Opening Bell: 11.6.15

Bill Gross 100% of rate hike in December; Goldman pulls out stops for junior bankers; Jim Cramer says he was a moron; "Battery Charge Dropped In Dildo Attack Case"; and more.
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Gross Says 100% Certain of December Rate Hike as Jobs Surge (Bloomberg)
“They are ready to go,” Gross said in an interview with Tom Keene and Michael Mckee of Bloomberg Radio after the Labor Department reported that the U.S. economy added a better-than-expected 271,000 jobs in October and wages rose the most in more than six years.

U.S. Hiring Surges as Eyes Turn to Fed (WSJ)
Nonfarm payrolls rose a seasonally adjusted 271,000 in October, the Labor Department said Friday. Revisions showed employers added a combined 12,000 more jobs in September and August than previously estimated, bringing the three-month average through October to 187,000.

Issues that deterred Fed from September rate hike largely disappeared: Bullard (Reuters)
Fear over a "hard landing" in China have decreased, Bullard said, with growth in the country still estimated at close to 7 percent and indexes of financial market stress now back to pre-market levels, Bullard said in a presentation to St. Louis-area financial advisers.

Square Sets IPO at 27 Million Shares; Dorsey Expected to Have 23.6% of Voting Power (Bloomberg)
Square Inc. is aiming for a valuation of as much as $4.2 billion in its initial public offering, well short of the $6 billion the mobile-payments service sought in its latest funding round. The large gap underscores a lingering question for the latest crop of startups: Will they be able to fetch the same rich valuations they are getting in private markets when they hawk their shares to public investors? The resounding “No” for Square is significant because it is one of the few young companies recently making the move to go public.

Battery Charge Dropped In Dildo Attack Case (TSG)
Prosecutors have declined to pursue a criminal charge against a Florida woman who was arrested for allegedly striking her girlfriend in the face with a dildo during a confrontation in the couple’s home, court records show. In a recent filing, the State Attorney’s Office disclosed that they will not press a domestic battery charge against Annette Kielhurn, a 57-year-old St. Petersburg resident who was arrested in July...Prosecutors did not reveal why they decided to drop the misdemeanor count, though Kielhurn’s girlfriend recently wrote to a Circuit Court judge seeking the case’s dismissal. Gamze Capaner-Ridley, 47, argued that Kielhurn, in light of media coverage of the case, “doesn’t deserve to suffer more than she already has.”

Goldman Sachs Sweetens Deal for Young Bankers (WSJ)
Just a few years after scrapping its two-year analyst program for investment bankers, Goldman is again rethinking the way it structures bankers’ early years at the firm. The bank is dangling carrots, including promises to speed the path to promotions and eliminating some of the grunt work that often falls to younger employees.

Asia’s Short Sellers, Activists Go After Bigger Fish (WSJ)
Short sellers and activist-research firms in Asia are taking on higher-profile targets as an economic slowdown exposes weak points in companies’ finances. The trend marks a shift from years past, when most targets were lesser-known, largely Chinese-listed firms. This year, a shaky corporate outlook amid spending pullbacks has given Asian firms less wiggle room to paper over problems like high debt levels and inconsistent accounting standards.

American Apparel Founder Says He's Broke and Can't Afford Lawyer (Bloomberg)
Ex-American Apparel Inc. Chief Executive Officer Dov Charney lives in a Los Angeles mansion with eight bedrooms, but says he can’t scrape together enough cash to keep paying a lawyer.

SEC Charges: False Tweets Sent Two Stocks Reeling in Market Manipulation (SEC)
The Securities and Exchange Commission today filed securities fraud charges against a Scottish trader whose false tweets caused sharp drops in the stock prices of two companies and triggered a trading halt in one of them. According to the SEC’s complaint filed in federal court in the Northern District of California, James Alan Craig of Dunragit, Scotland, tweeted multiple false statements about the two companies on Twitter accounts that he deceptively created to look like the real Twitter accounts of well-known securities research firms.

Jim Cramer: I was a moron about Facebook (CNBC)
Cramer doubted Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who Cramer thought overpaid with the $19 billion price tag for WhatsApp. Now it has 900 million users. Whoops! Cramer also doubted the $2 billion purchase of Oculus, though it is now clear that Zuckerberg intends to dominate the gaming category with 250 million users and intense growth. "Call me a moron, but I was simply taking my cue from the headline writers and the bears, never a wise sign," Cramer said.

Gundlach's DoubleLine Capital posts 21st month of net inflows (Reuters)
DoubleLine Capital, the investment firm with $80 billion in assets overseen by widely followed co-founder Jeffrey Gundlach, posted net inflows of $1.61 billion in October, the 21st month it has attracted new money.

