Opening Bell: 1.12.16

Oil; Rate hikes; VW CEO offended by suggestion there are ethical issues at VW; "Tinder’s Sean Rad wants you to know he’s not a jerk"; and more.
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Corporate-Credit Outlook Weakens to Worst Since Crisis, S&P Says (Bloomberg)
The proportion of issuers facing a potential downgrade at the ratings company surpasses possible upgrades by the most since 2009, according to a Jan. 11 report. The gap also widened the most since the financial crisis in the past six months, S&P said.

Fed hikes need to be gradual, risk hurting emerging world: IMF chief (Reuters)
Further interest rate hikes by the U.S. Federal Reserve should be gradual or they risk hurting already fragile emerging economies, where many companies borrow in dollars, the head of the International Monetary Fund said on Tuesday.

Risk of Bankruptcy Looms Over Chunk of U.S. Oil Industry (WSJ)
Three major investment banks— Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Citigroup Inc.—now expect the price of oil to crash through the $30 threshold and into $20 territory in short order as a result of China’s slowdown, the U.S. dollar’s appreciation and the fact that drillers from Houston to Riyadh won’t quit pumping despite the oil glut.

VW CEO Flubs Interview With U.S. Apology Tour Off to Rocky Start (Bloomberg)
The issue, related to rigging engines to cheat on emissions tests, was instead caused by “a technical problem” and stemmed from a misinterpretation of U.S. law, the CEO said, appearing to downplay the company’s role in actively deceiving regulators. He then questioned the reporter’s assertion that Americans believe there are ethical issues within the company: “I cannot understand why you say that.”

Tinder’s Sean Rad wants you to know he’s not a jerk (NYP)
In a piece published in the London Evening Standard on Nov. 18, just hours ahead of an initial public offering by Tinder parent company Match Group, Rad had boasted that a “really, really famous” supermodel was “begging” him for sex...On Monday, in a profanity-laced interview published by Fast Company, Rad griped that some of those howlers were taken out of context. (The Evening Standard stands by its story.) “It’s f–ed up, because I’m dealing with all of these stereotypes,” Rad whined. “Because I’m a successful guy in tech I must be a douche bag. Because I run a dating app I must be a womanizer.” Rad also admitted, however, that he “f–ed up” by idiotically running at the mouth, adding, “I should know better as CEO.”

Six Years Later, 93% of U.S. Counties Haven’t Recovered From Recession, Study Finds (RTE)
Nationwide, 214 counties, or 7% of 3,069, had recovered last year to prerecession levels on four indicators: total employment, the unemployment rate, size of the economy and home values, a study from the National Association of Counties released Tuesday found.

Grindr Sells Stake to Chinese Company (NYT)
Grindr, the popular dating and social networking app for gay men, has found itself a match. The company on Monday said it had sold a majority stake to the Beijing Kunlun Tech Company, a Chinese gaming company, valuing the six-year-old start-up at $155 million. Beijing Kunlun will acquire 60 percent of Grindr, with the remainder to be owned by Grindr employees and Joel Simkhai, the company’s founder. Grindr has previously not raised capital from outside investors.

Powerball jackpot increases to $1.5 billion (CNBC)
The prize's cash value is now worth $930 million.

YouTuber builds 6,000-piece 'Star Wars' AT-AT from Legos (UPI)
Charlie of the BrickVault channel stars in the YouTube video and spends 26 hours building the AT-AT walker from instructions posted online by custom Lego builder Peter Brookdale. The BrickVault team said it took thousands of dollars to procure all of the supplies from website BrickLink, far more than the $218.99 price tag for Lego's official 1,137-piece AT-AT kit. Charlie attempts the first several hours of building on his own, but eventually brings in help from other members of the BrickVault team. "Putting this thing up on its legs is extremely difficult and scary," Charlie quips after regarding the finished product.

