Opening Bell: 10.5.15

Tsipras has work cut out for him; "Economic instabilities are showing no sign of dampening appetites for deal-making"; Merkel says f*ck VW, Germany is the place to take your biz; Schwarzman is in good with the Pope; "Australian artist to alter sexual cheeseburger mural"; and more.
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Tsipras Will Walk Tightrope With Unveiling of New Greek Budget (Bloomberg)
In a three-day-long parliamentary debate set to conclude with a vote of confidence on Wednesday, the 41-year-old leader will seek to strike a balance between complying with creditors’ demands and fulfilling his election-campaign promises for a “parallel program” to alleviate the impact of austerity. European leaders are pushing Greece for deep spending cuts and economic overhauls.

Glencore Oil Deals Could Bite Banks (WSJ)
A deal struck last year between Glencore PLC and the government of Chad sent $1.4 billion to the African country as an up-front payment for four years of oil shipments. Now, uncertainties over the transaction, which was financed by bank lending, and troubles with other similar deals are shedding light on how Glencore’s energy business has taken some banks into risky areas that are causing jitters as commodity prices fall.

Dealmakers Ignore Stock Market Rout After Busiest Summer for M&A (Bloomberg)
Companies are still hungry for deals, and willing to pay large premiums for major M&A opportunities, according to Ferdinand Mason, a partner at law firm Jones Day in London. While the flow of transactions has been steady across sectors, activity has been especially high in the pharmaceuticals and telecommunications, media and technology industries, he said. “Economic instabilities are showing no sign of dampening appetites for deal-making,” Mason said in an e-mail. “Every time I think we’ve reached a peak, there’s a new announcement.”

Merkel says VW scandal has not hurt Germany's reputation as good place for business (Reuters)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel told a German radio station that the emissions scandal around German carmaker Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) was "drastic" but the damage was not so great that Germany was no longer deemed a good place to do business. "I believe the reputation of the German economy and the trust in the German economy has not been shaken by this to the extent that we are no longer considered a good business location," she told Deutschlandfunk, according to the text of an interview due to be broadcast later on Sunday.

Australian artist to alter sexual cheeseburger mural (UPI)
An Australian building owner said the street artist behind a controversial mural of a cheeseburger filled with copulating human bodies will alter the piece. Dean Sunshine, owner of Rathdowne Fabrics in the Brunswick neighborhood of Moreland, in the Melbourne area, said he asked street artist Makatron to make alterations to his "Kama Sutra Burger" mural after the Moreland City Council graffiti team asked for the artwork to be removed. The council, which objected to the mural depicting people engaging in sexual activities between the sesame seed buns of a cheeseburger, has agreed to allow Makatron -- aka Mike Maka -- to alter his painting. "Art is certainly in the eye of the beholder, but our arts and culture team does think there are a couple of parts of the image that might have crossed a few lines," Moreland Mayor Meghan Hopper told the Melbourne Herald Sun. "When Maka started painting it I said it was looking a little full on, he said, just wait 'til it's finished, once you've got the tomatoes and cheese and lettuce in there the naughty parts will be covered up a bit," Sunshine told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Yellen’s Sway Over Rates Puts Her Atop Most Influential Ranking (Bloomberg)
...the diminutive, white-haired Yellen, who looks a bit like a kindly grandmother (though she doesn’t actually have grandkids), has to be the tough guy who will soon start raising rates, even as risks to the economy persist. At first blush, it seems paradoxical that Yellen has been cast in this role. She’s known as a dove who favors easy money to boost employment, putting her at the opposite end of the spectrum from the hawks who keep a sharp eye on inflation and raise rates more quickly...Still, colleagues say she recognizes there is just so much the Fed can do to help the less well off. She’s shown a willingness during her time at the Fed to tighten credit when she thought it was needed to keep inflation in check or, in monetary jargon, foster price stability.

Short Sellers Take On Hong Kong's Best-Performing Property Stock (Bloomberg)
Evergrande Real Estate Group Ltd., the best-performing major property stock traded in Hong Kong this year, is also the most-shorted and lowest-rated among peers. Some reasons: The developer controlled by billionaire Chairman Hui Ka Yan has bought back shares to help boost prices and has been piling on debt, leading analysts and some investors to bet that increases won’t be sustainable. The shares, which defied a slumping market to increase in July and slip only 0.6 percent amid a rout in August, led declines among property developers in September.

Dodd-Frank’s Effect on Small Banks is Muted (WSJ)
It’s a favorite lament of community banks: The 2010 Dodd-Frank law is squeezing small financial firms and crimping access to credit for Main Street, all in the name of protecting the country from another financial crisis. A look at the data shows the reality is more complicated, and small banks are proving surprisingly resilient by some measures. Meanwhile, the bigger challenge than weathering compliance costs, say banking consultants and analysts, is generating profits during a period of unusually low interest rates.