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Opening Bell: 03.13.13

Ackman Applauds Call For Herbalife Investigation (AP) The National Consumers League said that it wants the FTC to investigate the claims against Herbalife as well as the vitamin and supplement products company's responses. Ackman alleged in December that Herbalife was a pyramid scheme and made a bet the stock would fall, arguing that the company makes most of its money by recruiting new salespeople rather than on the products they sell. Herbalife disputes that. In a statement late Tuesday, Pershing Square Capital Management's Ackman said that he was pleased that the NCL was requesting an FTC investigation and believes it will show that the company is a pyramid scheme. On Wednesday, Herbalife said in a statement that "We regret that the National Consumers League has permitted itself to be the mechanism by which Pershing Square continues its attack on Herbalife." Troika, Cyprus In Talks To Shrink Bailout Package (WSJ) Officials from the troika of lenders—the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund—are working with the Cypriot government to bring the headline figure for the bailout package to about €10 billion ($13.03 billion), two officials said. The aid package had been earlier expected to be as much as €17 billion—with just shy €10 billion of that going for bank recapitalizations. Big Sugar Set For Sweet Bailout (WSJ) The U.S. Department of Agriculture is considering buying 400,000 tons of sugar—enough for 142 billion Hershey's Kisses—to stave off a wave of defaults by sugar processors that borrowed $862 million under a government price-support program. The action aims to prop up tumbling U.S. sugar prices, which have fallen 18% since the USDA made the nine-month operations-financing loans beginning in October. The purchases could leave the price-support program with an $80 million loss, its biggest in 13 years, said Barbara Fecso, an economist at the USDA, in an interview. U.S. Tax Cheats Picked Off After Adviser Mails It In (Bloomberg) Everybody knows the danger of sending things inadvertently in an e-mail. Beda Singenberger’s case shows you also have to be pretty careful when you mail things the old-fashioned way. Over an 11-year period, federal prosecutors charge, Swiss financial adviser Singenberger helped 60 people in the U.S. hide $184 million in secret offshore accounts bearing colorful names like Real Cool Investments Ltd. and Wanderlust Foundation. Then, according to a prosecutor, Singenberger inadvertently mailed a list of his U.S. clients, including their names and incriminating details, which somehow wound up in the hands of federal authorities. Now, U.S. authorities appear to be picking off the clients on that list one by one. Singenberger’s goof has already ensnared Jacques Wajsfelner, an 83-year-old exile from Nazi Germany, and Michael Canale, a retired U.S. Army surgeon, court records show. Another customer, cancer researcher Michael Reiss, pleaded guilty, though his court records don’t mention the list. White Pressed On Past Representing Banks (WSJ) Since 2002, President Barack Obama's pick to become chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission has worked for the law firm Debevoise & Plimpton LLC, where she often represented large corporations and banks. Members of the Senate Banking Committee, often from the president's own party, pressed her to guarantee that her law-firm work wouldn't stop her from taking on Wall Street's wrongdoers. "What have you done [in] the last decade that ordinary investors can look at and be assured that you will advocate for them?" Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) asked Ms. White. Wearing a bright red jacket, her hands neatly folded on the table before her, Ms. White said her work at Debevoise "hasn't changed me as a person." Killer Ukrainian dolphins on the loose (JustinGregg) After rebooting the Soviet Union’s marine mammal program just last year with the goal of teaching dolphins to find underwater mines and kill enemy divers, three of the Ukrainian military’s new recruits have gone AWOL. Apparently they swam away from their trainers this morning ostensibly in search of a “mate” out in open waters. It might not be such a big deal except that these dolphins have been trained to “attack enemy combat swimmers using special knives or pistols fixed to their heads.” Dimon’s Extra $1.4 Million Payout Hangs on Fed Decision (Bloomberg) That’s