep the Federal Reserve on hold, while Europe remains too weak to sustain higher yields. And don’t forget about central banks in Europe and Japan, which are buying billions of dollars in bonds each month.

Hedge Funds Lose Faith in Oil Rally (Bloomberg)
Speculators are losing faith in the oil rally, judging that OPEC will keep increasing supply from the highest level since 2012. Their net-long position in West Texas Intermediate crude dropped 2.1 percent, as long wagers fell the most in two months and short bets declined to the lowest since August, U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission data show.

Investment from emerging nations surges (FT)
Foreign direct investment by emerging economies surged by almost a third last year as companies in China and elsewhere sought new opportunities offshore as a respite from slowing growth at home, according to new UN figures to be released on Monday.

Meth lab found in third-grade teacher’s North Carolina home (NYDN)
Lori Whitley has been suspended with pay from her job at Wendell Elementary School, where she's worked as a third-grade teacher since 2002, a Wake County Public School spokeswoman said. She is a "good lady," neighbor Bernard Brodie told the local station. He said he did not know there was a drug operation next door but had recently noticed a strong chemical odor wafting from the house.

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Opening Bell: 06.11.12

Nasdaq CEO Lost Touch Amid Facebook Chaos (WSJ) At the end of Facebook's disastrous first day of trading May 18, the phone in Robert Greifeld's New York office rang. It was Mary Schapiro, head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, wanting an explanation from the chief executive of Nasdaq OMX Group for the epidemic of glitches and delays in one of the most anticipated initial public offerings ever. Mr. Greifeld couldn't talk. Having monitored the rocky process from Silicon Valley, where he had gone to join Facebook executives in remotely ringing the market's opening bell, he concluded the worst problems were fixed and caught a noon flight back to the East Coast. So, marooned for almost five hours in business class with a phone he says didn't work, he didn't realize that continuing breakdowns at his exchange had left countless investors not knowing how many Facebook shares they had bought or sold and at what price, nor did he know the SEC chief wanted to reach him. Three weeks later, Mr. Greifeld still isn't sure why technology systems failed during the crucial IPO. Nasdaq's failure to see the problem coming is something its engineers are still dissecting. "You wake up, you turn around, and there's a black or dull spot," Mr. Greifeld said in an interview, sucking on Life Savers candy at a conference table in his office. "You can't get away from it." Spain’s Bailout Gives Rajoy Best Chance To Fix Banks (Bloomberg) Spain’s request for as much as 100 billion euros ($125 billion) of European bailout funds may provide the country with enough money to shore up its banking system after three failed attempts in as many years. “Now that they have this money, it will hopefully finally be possible to recognize all the hidden losses and clean up the system,” Luis Garicano, a professor at the London School of Economics, said in a phone interview. The amount sought is about 2.7 times the funds deemed necessary for Spanish banks by the International Monetary Fund in a report released June 8 and five times the total requested by the Bankia group, the country’s third-biggest lender, to cleanse its balance sheet. Spain's economic misery will get worse this year despite bailout request, prime minister says (NYP) A day after the country conceded it needed outside help following months of denying it would seek assistance, Rajoy said more Spaniards will lose their jobs in a country where one out of every four are already unemployed. "This year is going to be a bad one," Rajoy said Sunday in his first comments about the rescue since it was announced the previous evening by his economy minister. IPOs Dry Up Post Facebook (WSJ) In the aftermath of Facebook's botched trading debut, the IPO market has gone three weeks without an offering, the longest drought in five months. It is the slowest stretch in initial public offerings since a