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Opening Bell: 02.05.13

Barclays CEO Vows To Improve Bank's Ethics (WSJ) Chief Executive Antony Jenkins said Tuesday he is "shredding" the legacy of the bank's self-serving culture by improving its ethics and moving beyond the misconduct issues that have cost it billions of pounds. Mr. Jenkins told a U.K. parliamentary group that his efforts so far include changing the way employee bonuses are calculated and abolishing commissions on financial-product sales. He said the changes would take time to produce results, but that ultimately he wants to eliminate a culture that at times has been "too short-term focused, too aggressive and on occasions, too self-serving." "Our resolve and intent behind this is absolute," Mr. Jenkins said. McGraw-Hill, S&P Sued by U.S. Over Mortgage-Bond Ratings (Bloomberg) The U.S. Justice Department filed a complaint Monday in federal court in Los Angeles, accusing McGraw-Hill and S&P of mail fraud, wire fraud and financial institutions fraud. Under the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act of 1989, the U.S. seeks civil penalties that can be as high as $1.1 million for each violation. Earlier today, the company’s shares tumbled the most in 25 years when it said it expected the lawsuit, the first federal case against a ratings firm for grades related to the credit crisis. “It’s a new use of this statute,” Claire Hill, a law professor at the University of Minnesota who has written about the ratings firms, said in a phone interview today from Minneapolis. “This is not a line to my knowledge that has been taken before.” Dell Nears $25 Billion Deal To Go Private (WSJ) Late Monday, Mr. Dell was in talks with Microsoft Corp and private-equity firm Silver Lake Partners to offer shareholders between $13.50 and $13.75 a share, said people familiar with the matter, about a 25% premium to Dell's stock price in January before the possibility of a deal became public. The buyout, if approved by shareholders, would be the largest such deal since the financial crisis. It also would be an admission by Mr. Dell that he wasn't able to pull off the changes needed to improve his company's revenue and profit under Wall Street's glare. The buyout would give Mr. Dell the largest stake in the company, ensuring that the 47-year-old is the one who gets to oversee any changes. Gross: Beware 'Credit Supernova' Looming Ahead (CNBC) The head of the Pacific Investment Management bond giant has issued an ominous forecast in which he worries that the global central bank-induced credit bubble "is running out of energy and time." As a result, investors will have to get used to an atmosphere of diminishing returns and portfolios that will hold more hard assets like commodities and fewer less-tangible financial assets like stocks. "Our credit-based financial markets and the economy it supports are levered, fragile and increasingly entropic," Gross said in his February newsletter. Obama to Meet With CEOs of Goldman, Yahoo, Other Firms (Reuters) President Barack Obama will meet with chief executives from 12 companies including Goldman Sachs Group's Lloyd Blankfein and Yahoo's Marissa Mayer on Tuesday to discuss immigration and deficit reduction, according to a White House official. "The president will continue his engagement with outside leaders on a number of issues, including immigration reform and how it fits into his broader economic agenda, and his efforts to achieve balanced deficit reduction," the official said Monday. Other chief executives include Arne Sorenson of Marriott International, Jeff Smisek of United Continental Holdings, and Klaus Kleinfeld of Alcoa. A Billion-Dollar Club And Not So Exclusive (NYT) an unprecedented number of high technology start-ups, easily 25 and possibly exceeding 40, are valued at $1 billion or more. Many employees are quietly getting rich, or at least building a big cushion against a crash, as they sell shares to outside investors. Airbnb, Pinterest, SurveyMonkey and Spotify are among the better-known privately held companies that have reached $1 billion. But many more with less familiar names, including Box, Violin Memory and Zscaler, are selling services to other companies. “A year from now that might be 100,” said Jim Goetz, a partner at Sequoia Capital, a venture capital business. Sequoia counts a dozen such companies in its portfolio. It is part of what he calls “a permanent change” in the way people are building their companies and financers are pushing up values. The owners of these companies say the valuations make them giddy, but also create unease. Once $1 billion was a milestone, now it is also a millstone. Bigger expectations must be managed and greater uncertainty looms. Donald Trump to sue Bill Maher after bet feud (Politico) Donald Trump filed a lawsuit Monday in California against liberal comic Bill Maher, suing him for $5 million after Trump says Maher did not follow through on a $5 million public bet he made on “The Tonight Show.” “I don’t know whether this case will be won or lost, but I felt a major obligation to bring it on behalf of the charities,” Trump