how much extra income Dimon could get from his stake of about 6 million shares if his New York-based bank raises its payout as much as analysts predict. The sum dwarfs the combined $73,300 of new annual dividends at stake for his CEO peers at Bank of America Corp., Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co., based on forecasts compiled by Bloomberg. Bankers will find out whether they get any boost tomorrow when the Fed announces which capital plans at the 18 largest U.S. lenders won approval. Regulators have pressed firms since the 2008 credit crisis to give executives more stock and less cash to align their interests with those of shareholders. CEOs are poised to get a windfall if payouts increase and shares rise -- or to suffer with their investors if results sputter. BofA Ordered to Pay Ex-Merrill Banker Jailed in Brazil (Bloomberg) Sao Paulo’s 26th labor court said it was “incontrovertible” that the imprisonment was because of his position as a junior financial consultant at Merrill Lynch, now a division of Charlotte, North Carolina-based Bank of America, according to a document published in the nation’s official Gazette earlier this month. Caiado wasn’t convicted of any wrongdoing. Caiado, 42, was jailed in June 2006 in a Curitiba federal prison over allegations he helped Merrill’s clients make illegal overseas money transfers. His arrest was part of an investigation that resulted in indictments of 18 bankers at Credit Suisse AG and UBS AG in Brazil. Merrill fired Caiado nine months later, saying the dismissal was part of a restructuring. Carlyle Group Lowers Velvet Rope (WSJ) In the latest effort by private-equity firms to broaden their customer base, Carlyle Group is letting some people invest in its buyout funds with as little as $50,000. The move comes as other large firms—known for offering exclusivity to big-money clients—have broadened their investment offerings in search of fresh sources of funds. KKR, for example, recently began offering mutual funds investing in bonds, with minimum investments set at $2,500. Blackstone Group launched a fund last year that for the first time lets affluent individuals invest in hedge funds and has told regulators it plans to offer another fund, though it hasn't disclosed many details about the forthcoming offering. Greenland Votes for Tougher Rules for Foreign Investors (WSJ) Voters in Greenland have elected a new ruling party that has pledged to toughen up on foreign investors looking to take advantage of the nation's wealth of natural resources. The Social Democratic Siumut party collected 43% of the votes in an election held Tuesday, enabling the party to leapfrog the ruling Inuit Ataqatigiit, which over the past four years has worked to open up the secluded country to mining companies and others capable of advancing industry. Greenland is believed to have a vast supply of untapped rare-earth minerals, oil, gas and other resources. Blankfein On Trader Talent Hunt At Morgan Stanley (NYP) The Goldman Sachs CEO is taking dead aim at Morgan Stanley’s most prized assets — its best and brightest employees — after his rival decided to defer pay for senior bankers. Blankfein, as a big game hunter, recently landed 13-year Morgan Stanley veteran Kate Richdale, head of its Asia Pacific investment banking business. The CEO’s talent hunt is continuing, sources said. Goldman currently is in selective talks with other Morgan Stanley bankers and has also lured a handful of traders from the bank. Golfer Survives Fall Into Course Sinkhole (AP) Mark Mihal was having a good opening day on the links when he noticed an unusual depression on the 14th fairway at Annbriar Golf Club in southern Illinois. Remarking to his friends how awkward it would be to have to hit out of it, he went over for a closer look. One step onto the pocked section and the 43-year-old mortgage broker plunged into a sinkhole. He landed 18 feet down with a painful thud, and his friends managed to hoist him to safety with a rope after about 20 minutes. But Friday's experience gave Mihal quite a fright, particularly after the recent death of a Florida man whose body hasn't been found since a sinkhole swallowed him and his bedroom. "I feel lucky just to come out of it with a shoulder injury, falling that far and not knowing what I was going to hit," Mihal, from the St. Louis suburb of Creve Coeur, told The Associated Press before heading off to learn whether he'll need surgery. "It was absolutely crazy."