Sweden embraces six-hour work day (NYP)
How would you like to come in at 8 a.m. and go home at 2 p.m. every day?
Believe it or not, many workers in Sweden are now living that dream, with the Scandinavian country adding the six-hour workday to its list of socially progressive initiatives, Fast Company reports. By urging employees to stay off social media and limit personal distractions, many companies have found the same amount of work gets done in a shorter amount of time. The result is happier, more-focused employees. “I think the eight-hour workday is not as effective as one would think,” Linus Feldt, CEO of app developer Filimundus told Fast Company.

Blackstone Schwarzmans’ $40M gift gets Papal blessing (NYP)
Blackstone Group Chairman and Chief Executive Schwarzman — worth more than $10 billion — and his wife in donated $40 million in September to help underprivileged students pay for Catholic school. Then, days later, they were welcoming Pope Francis to Our Lady Queen of Angels School in East Harlem. Building a relationship with the Archdiocese of New York has been a long journey for the interfaith couple. Stephen is Jewish, Christine Roman Catholic, and they got married in 1995 by a rabbi and a priest.

Informant Eats Heroin She Bought Undercover For Cops: Police (AP)
Pamela Laich was working with Altoona police Sunday night when she bought heroin from the target of the investigation. Police say Laich was instructed to buy five bags for $80 but after a long delay came back with only three. The undercover officer supervising Laich made her go back for two more bags, but police thought what she returned with looked odd. Police say they later determined she had switched the heroin out with dry baby cereal. Police say Laich then sneaked the heroin into a holding cell, where she ate it.

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Opening Bell: 9.22.16

Yellen signals 2016 hike coming; Bill Gross is 'verklempt' after Fed decision; Australian hot dog and hamburger combination 'hamdog' coming to U.S.; and more.