said in a public statement first obtained by POLITICO. Last month, Maher said on NBC to Jay Leno that he would pay $5 million to Trump’s charity of choice if he provided a birth certificate proving that he’s not “spawn of his mother having sex with orangutan.” It was similar to an offer Trump made to President Barack Obama during the presidential campaign season, in which Trump wanted Obama to release his college records. Trump’s statement continued: “Bill Maher made an unconditional offer while offer while on The Jay Leno Show and I, without hesitation, accepted his offer and provided him with the appropriate documentation. Money-Market Funds Best By Excess Cash (WSJ) Money-market funds have a high-quality problem: investors are entrusting them with too much cash. The flood of money is prompting the funds, which buy short-term, top-rated debt, to seek higher returns in investments that until recently were seen as too risky, including French bank debt. Investors plowed $149 billion into U.S.-based money-market funds between the start of November and Jan. 30, bringing total assets under management to $2.695 trillion, close to the most since mid-2011, according to the Investment Company Institute. Knight Capital Group to Cut Workforce by 5 Percent (Reuters) Knight Capital, which recently agreed to be bought for $1.4 billion by Getco, will lay off 5 percent of its global workforce as part of efforts to restructure the automated trading firm, according to a regulatory filing released on Monday. FTC Corrects Language On Herbalife (NYP) The Federal Trade Commission yesterday corrected an earlier statement regarding a “law enforcement investigation” into Herbalife. In response to a Freedom of Information Act request by The Post, the FTC said some complaints against the company were withheld because the information was “obtained through a law enforcement investigation.” The agency said yesterday that the language in its letter accompanying the FOIA request was incorrect and it should have said that the exemption from disclosure was related to “foreign sources.” FTC spokesman Frank Dorman defined “foreign sources” as government entities, including law enforcement agencies, and the exemption relates to information-sharing between the FTC and these foreign government agencies. The FTC said that it “may not disclose any material reflecting a consumer complaint obtained from a foreign source if that foreign source has requested confidential information.” The agency said it could not confirm, or deny, an investigation into the nutritional supplements company. Hedge Fund Mogul, Swiss Villagers Clash Over Ski Slopes (Bloomberg) Since hotelier Tobias Zurbriggen can remember, the business of running Saas-Fee has been a local affair. Now, the Swiss ski resort neighboring the Matterhorn is feeling the heat from a New York-based financier. Edmond Offermann, a nuclear scientist turned millionaire working for hedge fund Renaissance Technologies LLC, invested 15 million Swiss francs ($16.4 million) in 2010 to revive Saas- Fee’s struggling ski-lift company. “It’s like a hobby, which completely got out of control,” Offermann, 53, said in an interview from Long Island, New York. He wants to shake things up by managing hotels and the ski-lift operator in one company controlled by a single chief executive. JPMorgan Joins Rental Rush For Wealthy Clients (Bloomberg) The firm’s unit that caters to individuals and families with more than $5 million, put client money in a partnership that bought more than 5,000 single family homes to rent in Florida, Arizona, Nevada and California, said David Lyon, a managing director and investment specialist at J.P. Morgan Private Bank. Investors can expect returns of as much as 8 percent annually from rental incomeas well as part of the profits when the homes are sold, he said. Man Allegedly Tries To Walk Out Of Costco With 24 Quarts Of Oil — Strapped To His Body (CBS) Jorge Sanchez, 35, was spotted about 4:30 p.m. trying to leave a Burbank Costco without paying for the oil. Store employees gave chase and officials said they lost Sanchez after he jumped a fence at the west side of the Costco parking lot. Burbank Police Sgt. Darin Ryburn told CBS2/KCAL9 reporter Andrea Fujii that nine of the 24 quarts were recovered during the foot chase. Authorities said Sanchez walked into the Costco and went straight to the oil aisle. He allegedly grabbed a couple of cases and emptied them. Said Ryburn, “He proceeded to hide the quarts of oil in his pants, socks, and in his shirt.” Sanchez was later apprehended near Beachwood Drive and Monterey Avenue, about eight blocks from the store. Officials said he was arrested on suspicion of burglary charges. Margo Martin was a witness to the apprehension. “All of a sudden, I hear ‘Get down on the ground’ and there is this man laying in our driveway.” Witnesses thought the man was running funny and weren’t sure why. Witness Manuel Atlas said, “He looked kind of heavy and out of shape.” Police said Sanchez was also running funny because he still had 15 quarts of oil strapped to him. Police said he used a bungee cord to strap the bottles down.