Opening Bell: 01.17.13

Charges Weigh On Bank Of America's Profit (WSJ) Overall, Bank of America reported a profit of $732 million versus a profit of $1.99 billion a year earlier. On a per-share basis, which includes the payment of preferred dividends, the bank reported earnings of three cents versus 15 cents a year earlier. The most recent period included a per-share impact of 16 cents from the Fannie Mae settlement, a six cent impact from the foreclosure review and litigation expense of five cents a share, among other items. Revenue dropped 25% to $18.66 billion as noninterest income fell 41%. Excluding $700 million of debit valuation and fair value option adjustments, and $3 billion for the cost of $3 billion, revenue was $22.6 billion. Citigroup Earnings Miss Analysts’ Estimates on Litigation (Bloomberg) Net income climbed 25 percent to $1.2 billion in the fourth quarter, or 38 cents a share, from $956 million, or 31 cents, a year earlier, the New York-based lender said today in a statement. Earnings adjusted for one-time items including restructuring costs were 69 cents a share. Twenty-one analysts surveyed by Bloomberg estimated 96 cents on average, with some items Citigroup didn’t include. Chief Executive Officer Michael Corbat, 52, took over in October and last month announced plans to eliminate about 11,000 employees and pull back from some emerging markets, undoing part of the expansion strategy of his predecessor, Vikram Pandit. Litigation costs included $305 million from a settlement between U.S. banks and federal regulators, who were probing claims that lenders improperly seized homes. Goldman Profits By Going On Offensive (WSJ) The value of Goldman Sachs's investment portfolio doubled last year. Bond underwriting hit a five-year high. The firm's workforce shrank and remaining employees were paid a smaller chunk of overall revenue. Those were just some of the ingredients in a bigger-than-expected profit jump by the New York company, which said net income almost tripled to $2.83 billion in the fourth quarter from $1.01 billion a year earlier. Wednesday's results were packed with evidence of Goldman's discipline in cutting costs, taking less risk with its own money and riding out financial crises in the U.S. and then Europe. Goldman Agonized Over Pay Cuts as Profits Suffered (Reuters) Top executives at Goldman Sachs have been considering deep cuts to staffing levels and pay for at least two years, but feared too many layoffs would leave the firm unprepared for an eventual pickup in business, people familiar with the bank said. They instead chipped away at staff levels and focused on non-personnel expenses that are less painful to cut. But investors pressured the bank to cut costs further, the sources said, and on Wednesday, Goldman gave in. The largest standalone investment bank said in the fourth quarter it cut the percentage of revenues it pays to employees in half to 21 percent. That brings the ratio for the entire year to its second-lowest level since the bank went public in 1999. Fed Concerned About Overheated Markets Amid Record Bond-Buying (Bloomberg) Now, as central bankers boost their stimulus with additional bond purchases, policy makers from Chairman Ben S. Bernanke to Kansas City Fed President Esther George are on the lookout for financial distortions that may reverse abruptly when the Fed stops adding to its portfolio and eventually shrinks it. “Prices of assets such as bonds, agricultural land, and high-yield and leveraged loans are at historically high levels,” George said in a speech last week. “We must not ignore the possibility that the low-interest rate policy may be creating incentives that lead to future financial imbalances.” Estonian president’s Twitter fight with Paul Krugman becomes an opera (RS) A Twitter feud in June between the Estonian president and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman who questioned the impact of Estonia’s austerity measures, is being turned into an opera, US composer Eugene Birman told AFP on Wednesday. “Our short opera will be first performed by Iris Oja and the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra conducted by Risto Joost during Tallinn Music Week on April 7,” Birman, who moved from Riga to the US at age of six, told AFP. The piece, in two movements, uses two voices, those of Krugman and Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, reflecting their exchanges on the Twitter social network...The bow-tie loving Ilves went on a tweet-rant after Krugman, the winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize for Economics, argued in a short article entitled “Estonian Rhapsody” that while Estonia had been globally praised for its austerity measures, its recovery was in fact lukewarm. “Let’s write about something we know nothing about & be smug, overbearing & patronizing…Guess a Nobel in trade means you can pontificate on fiscal matters & declare my country a ‘wasteland,’” Ilves responded on his page on the on the micro-blogging site Twitter. “But yes, what do we know? We’re just dumb and silly East Europeans,” he added, before writing in his final tweet, “Let’s sh*t on East Europeans.” Deutsche Bank Derivative Helped Monte Paschi Mask Losses (Bloomberg) Deutsche Bank designed a derivative for Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA at the height of the financial crisis that obscured losses at the world’s oldest lender before it sought a taxpayer bailout. Germany’s largest bank loaned Monte Paschi about 1.5 billion euros ($2 billion) in December 2008 through the transaction, dubbed Project Santorini, according to more than 70 pages of documents outlining the deal and obtained by Bloomberg News. The trade helped Monte Paschi mitigate a 367 million-euro loss from an older derivative contract with Deutsche Bank. As part of the arrangement, the Italian lender made a losing bet on the value of the country’s government bonds, said six derivatives specialists who reviewed the files. BlackRock Net Jumps 24% (WSJ) The company said net inflows in long-term products totaled $47 billion at the year's end, reflecting equity, fixed income and multiasset class product net inflows of $31.2 billion, $12.4 billion and $4.1 billion, respectively. The net inflows were partially offset by alternatives net outflows of $700 million. Total assets under management were $3.792 trillion as of the end of the fourth quarter, versus $3.513 trillion a year earlier and $3.673 trillion in the third quarter. Jobless Claims Drop To 5-Year Low (Reuters) Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell 37,000 to a seasonally adjusted 335,000, the lowest level since January 2008, the Labor Department said on Thursday. It was the largest weekly drop since February 2010. Khuzami defends corp. settlements (NYP) Robert Khuzami, the Securities and Exchange Commission’s enforcement chief, is on his way out the door — but he says in an interview with The Post that the agency’s much-maligned practice of settling cases is here to stay. Khuzami, 56, defended the SEC’s policy of allowing targets to settle cases — usually without an admission of wrongdoing — despite recent criticism. “There are certain myths about SEC practices, including how ‘neither admit nor deny’ works and why we use it,” said Khuzami, who is leaving his post after heading the agency’s crackdown on big banks following the financial crisis. “I speak out against these myths in the hope of reducing the level of cynicism felt by the public, which are often fueled by mischaracterizations or misunderstandings of how we operate.” Commissioners approve regulations governing sexy coffee stands (Kitsap Sun) Owners of adult-themed coffee stands in unincorporated Kitsap County will have to post signs warning would-be customers about their scantily-clad baristas, and they'll have to do more to protect passers-by from seeing into their businesses. That's according to an ordinance passed Monday in a unanimous vote of the Kitsap County commissioners. The stands have 60 days to comply with the changes, which include a site visit by county planning staff to check the signs are posted and additional screening is added...The ordinance requires adult espresso stands — the three existing stands and any new ones — to install an 8-foot-high fence or landscape buffer, approved by the county Department of Community Development, in front of windows that face the street or other businesses, blocking views by the public. Businesses also must receive a one-time certification from DCD to guarantee the regulations are met. A boiling point was hit more than a year ago when five stands — three of them within a half-mile stretch of Highway 303 — advertised employees in pasties and lingerie. Unhappy parents demanded commissioners regulate the businesses. The health department doesn't require clothing, instead it looks at whether employees have food handler permits, said Department of Community Development associate planner Heather Adams. The state Department of Labor and Industries also has no rules dictating required clothing at coffee stands, Adams said.