four-week span at the end of 2011 and the beginning of this year, according to data from Ipreo. Greece Threatens Wall Street Jobs In Third Trading Plunge (Bloomberg) For a third consecutive year, revenue from investment banking and trading at U.S. firms may fall at least 30 percent from the first quarter, Richard Ramsden, a Goldman Sachs analyst, said in a note last week. Greece, which gave English the word “cycle,” has been the main reason each year that the second quarter soured after a promising first three months. Nickelback Review Goes Viral (Poynter) Music critic Josh Gross has written hundreds of stories about bands, but none has brought him as much attention as the brief he wrote this week about Nickelback’s upcoming appearance in Idaho, where Gross writes for the Boise Weekly. He summarizes the response: "In the past day, I have been told that I am a genius, a king amongst men and a hack that could be easily outdone by a one-armed cat. I should alternately win the Pulitzer and forcibly insert 45 pickles into my bum. There has been little middle ground. Why? Because I had the audacity to point out that seeing Canadian “rock” band Nickelback at the Idaho Center may not be the best use of one’s $45." Gross wrote of the Nickelback: "You can spend $5 to go see Nickelback this week. Or you could buy 45 hammers from the dollar store, hang them from the ceiling at eye level and spend an evening banging the demons out of your dome...$45 is also enough to see Men In Black III five times, buy a dozen Big Macs, do 10 loads of laundry or so many other experiences as banal and meaningless as seeing Nickelback but come without actually having to hear Nickelback. But if you must, the band is playing The Idaho Center on Wednesday, June 13, at 6PM tickets start at $45." Dimon Faces Washington Grilling Over Trading Debacle (Reuters) The Senate Banking Committee has asked Dimon to come prepared Wednesday to provide "a thorough accounting of the trading losses," a committee aide said. Senators will also ask what he knew about the risks involved in the trading strategy. Fed Colleague Backs Dimon (WSJ) "I do not think he should step down," Lee Bollinger said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. He said Mr. Dimon appears to have done nothing wrong, that critics attacking the Fed have a "false understanding" of how it works, and that it is "foolish" to say Mr. Dimon's presence on the New York Fed board creates an appearance of a conflict when the law requires bankers to serve on such boards. Private lunch with investor Warren Buffett sells for $3.5 million (WaPo) The previous four winning bids have all exceeded $2 million with records set every year. Last year’s winner, hedge fund manager Ted Weschler, paid $2,626,411. India Could Be First BRIC to Lose Investment Grade: S&P (Reuters) Standard & Poor's said on Monday that India could become the first of the so-called BRIC economies to lose its investment grade status, sending the rupee and stocks lower, less than two months after cutting its rating outlook for the country. "Slowing GDP growth and political roadblocks to economic policymaking are just some of the factors pushing up the risk that India could lose its investment-grade rating," the ratings agency said in a statement issued Monday on a report dated June 8. Town Considers Fines For Cursing (WSJ) Mimi Duphily was hanging baskets of pink geraniums on antique street lamps downtown for the Middleborough Beautification and Activities Group when she noticed something else that needed cleaning up—citizens' mouths. "The cursing has gotten very, very bad. I find it appalling and I won't tolerate it," said Ms. Duphily, a civic leader in the otherwise quiet New England community, which calls itself the Cranberry Capital of the World. "No person should be allowed to talk in that manner." Soon, Middleborough residents who do could risk a $20 fine. Ms. Duphily, 63 years old, tried scolding the cursers—whom she describes as young people shouting the "F word" back and forth—with a stern, "Hey kids, that's enough!" Then she conferred with the Beautification and Activities Group, which informed the Middleborough Business Coalition, which then called a summit with Middleborough Police Chief Bruce Gates, who now, in his sworn role, is trying to stomp out swears.