Opening Bell: 12.12.12

Three Questioned In Libor Probe (WSJ) While the SFO didn't identify the men, one of them is Thomas Hayes, a former trader at UBS and Citigroup, according to people familiar with the matter. Authorities in multiple countries have been looking into Mr. Hayes as an alleged coordinator of a group of employees at multiple banks who sought to manipulate the London interbank offered rate, or Libor, according to people familiar with the case. One of the others arrested was Terry Farr, an employee of British brokerage firm R.P. Martin Holdings Ltd. in London who is currently on leave from the firm, according to a person familiar with the case. Mr. Farr has been under investigation for possibly helping bank employees coordinate their efforts to influence Libor, according to people familiar with the case. HSBC Mexican Branches Said to Be Traffickers’ Favorites (Bloomberg) From 2006 to 2010, the Sinaloa cartel in Mexico and the Norte del Valle Cartel in Columbia moved more than $881 million in proceeds through HSBC’s U.S. unit, said Lanny Breuer, assistant attorney general for the U.S. Justice Department’s criminal division. Breuer, along with U.S. Attorney Lorretta Lynch in Brooklyn, New York, announced yesterday the bank had agreed to pay at least $1.9 billion to settle money laundering probes. “These traffickers didn’t have to try very hard,” Breuer said at a press conference in Brooklyn. “They would sometimes deposit hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash in a single day into a single account using boxes designed to fit the precise dimension of the tellers’ windows in HSBC’s Mexico branches.” It Could Get Hairy Before 'Cliff' Deal: Greenspan (CNBC) "The best possible outcome is to take something like Simpson-Bowles as it came out originally and work off that," he said, of a deal to avoid the automatic tax hikes and spending cuts that go into effect at the end of the year. But he said that reaching a final agreement won't be an easy process, since the president believes he has a mandate following the election while House Republicans believe they, too, have a mandate. "I'm not at altogether clear how much control (Speaker) Boehner has over the overall caucus," Greenspan said. "At the end of the day it will all work out but it's going to be a bit hairy before we get there." Buffett Joins Soros in Effort to Raise Taxes on Estates (Bloomberg) Billionaireinvestors Warren Buffett and George Soros are calling on Congress to increase the estate tax as lawmakers near a decision on tax policies that expire Dec. 31. In a joint statement Tuesday, Buffett, Soros and more than 20 other wealthy individuals asked Congress to lower the estate tax’s per-person exemption to $2 million from $5.12 million and raise the top rate to more than 45 percent from 35 percent. An estate tax structured this way will “raise significant revenue to reduce the deficit and fund vital services, will only be paid by the top one percent of estates, will raise more from the wealthiest estates” and will simplify compliance, said the statement. It also was signed by John Bogle, founder of mutual fund company Vanguard Group Inc., and former President Jimmy Carter. U.S. Probe of SAC Trading Said to Be Linked to 2010 Case (Bloomberg) A U.S. investigation of possible insider trading at SAC Capital Advisors LP, the $14 billion hedge fund run by Steven A. Cohen, is linked to a 2010 regulatory lawsuit over allegedly illegal trades in InterMune Inc, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Securities and Exchange Commission’s probe of trades that SAC Capital made in the Brisbane, California-based biopharmaceutical company is tied to a December 2010 SEC lawsuit against an investor, said the person, who asked not to be named because the matter isn’t public. The investor bought InterMune options before a European Union regulatory panel urged approval of the company’s drug Esbriet to treat a fatal lung disease, the person said, declining to elaborate. Man says law standing between him and sex acts with donkey is unconstitutional (NYDN) Lawyers representing the frisky farmhand thrown in jail for allegedly masturbating with a donkey are now fighting to have Florida’s statute banning sex with animals declared unconstitutional. “By making sexual conduct with an animal a crime, the statute demeans individuals like Defendant by making his private sexual conduct a crime,” attorneys for 32-year-old Carlos R. Romero wrote in a motion filed last week, the Ocala-Star Banner reported. Romero was cuffed at an Ocala farm back in September after farm proprietor Gerald James told police he saw Romero with his pants down as he was seemingly having sex with a donkey named Doodle in an equipment room on Aug. 15, according to police report obtained by thesmokinggun.com. Romero later pleaded not guilty to a first-degree misdemeanor charge of sexual activities involving animals. He announced last week that he wanted his case to go to trial. His attorneys argue that Florida’s statute violates the farmhand’s rights by stripping him of his “personal liberty and autonomy when it comes to private intimate activities.”They say the statute is unconstitutional because it doesn’t require the state to provide any proof of the animal’s suffering “or any proof of the sexual activity being non-consensual.” Inside The Risky Bets Of Central Banks (WSJ) While many national governments, including the U.S., have failed to agree on fiscal policy—how best to balance tax revenues with spending during slow growth—the central bankers have forged their own path, independent of voters and politicians, bound by frequent conversations and relationships stretching back to university days. If the central bankers are correct, they will help the world economy avoid prolonged stagnation and a repeat of central banking mistakes in the 1930s. If they are wrong, they could kindle inflation or sow the seeds of another financial crisis. Failure also could lead to new restrictions on the power and independence of central banks, tools deemed crucial in such emergencies as the 2008-2009 financial crisis. Freeport's $20 Billion Deal Stirs Backlash (WSJ) Freeport agreed last week to acquire energy explorers McMoRan Exploration Co. MMR +0.85% and Plains Exploration & Production Co. PXP -0.42% in transactions that will cost the Arizona mining giant about $20 billion including assumed debt. The deal will result in six directors with overlapping roles at Freeport and McMoRan Exploration receiving payouts for their shares totaling more than $130 million, according to securities filings. Some Freeport investors and analysts also have questioned the wisdom of a metals miner diving into the oil and gas business. They have taken issue with what they call conflicts of interests among the shared executives and directors at Freeport and McMoRan and the fact that the deal as structured doesn't require a Freeport shareholder vote. Fed Discourages Bank Dealmaking (WSJ) The Federal Reserve is pushing large U.S. banks to forget about all but the smallest acquisitions for a while amid a raging debate over the risk big lenders pose to the financial system. Man Drive 100 MPH To Wedding, Gets Arrested (Again) (NWI) Timothy N. Thompson, 23, of Valparaiso, was supposed to be married in a 7 p.m. ceremony. Instead, Thompson was arrested for resisting law enforcement, criminal recklessness and reckless driving. He was also cited for speeding and improper passing. According to police, an officer spotted Thompson about 6:30 p.m. Saturday speeding north in the center lane of Willowcreek Road. The officer estimated Thompson was driving 100 mph. Thompson allegedly continued to drive erratically, switching lanes abruptly and, according to the report, nearly wrecking. Police reported they followed Thompson as he turned into the parking lot of Nativity of Our Savior Church on Willowcreek Road, where he again nearly tipped over the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Once he entered the church's parking lot, three people -- later identified as relatives -- began flailing their arms and yelling at him. Thompson drove through the parking lot, accelerating and doing a "doughnut," creating a thick blanket of tire smoke, according to the report. When he stopped, Thompson told police he was late for his wedding and estimated he was doing "about 90" mph. He also told police he had his emergency flashers on and was sounding his horn to alert drivers. When an officer walked away from Thompson's vehicle, Thompson reentered his vehicle and drove toward the entrance of the church, where he was stopped by police again. "Oh, I thought you were done and I'm late for a party in Chicago," police reported Thompson saying. "It now means I have to drive really fast to get there." Thompson, who also told police he had just been released from jail that day, didn't make his wedding. He was transported to Porter County Jail and held without bond.