Opening Bell: 04.25.13

Apple Readies Its First Bond Offering (WSJ) Apple's announcement Tuesday that it plans to borrow for the first time could be as well received as its smartphone launches. Investors are desperate to take cash off the sidelines, even on high-quality securities that will yield relatively little. Despite its huge cash stockpile, Apple plans to issue debt to help fund dividend payments and stock buybacks in part because much of its cash is overseas. Raising money in the debt market would help Apple avoid the big tax bill that would come from bringing the cash back to the U.S. "We would likely buy the deal," said Matt Brill, a portfolio manager overseeing $40 billion of investment-grade bondholdings at ING Investment Management. Twitter Said To Bolster Security After AP Hack (Bloomberg) Two-step authentication will be introduced to make it harder for outsiders to gain access to an account, said the person, who declined to be identified because the information isn’t public. In addition to a password, the security measure usually requires a code sent as a text message to a user’s mobile phone, or generated on a device or software. Twitter’s defense against hacks involving the theft of passwords came under scrutiny this week after a hacker sent a false post about explosions at the White House, triggering a drop in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index that wiped out $136 billion in market value. The attack came the same month the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said companies can use social-media sites to share market-sensitive news. It also threatened to complicate efforts by Chief Executive Officer Dick Costolo to establish the service as a viable business ahead of a possible initial public offering. Hoax Won't Deter Tweeting (WSJ) The Twitter hoax won't affect the company's disclosure plans or those of companies like Dell and Exxon Mobil, which have indicated they will use social media to communicate corporate news, according to company officials...Banks say they consider sites like Twitter an increasingly important news source and expect them to become essential outlets given the SEC's recent blessing of social media as a way for companies to disclose market-moving information. Virgin America Wants Fliers to 'Get Lucky' at 35,000 Feet (CNBC) The carrier on Monday introduced a cheeky new seat-to-seat ordering system. Without the assistance of an attendant, you can discreetly order a drink, snack or meal delivered to a fellow passenger onboard your flight. Your flirting begins on the airline's touch-screen personal entertainment system, located on the back of headrests. Call up the flight's digital seat map and send a cocktail, snack or meal to a fellow traveler onboard. After selecting items and paying with a credit card, a flight attendant delivers the goodies directly to the passenger's seat. After the delivery, you can follow up and chat with your object of affection with Virgin America's existing seat-to-seat chat platform via its Red in-flight entertainment system. The chat platform allows travelers to send text messages to other fliers. "I'm not a betting man, but I say your chance of deplaning with a plus-one are at least 50 percent," Branson said in the Get Lucky on Virgin America video posted on the airline's Facebook page. PIMCO's Rising Stars Pull In Money For Future After Gross (Bloomberg) Pacific Investment Management Co. is becoming less dependent on Bill Gross, preparing for an eventual future without the world’s best-known bond investor and adding pressure on its rising stars to live up to his legacy. Gross is overseeing a smaller share of Pimco’s mutual-fund assets and pulling in less of its cash. His $289 billion Pimco Total Return Fund got 19 percent of Pimco’s new mutual-fund deposits in the two years ended March 31, down from 42 percent in the prior period and 79 percent before that, Morningstar estimates. The portion of mutual-fund assets run by Gross fell to 63 percent as of March 31 from 84 percent a decade ago. ECB Says Ditching Austerity Would Not Help Euro Zone (Reuters) European Central Bank Vice-President Vitor Constancio said that seeking to stimulate economies by stopping measures aimed at cutting government debt could merely increase countries' borrowing costs rather than triggering growth. Deutsche Bank can't shake L.A. claims over foreclosure blight (Reuters) A judge has denied Deutsche Bank AG's bid to dismiss a lawsuit by the city of Los Angeles accusing it of letting hundreds of foreclosed properties fall into disrepair and illegally evicting low-income tenants, a representative for the city's attorney said on Wednesday. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle allowed the 2011 civil enforcement action to proceed, according to the city attorney's office. The ruling was made during an April 8 hearing and a written decision was issued late on Tuesday, the city said. Traders Bet On A Sugar Rush (WSJ) Even as prices plumb nearly three-year lows, investors are betting that they will drop even more. Positions that profit when sugar prices fall hit an all-time high of 212,419 contracts—worth about $4.5 billion—on April 9. The number of these "short" contracts held by investors is up 65% from the start of the year. The wager is that Brazil, the world's biggest sugar producer, will report a record crop this year, leading to a huge global surplus. The harvest began in early April, and the weather has been ideal—dry and sunny. If growers' luck holds, prices could keep falling into late summer, when the total size of the crop begins to take shape, analysts say. 'The Rent is Too Damn High' guy is running for mayor, has an anthem to prove it (NYP, AnimalNY) McMillan has thrown his hat into the ring for the 2013 New York City mayoral race with a musicalanthem and accompanying YouTube video. "Jimmy McMillan, the political candidate whose slogan represents the one issue that all New Yorkers can agree on–that the rent is too damn high–is running for mayor," says Animal New York in the introduction to the video. "It's been two long years since I been on the scene, now I'm back in the game looking mean and lean," McMillan sings in the video. "The race may be different but the message is the same, R.I.T.D.H. is going to change the game!" "My mustache and haircut are too damn fly!"

Opening Bell: 8.19.15

Germany will probably back Greece bailout; Gundlach doesn't like fed hike; "A Bank for People Who Hate Banks"; Touch-free vending machines; NJ manager cleared on insider trading; "Victim Wants Charge Dismissed In Dildo Attack"; and more.