Opening Bell: 10.10.12

Banks Must Cut Deeper to Help Stock Prices, McKinsey Says (Bloomberg) Banks must make deeper and more sweeping cost reductions if they want to restore profitability levels that are acceptable to investors, McKinsey & Co. said in an annual review of the industry. “It has to go a lot further,” Toos Daruvala, a director in the consulting firm’s North American banking practice and a co-author of the report, said yesterday in a phone interview. “Banks have done quite a lot on cost-cutting but frankly the environment has deteriorated over the last year” because of economic weakness, he said. Argentina rejects Singer’s $20M in ransom for ship’s release (NYP) At a court hearing today in Ghana, where hedge fund manager Paul Singer’s lawyers are holding the ARA Libertad hostage, a lawyer for Argentina argued that Singer had no right to detain the ship because it’s a military vessel and immune from seizure. Lawyer Larry Otoo called the seizure — a move by Singer to force Argentina to repay a $1.6 billion debt he says he’s owed — an embarrassment to Ghana and demanded the ship’s immediate return. The court is expected to rule Thursday on whether to release the ship. Singer, the head of hedge fund giant Elliot Management, is seeking to recoup some of the $600 million in bonds he purchased as Argentina was headed for default in 2001. Elliot bought the bonds at steep discounts, paying as little as 15 cents on the dollar in some cases, but has since won judgments of as much as $1.6 billion. Elliot’s NML Capital unit is pursuing Argentina’s assets all over the world in an effort to collect on its debt. In Gupta Sentencing, A Judgment Call (WSJ) Former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. director Rajat Gupta is the highest-profile of more than 70 defendants convicted of insider trading in New York federal court in the past three years. But this month he will likely receive a more lenient sentence than the 11-year-prison term given to Raj Rajaratnam, to whom Mr. Gupta provided his illegal leaks, legal experts say. The sentence may have reverberations beyond the 63-year-old Mr. Gupta, a former chief of consulting giant McKinsey & Co. It will be widely watched in executive suites nationwide because it will be among the first handed down to a major corporate figure in the recent insider-trading crackdown. Previous sentences have largely involved traders, lawyers, lower-rung corporate employees and others. Mr. Gupta, who was convicted in June of three counts of securities fraud relating to tips about Goldman and one count of conspiracy, didn't trade or profit directly from his illegal tips. Before the conviction, he had a long and stellar career in corporate America and philanthropy. All this will be balanced against the nature of the crimes and the need to discourage others from similar offenses when U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff hands down his sentence, scheduled for Oct. 24. Judge Rakoff often imposes sentences further below federal sentencing guidelines than some other judges do, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis...Since 2010, Judge Rakoff has imposed an average sentence of 21 months on insider-trading defendants who didn't cooperate with prosecutors—about 38% below the guideline minimum, according to the Journal analysis. By comparison, U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan issued seven sentences in that period averaging 6.3% below the guideline minimum. U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty issued three sentences at 20.3% less than the minimum. Goldman Pushes On Limits In Volcker Rule (WSJ) Some executives at the New York company believe they have found a way to extricate the credit funds from proposed limits on how much can be invested in hedge funds and private-equity funds, according to people briefed on the efforts. The Volcker rule caps a bank's total investments in hedge funds and private-equity funds at 3% of its so-called Tier-1 capital. It also prevents any single bank from accounting for more than 3% of a fund's investments. Those limits are among the biggest components of the rule, named after former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker and designed to curtail risk-taking among financial firms. The rule is the most contentious part of the Dodd-Frank financial-overhaul law of 2010 but, like much of the rest of the legislation, the details of its implementation are still being worked out. Credit funds lend to companies that might not otherwise get financing, such as companies backed by private-equity firms, and tend to hold their investments to maturity while using a limited amount of leverage. Goldman has argued in meetings with regulators and in letters to them that these funds function like banks, just with a different structure, according to public records and the people familiar with the efforts. Report: 20% of US Firms Cook the Books During Earnings (CNBC) ...a new report by finance professors at Emory and Duke University raises questions about the quality of earnings in general. In an anonymous survey of CFOs last year, the study found that at least 20% of companies are "managing" earnings and using aggressive accounting methods to legally alter the outcome of their earnings reports. Of the 