Opening Bell: 10.23.12

Barney Frank cries foul in government's lawsuit against JPMorgan (Reuters) Democratic Congressman Barney Frank defended the largest U.S. bank on Monday, saying in a statement that the government was wrong to go after JPMorgan Chase & Co for the alleged misdeeds of Bear Stearns. Frank, who served as chairman of the House Financial Services Committee during the Bear Stearns acquisition, said federal and state officials should reconsider holding financial firms liable for the wrongdoing of institutions they absorbed at the government's urging. "The decision now to prosecute J.P. Morgan Chase because of activities undertaken by Bear Stearns before the takeover unfortunately fits the description of allowing no good deed to go unpunished," said Frank, who was also the co-author of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sued JPMorgan, the nation's largest bank by assets, on October 1 over mortgage-backed securities packaged and sold by Bear Stearns. Hedge Funds Hot For Ailing Greece's Debt (WSJ) Ever since Greece completed a debt restructuring in March that turned €200 billion in bonds into about €60 billion, distressed-debt investors—many at U.S. hedge funds—have been picking them over. Hedge-fund analysts have flooded Greek finance officials with requests for information. Prices have climbed. Third Point LLC, based in New York, crowed about Greece in its investor letter earlier this month, citing the resilience of the bonds of fellow bailout-recipient Portugal. "We expected Greece to keep its head up and undergo a similar metamorphosis," the letter said. Ever since Greece completed a debt restructuring in March that turned €200 billion in bonds into about €60 billion, distressed-debt investors—many at U.S. hedge funds—have been picking them over. Hedge-fund analysts have flooded Greek finance officials with requests for information. Prices have climbed. Third Point LLC, based in New York, crowed about Greece in its investor letter earlier this month, citing the resilience of the bonds of fellow bailout-recipient Portugal. "We expected Greece to keep its head up and undergo a similar metamorphosis," the letter said. Billionaire Wilbur Ross Interested In Buying Spanish Bank Assets (Bloomberg) Ross’s WL Ross & Co., which holds about 10 percent of Bank of Ireland and teamed up with Richard Branson to buy part of Northern Rock Plc, is in talks “almost every week” with representatives of the large Spanish banks, he said in an interview in Abu Dhabi, without naming potential targets. “Maybe next year will be the year for Spain,” he said. “We’ve been doing a lot of work in Spain. We’ve put a lot of time and effort into Spain but haven’t put any money in yet.” Doom Heralded at Hayman by Widening Trade Deficit (Bloomberg) Japan’s worsening trade gap will make it harder to service the world’s largest debt, fulfilling part of the doomsday scenario that Hayman Capital Management LP is betting on. The nation’s 10-year note yield may rise toward 10 percent from the world’s third-lowest of 0.79 percent, while the yen weakens, said Richard Howard, who oversees Dallas, Texas-based Hayman’s Japan-focused fund with J. Kyle Bass. That would represent the developed world’s second-highest borrowing costs after Greece, and a surge to that level by the end of 2013 would cause losses of 42 percent for investors purchasing the securities now, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Regulators Crash Over Volcker Definitions (WSJ) The SEC and a trio of banking regulators are butting heads over how to define the buying and selling of securities on behalf of clients, known as market-making, as well as over banks' ability to invest in outside investment vehicles such as hedge funds, according to officials close to the discussions. Since brokers, which are overseen by the SEC, conduct market-making activities, the SEC is pushing for more influence over the issue, these people said. Police: Woman fakes her own kidnapping to get day off work (WOAI) An officer on patrol went to check out a car parked near Ray Ellison and Five Palms around 6:30 p.m. on October 10th. When the officer looked inside the car, he spotted 48-year-old Sheila Bailey Eubank bound with rope. An arrest warrant affidavit states Eubank told police a man jumped into her car around 6:15 a.m. while she was at a Security Service Federal Credit Union ATM near Loop 1604 and Bandera Road. Eubank said the man held her an knife point and forced her to drive him to various locations for what she believed were drug deals. She told officers he then assaulted her, tried to choke her with a rope, and then tied her up and left her in her car. However, officers discovered a lottery ticket in Eubank's purse that was purchased that day during the hours she claimed she was being held. Investigators reviewed surveillance video from