Opening Bell: 10.16.12

Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit Resigns (WSJ) Citigroup Chief Executive Vikram Pandit is stepping down, effective immediately, and will be succeeded by Michael Corbat. "Given the progress we have made in the last few years, I have concluded that now is the right time for someone else to take the helm at Citigroup," Mr. Pandit said in a statement. "We respect Vikram's decision," Chairman Michael E. O'Neill said. "Since his appointment at the start of the financial crisis until the present time, Vikram has restructured and recapitalized the company, strengthened our global franchise and refocused the business." President and Chief Operating Officer John P. Havens also resigned. Mr. Corbat, who has spent nearly three decades at Citi, previously served as its CEO for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. "Mike is a proven, hands-on leader who is known for his focus on enhancing productivity, holding people accountable and practicing sound risk management," Mr. O'Neill said. "He has consistently delivered impressive bottom-line results at many of our major global business units and has forged a strong track record of improving efficiency and mitigating risk while also optimizing the allocation of the company's capital." Mr. Pandit is resigning as a board member as well. Vikram Pandit Steps Down, Jim Cramer Loses His Mind (CNBC) “This is a complete shock. No one expected this whatsoever,” said Cramer. "The divisions were all in very good shape, I don’t even want for a second to tell people that there was anything in the works to make this happen. There was nothing...this was the quarter where you give him a big raise, he was under a lot of pressure but he got this right.” Cramer lauded Citi’s earnings results and questioned why he would leave so abruptly. “Vikram Pandit, 24 hours ago, was the belle of the ball. This guy finally got it right. Something’s wrong here,” he said. "I don't know what the heck is going on here." Goldman Swings To Profit (WSJ) Overall, Goldman's investment-banking arm recorded revenue of $1.16 billion, up 49% from a year ago, although 3.2% lower than in the second quarter. Goldman said debt underwriting revenue surged to $466 million from $168 million a year ago. Stock underwriting revenue more than doubled to $189 million, though financial advisory revenue fell 2.7% to $509 million. Fixed income, currency and commodities client execution revenue rose 28% to $2.22 billion. Goldman posted a profit of $1.51 billion, compared with a year-earlier loss of $393 million. Earnings per share—reflecting the payment of preferred dividends—were $2.85 from a loss of 84 cents a year earlier. Net revenue, including net interest income, more than doubled to $8.35 billion. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected per-share earnings of $2.12 on revenue of $7.3 billion. Soros Demands Germany Stop Euro From Destroying Europe (Reuters) The crisis "is pushing the EU into a lasting depression, and it is entirely self-created," said Soros, chairman of Soros Fund Management. "There is a real danger of the euro destroying the European Union." He added: "The way to escape it is for Germany to accept ... greater commitment to helping not only its interests but the interests of the debtor countries, and playing the role of the benevolent hegemon." Wells Fargo Creates Markets Unit, Takes On Wall Street (Bloomberg) The division will be one of five main units under the Wells Fargo Securities brand and include equity and fixed-income sales and trading, commodities, prime services and futures clearing, the San Francisco-based firm said today in a statement. Walter Dolhare and Tim Mullins will oversee the division and report to John Shrewsberry, 47. Damien Hirst condemned for killing 9,000 butterflies in Tate show (Telegraph) Visitors to the exhibit at the Tate Modern in London observed the insects close-up as they flew, rested, and fed on bowls of fruit...Figures obtained from the Tate reveal that more than 9,000 butterflies died during the 23 weeks that the exhibition was open. Each week it was replenished with approximately 400 live butterflies to replace those that died – some of them trodden underfoot, others injured when they landed on visitors’ clothing and were brushed off. A spokesman for the RSPCA said: “In this so-called 'art exhibition’, butterflies are forced to exist in the artificial environment of a closed room for their entire lives. “There would be national outcry if the exhibition involved any other animal, such as a dog. Just because it is butterflies, that does not mean they do not deserve to be treated with kindness.” Reactions Ranges On Pandit Resignation (Reuters) Peter Jankovskis, co-chief investment officer of Oakbrook Investments: "I'm surprised...I would have expected he wanted to stay around and see some of the fruits of his labors there." Matt McCormick, analyst at Bahl & Gaynor: "He was not beloved by Wall Street. He was the accidental president. He was thrust into that position- he's a hedge fund guy." Florida cops hunt pee-wee coach for sucker-punching ref during game (NYDN) Referee Andrew Keigans told cops that he called the game a forfeit after West Park Saints assistant coach Dion Robinson, 43, made an ugly remark from the sidelines. Robinson was caught on camera pushing around Keigans before another coach restrained him. He then broke free, ran across the field and sucker-punched Keigans as he walked off the field, dropping the ref to the turf. Cops are still looking for Robinson and want to charge him with assault, the station reported.