Opening Bell: 11.29.12

Blankfein: Seems Like "Fiscal Cliff" Deal Could Be "Reachable" (CNBC) Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein described President Barack Obama's plan for Washington to reach an agreement on the "fiscal cliff" as detailed and "very credible." However, he cautioned that marginal income tax rates may have to rise to seal a deal. In an interview with CNBC after meetings between the president and several CEOs, Blankfein said, of course, it's hard to tell if a deal will be reached but "if I were involved in a negotiation like this, and everybody was purporting to be where they are, I would say that an agreement was reachable." Blankfein said he thought concessions on both the revenue and entitlement sides would be necessary to reach a final deal to avert the fiscal cliff, when large spending cuts and tax increases are slated to take effect on Jan.1. “Look, at the end of the day, the most important value is to get the economy moving forward," Blankfein said. "That’s not going to happen if our budget deficit keeps widening.” He added that the marginal income tax rate may have to rise in order to reach a deal. “I would prefer as low of a marginal rate as possible because it’s the marginal rate that provides the incentive to do incremental work by people, but I’m not dogmatic — I wouldn’t go to the end for that,” he said. Blankfein: "We Can All Be Winners Here" (CNBC) "The most important thing is that we increase the wealth pie of the United States and that we don't reduce it. If we don't sort out our economy people will be fighting over their slice of a shrinking pie. I think we can all be winners here, even those pay a marginally higher rate, or a bigger proportion of revenue, if they are winners, as we all will be, because the economy is improving." Krugman: Fiscal Cliff Is No Way To Run A Country (HP) The Nobel Prize-winning economist expressed his frustration with the government's endless budget wrangling, especially over the so-called fiscal cliff, during a Wednesday interview with WNYC. "It's no way to run a country," Krugman said, referring specifically to the prospect of going over the cliff, a decision that would trigger a series of tax hikes and spending cuts next year, which would probably slow the economy. Given the options though, Krugman admits going over the cliff might be preferable to the likely alternatives. "There is nothing in there [the fiscal cliff] that is going to cause the economy to implode," Krugman said. "Better to go a few months into this thing if necessary than to have a panicked response or to give in to blackmail, which is certainly the question that's facing President Obama." In Krugman's view, the fiscal cliff "has nothing to do with the budget deficit," he added. "This is about a dysfunctional political process. It's about kind of a self-inflicted wound here." Krugman's not alone in his view that jumping over the cliff may be preferable to giving in to Congressional Republicans' demands. Peter Orszag, a former economic adviser to President Barack Obama, and Robert Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, have both said recently that the jumping off the cliff may end up the country's best option. Foreign Banks Rebuffed By Fed (WSJ) Daniel Tarullo, who is responsible for shaping banking policy at the Federal Reserve, said in a speech Wednesday that the central bank will require foreign banks with large U.S. operations to house their U.S. arms in corporate structures that comply with requirements under the Dodd-Frank Act. Mr. Tarullo didn't specify which foreign banks would need to adhere to the new structure. But the change would bring Germany's Deutsche Bank and the U.K.'s Barclays back under a regulatory regime they tried to escape through corporate restructurings. EU Clears Spanish Bank Rescue (WSJ) European Union regulators gave the green light to €37 billion ($47.9 billion) in euro-zone funding for Spain's stricken banking sector on Wednesday, setting in motion a long-term cleanup. In exchange, four nationalized banks agreed to make sharp cuts in their balance sheets and payrolls—a retrenchment that carries the risk of intensifying Spain's credit crunch in the midst of a deep recession. Argentina wins debt reprieve, default averted for now (Reuters) Argentina has won a reprieve against having to pay $1.33 billion next month to "holdout" investors who rejected a restructuring of its defaulted debt and have waged a long legal battle to be paid in full. A U.S. appeals court granted an emergency stay order on Wednesday that gives Argentina more time to fight a debt ruling favoring the holdout creditors and eases investor fears of a new default as early as next month. Last week, U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa ordered Argentina to deposit the $1.33 billion payment by December 15 for investors who rejected two restructurings of bonds left over from its massive 2002 default. Drunk ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ singer wears Viking hat to court (Canada) The man who became a YouTube viral sensation for singing “Bohemian Rhapsody” from the back seat of an police cruiser, has been convicted of impaired driving and for refusing to take a breathalyser test. He went to court wearing a Viking hat, sunglasses and NASA T-shirt proclaiming, “I need my space.” He is being forced to pay a $1,400 fine and will be barred from driving for one year. The video footage was originally capture on the cruiser’s built-in camera. His passionate performance was used as evidence during his trial. Because his friends told him to, Robert Wilkinson, posted the video to YouTube where it gained nine million people watched it. Fed Likely To Keep Buying Bonds (WSJ) Three months after launching an aggressive push to restart the lumbering U.S. economy, Federal Reserve officials are nearing a decision to continue those efforts into 2013 as the U.S. faces threats from the fiscal cliff at home and fragile economies elsewhere in the world. Groupon CEO Says He Remains Right Person To Run Company (WSJ) FYI. World Economy in Best Shape for 18 Months, Poll Shows (Bloomberg) So that's nice. Actor Tim Allen’s Car Stolen By Man Claiming To Be Son (Fox2) To the untrained eye, actor Tim Allen’s 1996 Chevy Impala may not look like much, but with its custom engine and one of a kind interior, it’s worth a lot of money. America’s funnyman Tim Allen loved his car so much, he featured it in a YouTube commercial. The car was special, expensive, upgraded, and was also one of the superstar’s favorites. He even drove it to the People’s Choice Awards and mentioned it on stage when he won his award...So how did Allen’s prized possession make its way from his Los Angeles garage to a corner in Northeast Denver? Faustino Ibarra is facing charges for stealing it. “It’s a priceless vehicle.” Ibarra said to Fox 31 Denver’s Justin Joseph in an exclusive jailhouse interview. “I`m trying to make it simple for you to understand. I didn’t break into (Allen’s) garage. He left the door open and he left me the keys so I could get the car and take it to Denver.” Ibarra claims Allen adopted him years ago and that Allen had allowed him to take the car. “I emailed my dad the morning that I got the car in and everything is fine and I’ve got the car and it`s ready for you and we need to talk about me coming to live with you,” said the inmate. “What you say sounds a little crazy.” Joseph said. “I don`t care how it sounds, I know who I am. He knows who I am. He knows who he is,” Ibarra said. He denies that he has mental health issues and says no matter what anyone thinks, his alleged father, a superstar, will not pursue charges. “My dad loves the heck out of me. He’s ultra-proud of me and he wants to see the best for me in every way,” Ibarra told Joseph. FOX 31 Denver reached out to Allen’s publicist but did not hear back from Allen’s team. FOX 31 Denver also found no independent evidence that Ibarra was ever adopted by Allen.