the store where the lottery ticket was purchased and found out she had entered the store by herself and appeared "healthy, unhurried, and pleasant with the clerk." Investigators then reviewed video from the Security Service Federal Credit Union where Eubank claimed she was abducted. The video showed withdrawing money from the motor ATM, but there were no signs that anyone else was with her. Police say when Eubank was confronted by investigators, she eventually admitted her story was false and that she simply wanted a day off from work and wanted attention. BofA CEO Moynihan Declares Victory Over Capital Doubters (Bloomberg) Bank of America now has the “top capital” among peers and is capable of paying a bigger dividend, said Chief Executive Officer Brian T. Moynihan. The bank has fulfilled a goal Moynihan drilled into subordinates since his first day on the job: building a “fortress balance sheet,” he said in an Oct. 17 staff meeting at the company’s Charlotte, North Carolina headquarters. “We’re going to officially declare victory on one of those operating principles,” Moynihan said in the town-hall style meeting. “The reason why is, we have the top capital in the industry, the top liquidity in the industry.” People have stopped asking if the bank needs more funds to absorb losses and now want to know when investors will get the excess, he said. Word-Smith: Greg's Book Has 0 Sachs Appeal (NYP) Among the mistakes in the book, sources noted, was Smith’s description of a town-hall meeting last year hosted by Goldman’s co-heads of investment banking — South African Richard Gnodde and Michael “Woody” Sherwood...Smith said one question from a Goldman employee during the 2011 meeting was: “What is the firm doing to address the fact that the culture is dying and our reputation is deteriorating?” According to Goldman, a female referenced in Smith’s book as a “power-hungry” managing director — identified as “Georgette” — was the individual who posed the question about culture. Georgette presented the question as: How is the firm addressing “the perception of the deteriorating culture,” according to a recording of the event, reviewed yesterday by The Post. Smith also writes about a follow-up question demanding “what specifically” the bank was doing — and that it was followed with uncomfortable laughter before some fumbling about over which executive should field the query. There was no follow-up question in the recording of the meeting. Smith embellished that aspect of the book and omitted that “Georgette” — a woman whom Smith worked with and dubbed the “Black Widow” for her cutthroat manner — was the source of the question about values because it undermined his narrative, a source inside the company said. Low Rates Pummel Bank Profits (WSJ) "The longer the Fed stays down at these levels the more it will hurt banks," said Scott Lied, the chief financial officer of ENB Financial Corp, an Ephrata, Pa., institution that has eight branches and 225 employees. "It's painful." Gupta Sentencing Set For Tomorrow (NYP) Prosecutors say Gupta, convicted by a jury in June, deserves as long as 10 years in prison. Gupta seeks probation. Gary Naftalis, a lawyer for Gupta, argued his client’s crime was an “aberrational” event in a “lifetime of good works” that merited a punishment for a man who has suffered an extraordinary fall from grace. He asked Rakoff to impose a term of community service, suggesting Gupta work with troubled youth in New York or with the poor in Rwanda. Theater Thief Costs Movie-Goers Tens of Thousands In Credit Card Fraud (Courant) A man who may have stolen as much as $70,000 a week by slithering beneath theater seats while movies were playing and lifting credit cards from women's' pocketbooks was convicted Monday of fraud and identity theft crimes. Anthony Johnson, 49, and a string of accomplices used the stolen cards to collect thousands of dollars in cash advances from Connecticut's gambling casinos and to make tens of thousands of dollars more in retail purchases in Connecticut and elsewhere, authorities said. On a "good" weekend, Johnson collected $50,000 to $70,000 from the scheme, one of his accomplices testified last week at his trial at U.S. District Court in Hartford. He had to settle for $30,000 or $40,000 on a bad weekend, the accomplice said. The accomplice, who agreed to cooperate with authorities, said Johnson, of Philadelphia, typically worked with women accomplices. They bought tickets to motion pictures likely to be popular with female audiences and chose seats from which they could watch how women in the audience stored their pocketbooks. "Once the movie started, Johnson crawled on the floor, removed credit cards from the stored purses, and returned the wallet to the purses," according to an FBI affidavit. "Johnson crawled in this manner around the theater until he was done…"