Opening Bell: 11.28.12

Gorman Enlists Morgan Stanley Workforce in Fiscal Cliff Campaign (Bloomberg) Morgan Stanley Chief Executive Officer James Gorman called on the investment bank’s employees to pressure U.S. lawmakers into reaching an agreement that averts the so-called fiscal cliff. “No issue is more critical right now for the U.S. economy, the global financial markets and the financial well-being of our clients, which is why I am asking you to participate in the democratic process and make your voice heard,” Gorman wrote in a memo, a copy of which was obtained by Bloomberg News. The message went to about 30,000 U.S. workers including 16,000 financial advisers, said James Wiggins, a company spokesman. Buffett Expects 'Fiscal Cliff' Fix, But Not By December 31 (CNBC) Buffett didn't outline a specific solution that he prefers, saying he could "go with any number of plans." But he thinks the end result should have U.S. revenues at 18.5 percent of GDP and expenditures at 21 percent. Those levels would be "sustainable" because the ratio of the nation's national debt to GDP wouldn't increase, and might even fall over time. SAC Capital Received a Wells Notice From SEC Last Week, May Be Subject to Civil Charges (CNBC) Story developing. EU Approves Spanish Banks' Restructuring Plans (WSJ) European Union regulators Wednesday gave the green light to nearly €40 billion ($51.78 billion) in euro-zone funding for Spain's stricken bank sector, as it approved the restructuring plans for four lenders. BFA/Bankia, NCG Banco, Catalunya Banc and Banco de Valencia SA BVA.MC will require a total of €37 billion for their recapitalization plans, the regulators said. The European Union's Competition Commissioner, Joaquin Almunia, said bondholders would face losses. Will Italy Need A Bailout In 2013? (CNBC) “We still see as our baseline scenario that Italy will likely be forced to ask for an international bailout at some point in 2013,” said Citi Analyst Giada Giani in a report on the country. “Italian economic fundamentals have not really improved, despite some improvement in market conditions. The negative feedbacks from fiscal austerity on growth have been severe, as the ability of the private sector to absorb fiscal tightening by lowering its saving rate is limited.” EU Agrees New Controls for Credit Rating Agencies (Reuters) European Union countries and the bloc's parliament agreed on Tuesday to introduce limited controls on credit ratings agencies after their judgment was called into question in the debt crisis. Michel Barnier, the European commissioner in charge of regulation who helped broker a deal on the new law, said it aimed to reduce the over-reliance on ratings and establish a civil liability regime. The new rules should make it easier to sue the agencies if they are judged to have made errors when, for example, ranking the creditworthiness of debt. Deutsche Bank Sued Over Home Mortgage-Backed Securities (Bloomberg) Deutsche Bank, Germany’s largest lender, was sued by a trustee over claims that some securities sold by a unit of the bank were backed by home-mortgage loans taken out by fraudulent borrowers. DB Structured Products Inc.’s pool of more than 1,500 mortgages included more than 320 that were defective, HSBC Bank USA (HSBA), acting as trustee, said in a lawsuit filed yesterday in federal court in Manhattan. “Borrowers lied, with or without the knowledge of the loan originators themselves, concerning how much money they owed, how much money they made, whether and where they worked, and where they lived,” HSBC claimed. “A handful of instances of such inaccuracies is perhaps to be expected. Hundreds of instances of borrower dishonesty is not.” HSBC seeks unspecified damages and said Frankfurt-based Deutsche Bank must buy back the breaching loans under its agreements with the trustee. Woman Jailed For Attacking Beau Over Bad Sex (TSG) A Florida woman was jailed last night for a post-coital assault on her boyfriend, an attack the victim says was prompted when only he climaxed during a sexual encounter in the couple’s residence. Raquel Gonzalez, 24, was arrested Monday afternoon for felony domestic battery and booked into the Manatee County lockup, where bond has been set at $750. According to a Manatee County Sheriff’s Office report, Gonzalez and Esric Davis, 30, are “boyfriend and girlfriend who live in the same home and are involved in a sexual relationship.” Deputies noted that Davis and Gonzalez were “involved in sexual intercourse” when “Esric then climaxed and Raquel did not.” Which reportedly angered Gonzalez, who allegedly “began hitting and scratching [Davis], causing scratches near his eye and nose.” Davis told investigators that Gonzalez “goes off” frequently and that she had previously been physical with him. Be right back, hon ... with a $53M tip (NYP) Anthony Chiasson, the founder of hedge fund Level Global, started getting illegal insider tips in 2008 when the $4 billion firm was going through a rough patch, a key government witness told a jury yesterday. The witness, Sam Adondakis, a former analyst who worked for Chiasson, said he told his boss tips on Dell came straight from the tech giant...The Dell tip that netted the firm millions wasn’t without its drama. On Aug. 27, the day before Dell announced its results, Chiasson, Level Global co-founder David Ganek, and Greg Brenner, fund executive, held a conference call about their Dell position. At the time, Adondakis, on vacation in the Hamptons, was sitting down to breakfast with his girlfriend, he said yesterday. Adondakis said he remembers the conference call well because his girlfriend “was annoyed” by the conversation, which took him away from their meal for a good 40 minutes. Banks Feel Currency Pinch (WSJ) Banks reported sharp drops in currency-trading revenue last quarter, in many cases deepening a slump that began early this year. Even Deutsche Bank AG, the world's biggest foreign-exchange bank, reported revenue "significantly lower than the prior year" even as the volume of transactions it handled hit a record high in the third quarter. Banks are struggling on two fronts. A calm in currency markets relative to the swings of the last few years has reduced overall trading activity. And the explosive growth of electronic trading has brought transparency to a roughly $4 trillion-a-day market, making buyers and sellers less reliant on big banks to pair them up. Executives' Good Luck in Trading Own Stock (WSJ) Among 20,237 executives who traded their own company's stock during the week before their companies made news, 1,418 executives recorded average stock gains of 10% (or avoided 10% losses) within a week after their trades. This was close to double the 786 who saw the stock they traded move against them that much. Most executives have a mix of trades, some that look good in retrospect and others that do not. 'Two and a Half Men' star apologizes for offending cast and crew (CNN) A day after a video posted online showed him describing "Two and a Half Men" as "filth" and advising viewers to stop watching the sitcom, actor Angus T. Jones apologized to the show's cast and crew Tuesday. "I apologize if my remarks reflect me showing indifference to and disrespect of my colleagues and a lack of appreciation of the extraordinary opportunity of which I have been blessed," Jones said in a statement released by his publicist. "I never intended that." The 19-year-old actor -- who plays Jake Harper, the CBS sitcom's "Half" man -- didn't detail what motivated him to make comments...In the video, the actor, who's been on the show since 2003, repeatedly asks viewers not to watch the sitcom. "I'm on 'Two and a Half Men,' and I don't want to be on it," Jones said. "You cannot be a true God-fearing person and be on a television show like that. I know I can't. I'm not OK with what I'm learning, what the Bible says, and being on that television show. You go all or nothing."