20% of companies that manipulated their earnings to hit a target, Graham says, a surprising 40% did so to the downside, not the upside, to pad and improve future quarters' earnings. Banks Chasing Asian Millionaires Create Singapore’s Canary Wharf (Bloomberg) Singapore’s Marina Bay area is emerging as the city’s new financial hub, with banks including Standard Chartered Plc and Barclays taking bigger offices as they pursue Asia’s expanding ranks of millionaires. Corrections & Amplifications (WSJ via Lauren Tara LaCapra) "Annie Hubbard, the woman appearing alongside Goldman Sachs's chief financial officer, Harvey Schwartz, in a photograph with a page-one article about Goldman on Tuesday, was incorrectly identified as his wife. Mr. Schwartz isn't married." Hulk Hogan ‘devastated’ by leak of sex tape filmed six years ago with friend’s wife Heather Clem (NYDN) The wrestling star tried to explain the kinky love triangle to Howard Stern Tuesday using a thinly veiled euphemism. “Let’s say I’ve been doing laundry, brother, for this person forever, and all of a sudden this person hates the way I do laundry. And that person says, ‘You suck. I hate you. F-you every single day. I hate the way you do laundry. I’m going to find somebody else to do laundry. Somebody younger, faster, stronger,’” he said, clearly taking a jab at his ex-wife, who he was still married to at the time of the taping. “But my buddy, you know, him and his girl say, ‘Hey, you can do our laundry any time you want!’ Both of them are saying that,” he told Stern. “Finally after the person I was doing laundry with for millions and millions of years left, and all of a sudden there was nobody there to do laundry, I was depressed… I go to my buddy’s house and he says, ‘Hey man you can do this other person’s laundry that I’m partners with.’ I said, 'Sure.’” Official Warmth And Public Rage For A German Leader In Athens (NYT) ...even as Ms. Merkel said that she had come as a “good friend and a real partner,” not a “taskmaster or teacher to give grades,” the approximately 40,000 Greeks who took to the streets in protest (a rather modest number, by Greek standards) treated the visit as a provocation by the arch-nemesis in the euro crisis whose austerity medicine is obliterating the Greek middle class. Some banners read “Don’t cry for us Mrs. Merkel” and “Merkel, you are not welcome here.” A small group of protesters burned a flag bearing the Nazi swastika, while a handful of protesters dressed in Nazi-style uniforms drew cheers of approval as they rode a small vehicle past a police cordon. Variety Being Sold To Penske, Third Point (Reuters) Variety, the century-old entertainment trade newspaper once considered the bible of the movie industry, is being sold to online publisher Jay Penske and Third Point LLC for about $25 million, two sources with knowledge of the deal told Reuters. Penske and Third Point have struck a deal to buy the money-losing, 107-year-old newspaper from medical and technical publisher Reed Elsevier, which put it up for sale in March, the sources said. IMF warns eurozone on capital flight (FT) In its global financial stability report, the IMF concluded that capital flight from the eurozone’s periphery to the bloc’s core, driven by fears of a break-up of the currency union, had sparked “extreme fragmentation” of the euro area’s funding markets. The fund said this was causing renewed pressure for banks to shrink their balance sheets, particularly those in countries with fiscal woes. A Fat, Mustachioed Orphan Finds a Home (NYT) How do you transport a 234-pound baby to New York City? If he’s a 15-week-old walrus rescued from the open ocean off Alaska, the answer is a jumbo-size crate aboard a FedEx cargo jet, accompanied by a veterinarian and a handler. “If he’s calm and comfortable, no worries,” said Jon Forrest Dohlin, director of the New York Aquarium, which will receive the walrus calf, named Mitik, on Thursday. “But his needs and comfort come first. So he may very well travel with his head in our keeper’s lap.” Since late July, Mitik and a second orphaned walrus, Pakak, have been nursed to health with bottle feedings and exercise at the Alaska SeaLife Center, an aquarium in Seward that conducts research and responds to strandings of marine mammals. (Pakak, nicknamed Pak, will arrive at the Indianapolis Zoo on Thursday.) Mitik — or Mit, for short — was weak from illness and considerably smaller than Pakak when he was found by a hunting vessel several miles offshore. Mit initially suffered from bladder problems and could not take a bottle, requiring both a catheter and feeding tube. But he is now sucking assertively from a bottle and putting on a pound a day...With his multiple chins and doleful expression, Mit is also exhibiting an undeniable pluck that should serve him well in his new surroundings. Martha Hiatt, the aquarium’s behavioral husbandry supervisor, traveled to Alaska in September to help care for him. At first, she said, Pakak totally dominated him, but no longer. “If Mit is resting with his head on my lap, sucking my fingers, looking sweetly into my eyes, and Pak comes anywhere near us, he pops up, yells at Pak and tries to head-butt him,” she said. “Then he’ll turn to me and be all cuddly again. We say he is small, but scrappy — the perfect New Yorker.”