Opening Bell: 11.9.15

Wall Street braces for bonus cuts; Central banker says fed hike makes sense; "Rumblr, the 'Tinder for Fighting' app, to launch its beta trial on Nov. 9"; and more.

Opening Bell: 08.03.12

JPMorgan London Whale Was Prodded (WSJ) A JPMorgan executive encouraged the trader known as the "London whale" to boost valuations on some trades, said a person who reviewed communications emerging from the bank's internal probe of recent trading losses. After reviewing emails and voice-mail messages, the bank has concluded that Bruno Iksil, the J.P. Morgan trader nicknamed for the large positions he took in the credit markets, was urged by his boss to put higher values on some positions than they might have fetched in the open market at the time, people familiar with the probe said. The bank's conclusion is based on a series of emails and voice communications in late March and April, as losses on his bullish credit-market bet mounted, the people said. The bank believes they show the executive, Javier Martin-Artajo, pushing Mr. Iksil to adjust trade prices higher, according to people close to the bank's investigation. At the time, Mr. Martin-Artajo was credit-trading chief for the company's Chief Investment Office, or CIO. RBS Loss Widens (WSJ) The 82%-government-owned bank reported a net loss of £1.99 billion ($3.09 billion), wider than the loss of £1.43 billion a year earlier. However, the result was hit by a £3 billion accounting charge for the fair value of the company's debt and a number of provisions for misselling financial products. Analysts focused on the more-positive underlying figures for the half, helping to make its shares the leading gainer on the FTSE 100. Excluding the own-debt charge, RBS would have posted a net profit of £287 million. It posted an operating profit of £1.83 billion, down from the £1.97 billion a year earlier. Nevertheless, RBS warned that it faces a number of lawsuits. The bank is cooperating with regulators in the U.S., Japan and the U.K., who are probing whether banks colluded to try and rig benchmark rates including the London interbank offered rate. RBS said that it had fired a number of traders following the investigations but said it was too early to estimate the fines the bank may have to pay. RBS’s CEO Blames Libor-Manipulation On ‘Handful’ Of Individuals (Bloomberg) RBS dismissed four employees for trying to influence the individual responsible for Libor submissions following an internal investigation, the bank said today, without identifying the staff involved. Hester said it is too early to estimate the potential cost of fines and litigation linked to rate-rigging. “The Libor issue is more to do with the wrongdoing of individuals than it is to do with a systemic problem,” Hester, 51, said on a call with journalists today after the Edinburgh- based bank reported a 22 percent drop in second-quarter operating profit. “It’s hugely regrettable that the actions of a relatively small number of wrongdoers, which seems to be the key issue here, has such a tainting effect on the industry.” Knight Said To Open Books To Suitors As Loss Pressure Grows (Bloomberg) Bank of America Corp. was among several potential partners that was in talks with Knight yesterday, said a person with knowledge of the matter. John Yiannacopoulos, a Bank of America spokesman, declined to comment. Loss Swamps Trading Firm (WSJ) Knight wouldn't comment on the status of the rescue talks. But market participants said the firm is running out of time. In the span of two days, the company's market value has plunged to $253.4 million from $1.01 billion, and its shares continued their nosedive in after-hours trading. "If they don't get an investor within the next 48 to 72 hours, I think Knight's going to have trouble surviving," said David Simon, chief executive of hedge fund Twin Capital Management LLC. Mt. Sinai urologist busted on charges he used spy cam to peek up subway riders’ skirts (NYDN) Dr. Adam Levinson, an assistant professor of urology at the hospital’s school of medicine, allegedly clipped a pen camera to a folded newspaper so he could peek up a woman’s skirt on a southbound 4 train about 5 p.m. Tuesday, authorities and a witness said. Sheldon Birthwright, 46, a construction worker who once worked for the Transportation Security Administration, said he sensed something wrong almost immediately after Levinson stepped on the train at E. 59th St. The doctor — a New York Medical College grad who twice won a national Patients’ Choice Award — held the newspaper at his side as he inched toward a woman wearing a knee-high dress and reading a Kindle. “He’s leaning on the pole right next to the door,” Birthwright told the Daily News. “He has a paper in his hand. But what’s mysterious about it, there’s a pen attached to the paper...He has it down in a very unsuspicious way. But every time the woman would move, he would move.” Catholic Fund Fails To Convince Believers (FT) JPMorgan Asset Management had hoped to attract investors who wanted exposure to investments that would not clash with tenets on issues such as birth control and civil rights. It also eschewed investments in governments of countries that have the death penalty. The aim was to replicate the success of funds compliant with Shariah law which have been in strong demand with Muslim investors. However, JPMorgan is to liquidate the Global Catholic Ethical Balanced Fund just over a year since it was launched. At May 31, it had net assets of just 4.3 million euros ($5.24 million), far short of a $30 million threshold outlined in its prospectus. Fake-bookers (NYP) Facebook admitted that some 83 million of the social network’s 955 million total users are fakes — meaning duplicates, spam or silly pages for pets. That represents nearly 9 percent of profiles on the site. The rash of fakes — equal to the population of Egypt — has shot up since Facebook’s rocky public debut in May, when it estimated “false” profiles accounted for 5 percent to 6 percent of its users. “These estimates are based on an internal review of a limited sample of accounts, and we apply significant judgment in making this determination, such as identifying names that appear to be fake or other behavior that appears inauthentic,” the company said in a recent regulatory filing. The spike is a major cause for concern, with advertisers and investors questioning Facebook’s effectiveness in reaching consumers. In particular, Facebook has been under scrutiny for slowing ad sales growth. Economy Adds 163,000 Jobs (WSJ) U.S. employers stepped up hiring in July as the economy continued its uneven recovery heading into this fall's presidential election. U.S. payrolls increased by a seasonally adjusted 163,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department said Friday, but the unemployment rate, obtained by a separate survey of U.S. households, ticked up one-tenth of a percent to 8.3%. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires expected a gain of 95,000 in payrolls and an 8.2% jobless rate. Family kept grandparents' deaths secret from Chinese diver until she won gold medal (YS) Chinese diver Wu Minxia's celebrations at winning a third Olympic gold medal were cut short after her family revealed the details of a devastating secret they had kept for several years. Wu's parents decided to withhold news of both the death of her grandparents and of her mother's long battle with breast cancer until after she won the 3-meter springboard in London so as to not interfere with her diving career. "It was essential to tell this white lie," said her father Wu Yuming...Wu's mother defended the decision to keep her situation private and admitted she only broached the subject of her breast cancer at this point because she is now in remission. Both of Wu's grandparents died more than a year ago, but the diver knew nothing of their passing until this week.

Opening Bell: 4.7.16

Yale scored 93% a year on venture capital in past two decades; Blackstone to close fund; Yellen says rate hikes on track; Macaulay Culkin says he’s ‘essentially retired’ from the acting world; and more.