Opening Bell: 02.22.13

AIG Swings to Loss on Sandy Costs, Sale of Unit (WSJ) AIG posted a loss of $3.96 billion, or $2.68 a share, compared with profit of $21.5 billion, or $11.31, a year earlier. Its life-insurance and retirement-services business earned $1.09 billion, up 20% from a year earlier. The company also said it would take a loss of about $4.4 billion on the planned sale of a 90% stake in the plane unit, International Lease Finance Corp. AIG's full-year net income of $3.4 billion marked a sharp decline from the $20.6 billion profit the company posted for 2011, when it adjusted its balance sheet to reflect its expected use of more than $18 billion in tax benefits. CFTC Sues CME Group, Alleging Trade-Data Leaks (WSJ) U.S. regulators took aim at the world's largest futures-exchange operator, accusing CME Group Inc. and two former employees of allegedly sharing details on clients' trades with a commodities broker. The civil charges, leveled Thursday by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, mark the first time the agency has sued CME in federal court. The case also highlights how regulators have responded to flagging confidence in the financial markets by scrutinizing more closely some of Wall Street's central pillars: the exchanges. The CFTC charged a unit of Chicago-based CME and two former employees with disclosing private information about trading in its big energy markets to an outside party between 2008 and 2010 in return for meals and entertainment. CME said Thursday it would contest the charges. "Markets are too important for this [type of allegation] to be taken lightly," Bart Chilton, a CFTC commissioner, said in an interview. Citigroup bows to shareholder pressure, overhauls pay (Reuters) Citigroup said on Thursday it has overhauled an executive pay plan that shareholders rejected last year as overly generous, revising it to tie bonus payments more closely to stock performance and profitability. The company also said it will pay new Chief Executive Mike Corbat $11.5 million for his work in 2012, in line with remuneration for his peers at other major banks. The new plan was crafted after board Chairman Michael O'Neill and other directors met with "nearly 20" shareholders representing more than 30 percent of Citigroup stock, Citi said in a filing. Watchdog Says LinkedIn paid no federal income tax over past three years (NYP) The Mountain View, Calif., social network for professionals escaped the tax man because of a rule that allows companies to deduct expenses from employee stock awards, the watchdog, the Center for Tax Justice, told The Post. It’s a longstanding accounting trick that has spared many tech firms — including Amazon and Yahoo from 2009 to 2011 — from sharing any of their profits with the IRS, the CTJ said. “On $160 million profits over the last three years, LinkedIn paid zero federal income taxes,” said the CTJ’s Rebecca Wilkins. “The stock option deduction was big enough to wipe out all their taxes.” Unemployment applications up 20,000 last week to 362,000 (AP) The Labor Department said Thursday that thefour-week average, a less volatile measure, rose 8,000 to 360,750, the highest in six weeks. Trump Twitter Mystery! Who Hacked the Donald? (CNBC) In what appears to be the latest in a minor wave of attacks on Twitter accounts belonging to out-sized corporate entities, an out-of-character tweet from Donald Trump's verified account set the Internet abuzz, and then disappeared, shortly before noon ET on Thursday. "These hoes think they classy, well that's the class I'm skippen," read the suspect remark issued from @realDonaldTrump. It was a glaring non sequitur following tweets such as "Republicans must be careful with immigration—don't give our country away," and "Wow, Macy's numbers just in-Trump is doing better than ever — thanks for your great support!" "Yes, obviously the account has been hacked and we are looking for the perpetrator," Rhona Graff, senior vice president, assistant to the president of the Trump Organization, told NBC News via email. This confirmation was quickly echoed by Trump himself, in a tweet that read, "My Twitter has been seriously hacked — and we are looking for the perpetrators." UBS to Trade Equity Swaps in China in Structured-Product Push (Bloomberg) Chinese regulators last month decided to allow UBS to trade total return swaps, Thomas Fang, the bank’s managing director for equities derivatives sales for Asia, said in a phone interview. The bank will use the derivatives to create structured products tied to local stocks, with plans to boost the size of its staff in the country for the business, Fang said. The China Securities Regulatory Commission’s press office didn’t immediately respond to a faxed request for confirmation. A Tax That May Change The Trading Game (NYT) The tax would be tiny for investors who buy and hold, but could prove to be significant for traders who place millions of orders a day. Under the proposal, a trade of shares worth 10,000 euros would face a tax of one-tenth of 1 percent, or 10 euros. A trade of a derivative would face a tax of one-hundredth of 1 percent. But that tax would be applied to the notional value, which can be very large relative to the cost of the derivative. So a credit-default swap on 1 million euros of debt would have a tax of 100 euros, or about 0.4 percent of the annual premium on such a swap. On Currencies, What's Fair Is Hard to Say (WSJ) What's the fair value of a euro? That depends on whether the answer comes from Berlin or Paris. German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday weighed in on what the currency should be worth, saying the euro's exchange rate is "normal in the historical context." French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici had a different take earlier this month, calling the euro "perhaps too strong." Economists say Ms. Merkel is right—technically. The euro's buying power is roughly where it should be, according to the Peterson Institute for International Economics, which judges currencies based on countries' current-account balance. But others caution Germany's relatively robust economy props up the euro's value; if weaker countries like Spain or Italy still had their own currencies, they'd be worth much less. Singapore GDP Growth Beats Initial Estimate as Asia Recovers (Bloomberg) Gross domestic product rose an annualized 3.3 percent in the three months through December from the previous quarter, when it shrank a revised 4.6 percent, the Trade Ministry said in a statement today. That compares with a January estimate of 1.8 percent and the median in a Bloomberg News survey for a 2 percent expansion. KFC employee fired for making out with boob-shaped mashed potatoes (DD) A KFC employee in Tennessee is out of a job after photos of the culprit making out with a plate of mashed potatoes ended up on Facebook. The mashed potatoes, which were apparently not served to some unknowing customer, had been arranged into the shape of a woman's boob. In the photos, the former employee can be found licking what we'd have to consider the underboob of the mashed potato mammary before throwing it into an oven. The photo became public information when it showed up on the Facebook page for Johnson City, Tenn., news channel WJHL, where it was shared 2,000 times and received more than 700 comments. Once the news organization was able to determine its locational origin—the KFC on North Roan Street—the suspected employee was terminated. KFC spokesman Rick Maynard confirmed the firing but would not name the culprit because that "wouldn't be appropriate." He stressed that the employee who took the photos is no longer with the company. "Nothing is more important to KFC than food safety," he wrote to WJHL. "As soon as our franchisee became aware of the issue, immediate action was taken.