Opening Bell: 9.16.15

AB InBev wants SABMiller; Kynikos gains; Bridgewater loses (and tells investors to f*ck off); Young Wall Street has no idea what a rate hike looks like; "Man Throws Brisket At Woman During Beef At BBQ Fest, Police Say"; and more.

Opening Bell: 4.23.15

Alexis Tsipras and Angela Merkel to meet; Deutsche Bank to pay $2.14 Billion over Libor; Flash crash trader spurs debate about spoofing; "New York's 'noisiest lovers' revealed"; and more.

Opening Bell: 01.06.16

North Korea RSVPs yes to World Economic Forum; Sanders tells Wall Street, Clinton to f*ck off; Hoodie with inflatable pillow funded on Kickstarter; and more.

Opening Bell: 08.27.12

RBS May Be Bigger Libor Culprit Than Barclays, Says MP (Guardian) John Mann, a Labour MP on the Treasury select committee, said "City insiders" had suggested RBS's involvement may be "noticeably worse" than Barclays.' [...] Mann's comments came as a former RBS trader claimed that the bank's internal checks were so lax that anyone could change Libor rates. Court documents filed in Singapore show that Tan Chi Min, who is suing RBS for wrongful dismissal, claimed that in 2008 a trader for the bank, Will Hall, changed the Libor submission even though he was part of the Japanese yen swap desk in London. The papers show that Tan, who worked for RBS in Singapore, raised the issue at his disciplinary meeting last September, saying the bank's internal procedure in London seemed to be that "anyone can change Libor". Spain Expects to Tap About $75 Billion in Rescue Financing for Its Banks (NYT) Spain expects to use about 60 billion euros, or $75 billion, of the 100 billion euros of bank rescue financing offered by European finance ministers in June, according to the Spanish economy minister, Luis de Guindos. UK Investment Bankers Prefer Singapore (FT) The southeast-Asian city state has become the most favored location for investment bankers who are based in London, research by financial services recruitment firm Astbury Marsden shows. Of the 462 investment bankers that were asked, 31 percent said they would most like to work in Singapore. By comparison, only a fifth preferred New York and only 19 percent opted in favor of London. In the year before, 22 percent named London as their preferred location, underlining how the British capital has lost some appeal among investment bankers amid tighter regulation and a clampdown on bonuses. “A fast growing, low tax and bank friendly environment like Singapore stands as a perfect antidote to the comparatively high tax and anti-banker sentiment of London and New York,” said Mark Cameron, chief operating officer at Astbury Marsden. “Far more London-based bankers are now more willing and able to relocate the 6,700 miles to Singapore.” Another Madoff Name Nix (NYP) The second of Ponzi-schemer Bernie Madoff’s daughters-in-law is asking a court for permission to shed her now notorious married name. Deborah West Madoff, who started divorce proceedings against Bernie’s son Andrew back in 2008, has sought permission in Manhattan Supreme Court to revert to her maiden name. The couple have two children. She’s not the first in the family to do so: in 2010, her sister-in-law made a similar court application. Suits Mount In Rate Scandal (WSJ) It won't be easy for the plaintiffs to win in court even though financial institutions are likely to reach settlements with regulators in coming months totaling billions of dollars, according to people close to the Libor investigation. The plaintiffs must prove that banks successfully manipulated interest-rate benchmarks such as the London interbank offered rate, or Libor, and caused the plaintiffs to suffer a loss. Still, some investors and analysts are forecasting huge damages despite the legal hurdles. In a July report, Macquarie Research estimated that banks face potential legal liability of about $176 billion, based on the assumption that Libor was "understated" by 0.4 percentage points in 2008 and 2009. Carlyle Group marketed $25 million deal without license: Kuwaiti firm (AP) A Kuwaiti company suing the Carlyle Group over a $25 million investment that went bad is now accusing the private equity firm of marketing the deal without a license as it seeks to have its case heard in Kuwaiti courts. The latest claim by Kuwait's National Industries Group adds a new twist to its more than two-and-a-half year legal challenge to Carlyle, and could complicate the American company's relationships with other wealthy Mideast investors. NIG's lawsuit focuses on a Carlyle investment fund that was one of the earliest casualties of the financial crisis when it collapsed in 2008. The fund has been the subject of multiple lawsuits against Washington-based Carlyle. Couple in court for disturbing the peace for 'screaming, moaning and swearing during seven-hour sex romps five nights a week' (DM) Jessica Angel and Colin MacKenzie had been issued with an order requiring them to prevent ‘screaming, loud moaning, swearing and raised voices’ after police were called to their flat 20 times in just four months. However, following further complaints from neighbours, the couple were charged under the Environmental Protection Act. They face a £3,000 fine if convicted...Mr MacKenzie, 45, from Sturt, South Australia, said: ‘How can you live in a place where you can’t have sex? It’s ridiculous. Anyway, it’s mostly Jessie. The sex goes from four to seven hours, five nights a week. I’ll probably die of a heart attack – she’s almost killing me.’ German Official Opposes European Debt Purchases (NYT) The president of the German central bank said in an interview published Sunday that he remained staunchly opposed to government bond purchases by the European Central Bank, a position that could make it more difficult to deploy a weapon many economists believe is essential to saving the euro. But in a sign that the mood in Germany could be shifting, Chancellor Angela Merkel adopted a more dovish tone during a separate interview. She told members of her governing coalition to stop talking about Greece leaving the euro. “We are in a decisive phase in the battle against the euro zone debt crisis,” Ms. Merkel told ARD television. “Everyone should weigh their words very carefully.” Fed mulls open season on bond buys to help economy (Reuters) The Federal Reserve is considering a new approach to unconventional monetary policy that would give it more leeway to tailor the scale of its stimulus to changing economic winds. While fresh measures are not assured and the timing of any potential moves are still in question, some officials have said any new bond buying, or quantitative easing, could be open-ended, meaning it would not be bound by a fixed amount or time frame. "I am inclined to think that if the Fed decides on more QE it would be of the open-ended variety," said Michael Feroli, chief U.S. economist at JPMorgan and a former Fed economist. BlackRock Bullish On Thai Bonds, Region’s Worst (Bloomberg) BlackRock is bullish on Thai bonds, Asia’s worst-performing in 2012, saying the central bank has room to ease monetary policy as a global slump cools demand for exports from Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy. Former SC Gov. Mark Sanford to wed ex-mistress Maria Belen Chapur (NYDN) "Yes, we are engaged, and I'm both happy and excited for what that means," Sanford said in a statement obtained by CNN. "I have long expressed my feelings for her, she's a wonderful person. My closest friends have met and love her, and I look forward to introducing her to still many more that have yet to do so." The conservative Republican's political aspirations were dashed in 2009 when he disappeared from South Carolina for five days under the pretense that he was hiking the Appalachian Trail. The father of four, who was once thought to be a potential 2012 presidential contender, later admitted that he was actually visiting Chapur, who he professed to be his "soul mate." "I've been unfaithful to my wife," Sanford said at the time. "I developed a relationship with what started as a dear, dear friend from Argentina."

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Opening Bell: 9.20.16

Mike Mayo thinks Wells chief sucks but should stay on; Jack Ma’s finance biz may be worth more than Goldman Sachs; Bald eagles trained to snatch hostile drones; and more.