Opening Bell: 03.22.13

Clock Ticks On Cyprus (WSJ) Cyprus, in an 11th-hour bid to unlock international aid, reopen the nation's banking system and preserve membership in the euro, readied a plan that would restructure its second-largest lender and enforce unprecedented restrictions on financial transactions. The proposals, if they take effect, would allow authorities to restrict noncash transactions, curtail check cashing, limit withdrawals and even convert checking accounts into fixed-term deposits when banks reopen. They have been closed since March 16. Parliament is set to debate the measures on Friday. If Cyprus can't pass them, it could find itself with little choice but to leave the euro zone—opening a Pandora's box that could threaten Spain and Italy. Time is short: The European Central Bank on Thursday threatened to cut off a financial lifeline if Cyprus's banks aren't stabilized by Monday. Credit Suisse Chief Gets 34% Raise (WSJ) Credit Suisse rewarded Chief Executive Brady Dougan for repositioning the bank in 2012 with a 34% pay rise, despite a fall in net profit for the year and a backdrop of growing criticism of executive remuneration. Mr. Dougan earned 7.77 million Swiss francs ($8.21 million), up from 5.8 million francs in 2011, when he took a pay cut as Switzerland's No. 2 bank by assets slogged through a difficult year in which its stock price fell 41%. Europe’s Bonus Clampdown Hits Two-Thirds of Fund Managers (Bloomberg) The European Parliament’s vote to cap bonuses in the asset-management industry could affect two- thirds of senior fund managers in the U.K., U.S. funds in Europe and hedge funds open to small investors. Bonuses should not exceed base salaries for managers of mutual funds regulated by the European Union, known as UCITS, European lawmakers in the economic and monetary affairs committee voted yesterday. The rules would cover 5 trillion euros ($6.5 trillion) of assets in UCITS, which include funds managed outside Europe and some linked to hedge-fund strategies such as John Paulson’s New York-based Paulson & Co. and Och-Ziff Capital Management Group. “If the final rules are even close to what has been agreed today, then this will fundamentally change the way asset managers are paid,” said Jon Terry, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLC. Asset managers “are now facing the toughest pay rules across the whole of the financial-services sector.” Boaz Says Dimon Should Have Known (NYP) The buck stops with Jamie Dimon. That’s the view of Boaz Weinstein, the hedge-fund manager who first speared the “London Whale” that led to $6.2 billion in trading losses for Dimon’s JPMorgan. Despite making a bundle by taking the other side of the bank’s bad bet, Boaz says that requiring bank CEOs to sign off on such trades is the only way to prevent debacles. As the “ultimate boss” of JPMorgan, Dimon should have had to approve the complicated trade, he said. “If you had a rule that anytime, anyone wants to make an investment in any one thing greater than $10 billion or $20 billion, the boss has to sign off on it,” then those types of disasters wouldn’t happen, Boaz said yesterday at the Absolute Return Symposium in Manhattan. Long Island Man Accepts Plea Deal in Fake Drowning (AP) The man, Raymond Roth, 48, of Massapequa, pleaded guilty to fourth-degree conspiracy. “The restitution Mr. Roth is ordered to pay ensures that the taxpayers won’t foot the bill for this scam,” said Kathleen M. Rice, the Nassau County district attorney. Prosecutors said Mr. Roth and his son, Jonathan Roth, 22, had plotted to collect about $400,000 in life insurance. The younger man’s case is pending. On July 28, Jonathan Roth told the authorities that his father had gone for a swim at Jones Beach and never came back. Responders searched for Raymond Roth for several days, while he was actually on his way to Orlando, Fla., prosecutors said. Raymond Roth’s wife found e-mails discussing the plot, and the authorities were alerted. Raymond Roth’s lawyer, Brian Davis, said on Thursday that he believed the plea bargain was fair, adding, “At this point, he wants to put it behind him.” Mood Sours In Northern Europe (WSJ) A worsening mood among businesses largely predated fraught negotiations over a Cypriot bailout, which economists say could stoke tensions surrounding the euro zone's debt crisis. Poorer sentiment among businesses lessens the chances of a rise in corporate investment, crucial for an economic recovery in the bloc at a time when most of its member states are cutting spending to control their debts. Economists See No Crisis With U.S. Debt as Economy Gains (Bloomberg) Three years after a government spending surge in response to the recession drove the U.S. past that red line -- the nation’s $16.7 trillion total debt is now 106 percent of the $15.8 trillion economy -- key indicators reflect gathering strength. Businesses have increased spending by 27 percent since the end of 2009. The annual rate of new home construction jumped about 60 percent. Employers have created almost 6 million jobs. And with borrowing costs near record lows, the cost of paying off the debt is lower now than in the year Ronald Reagan left the White House, as a percentage of the economy. BP to return $8 billion to shareholders from TNK-BP sale (Reuters) BP, which completed the sale of the half-owned TNK-BP to Russian state oil firm Rosneft on Thursday, said the move, designed to increase the value of remaining shares, was an amount equivalent to the value of the company's original investment in TNK-BP in 2003. Man finds knife blade in his back three years after stabbing (TS) A Northwest Territories man was just scratching what he thought was an annoying old itch earlier this week when it turned out to be a knife blade that had been buried in his flesh for almost three years. “I jumped in a cab and went straight to emergency,” said Billy McNeely, 32. The story goes back to an April 2010 birthday party in McNeely’s home town of Fort Good Hope, N.W.T. McNeely said a fight broke out between himself and another man over an arm-wrestling contest that ended up with McNeely being stabbed five times. “They stitched me up and bandaged me up,” said McNeely. “They never took X-rays.” Ever since, McNeely has had a lump in his back where the knife went in. Doctors and nurses told him nerves had been damaged in the stabbing. But the old wound never stopped nagging. “I always had back pains. There was always a burning feeling with it.” The injury was constantly itchy and irritated. It set off metal detectors. That was explained away as a metal fragment that had lodged in his bone. On Monday, while McNeely and his girlfriend were asleep in bed, the pain came back. “I sat up, I tried to rub it and scratch it the way I always did, and then the tip of my nail caught a piece of something solid, something sharp. “My girlfriend got up and she started playing around with it and she manoeuvred my back in a certain way and the tip of a blade poked out of my skin.” Doctors dug out a blade measuring about seven centimetres long.

Opening Bell: 01.23.13

Greece Charges Statisticians Over Size of Deficit (FT) Greece has brought criminal charges against the official responsible for measuring the country's debt, thereby calling into question the validity of its 172 billion euros second bailout by the EU and International Monetary Fund. Andreas Georgiou, head of the independent statistical agency Elstat, and two senior officials are accused of undermining the country's "national interests" by inflating the 2009 budget deficit figure used as the benchmark for successive austerity packages. The three statistical experts face criminal charges of making false statements and corrupt practices, a judicial official said, adding that if found guilty they could serve prison terms of five to 10 years. They have denied any wrongdoing. Spain's Recession Deepens (WSJ) Spain's central bank said a recession in the euro zone's fourth-largest economy deepened slightly in the final quarter of last year, but it said austerity cuts are bringing the country's runaway budget deficit under control. Obama-Bashing Swapped for Pragmatism at Davos (Bloomberg) “We have to move on in our society,” Blackstone found Stephen Schwarzman said today in an interview in Davos with Bloomberg Television’s Erik Schatzker. “I like President Obama as a person, and he’s well- intentioned.” Schwarzman, 65, warned in Davos in 2010 that banks could restrict lending because “their entire world is being shaken and they’re being attacked personally.” Later that year, at a nonprofit group meeting, he likened Obama’s tax proposals to Hitler’s invasion of Poland. Third Point LLC CEO Daniel Loeb, who in 2010 compared Wall Street’s Obama supporters to “battered wives,” will help lead a Jan. 25 Davos dinner discussion, “Can Capitalism Evolve?” Schwarzman apologized in 2010 for his comparison of Obama’s effort to double taxes on private-equity income to the invasion of Poland. He said the analogy was inappropriate and that the administration’s need to work with business “is still of very serious concern.” JPMorgan's Jamie Dimon Apologizes, Attacks (WSJ) James Dimon of J.P. Morgan Chase was prepared in Davos to apologize for the more than $6 billion of trading losses racked up by the so-called London Whale, but he certainly wasn’t prepared to abase himself...Min Zhu, deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund, reeled off a string of statistics to show that the industry certainly hadn’t cleaned up its act since the crisis, and Paul Singer, principal of hedge fund Elliott Associates, was also keen to lambaste big banks, including Mr. Dimon’s. The two had some testy exchanges and the body language indicated that Messrs. Singer and Dimon have exchanged fire quite a few times previously. Still, Mr. Dimon gave us good as he got. He kicked off with repeating his apology to shareholders for the London Whale trading losses, which led to his own bonus being slashed, saying, “If you’re a shareholder of mine, I apologize deeply.” Having offered this apology he then went on the offense. He pointed out that his bank lent money to a whole host of worthy organizations such as schools, hospitals, governments, and Italian and Spanish corporates and governments. And he also had some snappy comebacks. Elliott’s Singer said that the global banks are “too big, too leveraged, too opaque,” which left Mr. Dimon with an easy retort about how could a hedge fund possibly criticize a bank about being opaque? “Our [securities filing] 10K is 400 pages long,” Mr. Dimon said. “What would you like to know?” Geithner Exit Next Friday (AFP) US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who steered the administration of President Obama through the financial crisis, will step down from his post Friday, a source told Agence France Presse yesterday. Golfer Mickelson recants tax rant (NYP) Mickelson — who hinted he might move from his home state of California to escape higher taxes — said he regretted his public rant on the issue after setting off a political firestorm. “Finances and taxes are a personal matter and I should not have made my opinions on them public,” according to a statement from Mickelson, who plans to elaborate today at the Farmers Insurance Open. “I apologize to those I have upset or insulted and assure you I intend to not let it happen again.” Senator Lautenberg Suggests Spanking In Store For Mayor Cory Booker (CI via DI) "I have four children, I love each one of them. I can't tell you that one of them wasn't occasionally disrespectful, so I gave them a spanking and everything was OK," Lautenberg said with a smile in his first public comments since Booker announced he was considering a run for Senate. Banker's Latest Bet: Teamwork on Bonds (WSJ) Texas banking tycoon Andrew Beal is known for making unconventional moves, including gambling on high-stakes poker and a self-financed plan to launch rockets into space. His latest gambit: an attempt to wring money from giant banks by banding together aggrieved bondholders. Mr. Beal's CXA Corp. ran a pair of advertisements late last year, one appearing in The Wall Street Journal. The ads listed an alphabet soup of residential mortgage-backed securities held by CXA and asked those with positions in the same securities to join the company in investigating possible infractions by banks that sold the debt. If the groups can prove the mortgages that underlie the bonds were approved through shoddy underwriting, they could be entitled to compensation—CXA's payday alone could be tens of millions of dollars. Firms Keep Stockpiles Of 'Foreign' Cash In US (WSJ) Some companies, including Internet giant Google, software maker Microsoft, and data-storage specialist EMC Corp, keep more than three-quarters of the cash owned by their foreign subsidiaries at U.S. banks, held in U.S. dollars or parked in U.S. government and corporate securities, according to people familiar with the companies' cash positions. In the eyes of the law, the Internal Revenue Service and company executives, however, this money is overseas. As long as it doesn't flow back to the U.S. parent company, the U.S. doesn't tax it. And as long as it sits in U.S. bank accounts or in U.S. Treasurys, it is safer than if it were plowed into potentially risky foreign investments. SEC Reins In Ratings Firm (WSJ) The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission barred Egan-Jones Ratings Co. from issuing ratings on certain bonds, an unprecedented step by the regulator and a setback for a small credit-rating firm with a history of courting controversy. The SEC said Tuesday that Egan-Jones couldn't officially rate bonds issued by countries, U.S. states and local governments, or securities backed by assets such as mortgages, for at least the next 18 months. The ban was part of an agreement the SEC reached with Egan-Jones and its president, Sean Egan, to settle charges that they filed inaccurate documents with the regulator in 2008. The SEC alleged that Egan-Jones misled investors about its expertise, and that Mr. Egan caused the firm to violate conflict-of-interest provisions. Lindenhurst dentist busted after reporting to work reeking of booze and drilling teeth while allegedly drunk (NYDN) Dr. Robert Garelick was hauled out of his Lindenhurst office in handcuffs Monday after his dental hygienist smelled booze on his breath and caught him administering Novocain to the wrong side of a patient’s mouth. “I observed Dr. Garelick looking for cavities in the right side of the patient’s mouth, but the cavities were in the left side,” hygienist Kimberly Curtis told police in a written statement. “I pointed this out to the doctor and that’s when he ordered more Novocain for the patient,” Curtis told cops. “So now, he basically numbed the whole patient’s mouth.” After noticing Garelick’s wobbly behavior Monday, Curtis texted co-worker Dina Fara, who called 911. Curtis said she sent the message after Garelick used a drill to treat another patient who had a chipped tooth. “He was filing the tooth down,” Curtis said. “When you’re using that drill, you have to be very careful and have a steady hand.” She said that just before Garelick treated the chipped tooth, he slipped into his office. “I noticed that he was drinking from a white and purple squeeze bottle,” Curtis said. “At first I didn’t think anything was wrong,” Curtis said. “But right after, he took a drink from that bottle, he got up and walked past me. When he did this I smelled a strong odor of alcohol.” The dentist initially claimed he only had a couple of beers with pizza during lunch Monday, according to Suffolk County cops. But Garelick, who was charged with misdemeanor reckless endangerment, later confessed to his drunken dentistry while being taken to a police precinct in the back of squad car. “I never had any beers with my pizza. I’ve been sipping at that bottle all along today,” he told police, referring to his squeeze bottle filled with vodka, according to a criminal complaint.