Opening Bell: 5.18.16

Bond buyers can't help themselves; Silicon Valley mocks Trump; Walmart Theft Suspect Told Cops She Was "Too Lazy" To Pay For Stolen Sex Toys; and more.
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Bond Buyers Can’t Stop Themselves as Risks Hit a 15-Year High (WSJ)
“The pain is definitely two-way,” said Anthony Cronin, a Treasury bond trader at Société Générale SA. “There is a fear of missing out the next bond market rally in case U.S. yields continue to fall, but at the same time there are signs of an inflating bond bubble as more and more of the yields dip below zero.”

Good News For the Economy Is Bad for U.S. Stock Traders (Bloomberg)
Signs of a healing economy have been nothing to celebrate in the U.S. stock market. On a day when industrial production, housing starts and consumer inflation all exceeded forecasts, the Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled 181 points, posting its fifth swing in six days of at least 1 percent. The selloff worsened as a pair of Federal Reserve officials played up the odds of at least two interest-rate increases this year.

Silicon Valley mocks Trump over his tech bubble warning (Reuters)
"You have a stock market that is very strange," the presumptive Republican nominee said. "You look at some of these tech stocks that are so, so weak as a concept and a company, and they're selling for so much money. And I would have said can that ever happen again? I think that could happen again." Some startup founders rejected Trump's generalization that all companies are burning cash and overvalued; certainly many of them are, and in the last several months a correction has started to rectify years of exuberant investments. Still, other companies continue to raise money successfully and turn profits. "So far he has been saying dumb things but they seem to be getting dumber and dumber," Vivek Wadhwa, an entrepreneur and Stanford University fellow, told Reuters. "I was going to tweet (the comments) while calling Peter Thiel and saying, 'Here is your buddy.'" Thiel, an influential investor well-known for his contrarian ideas, is one of the few Silicon Valley leaders to openly support Trump.

Activist Pushes Pandora to Put Itself Back on the Block (NYT)
Pandora Media, the largest Internet radio service, has become the target of an activist shareholder who is urging the company to renew plans to sell itself. Corvex Management, a hedge fund managed by Keith Meister, has taken a 9.9 percent stake in Pandora by acquiring 22.7 million shares and share equivalents, making it the largest shareholder, according to a regulatory filing on Monday. Corvex’s stake is worth about $230 million at Monday’s closing stock price.

Walmart Theft Suspect Told Cops She Was "Too Lazy" To Pay For Stolen Sex Toys (TSG)
A Walmart shopper arrested Saturday night for stealing a sex toy, lubricant, and a “vibrating penis ring” told police that she was “too lazy” to pay for the items, which she had stashed in her purse. Therasa Prine, 25, was collared after exiting a Walmart in St. Petersburg, according to an arrest affidavit. While Prine paid for some items, she allegedly sought to boost other goods, including a Trojan Ultra Touch personal massager, K-Y Intense Arousal Gel, and a LifeStyles vibrating ring. In addition to a shoplifting count, Prine is facing narcotics charges since cops found marijuana and the painkiller Dilaudid in her purse.

Standard Life Chairman Says Executive Pay Too High in London (Bloomberg)
Standard Life Plc Chairman Gerry Grimstone told shareholders at the firm’s annual general meeting in London that executive pay is “too high” across the U.K.’s financial services industry. Grimstone made his comments as investors holding 22.3 percent of Standard Life shares voted against the remuneration report. That compares with the rest of the resolutions, which all had more than 90 percent support, results from Edinburgh-based Standard Life showed.

The Commodity That No One Knows About But Everybody Wants to Buy (Bloomberg)
The world’s mines and steel plants got so devalued during the commodity slump that some were just given away by owners struggling to cut losses or debt. But there’s at least one metal that’s been attracting a lot of attention. Niobium -- named for a Greek goddess who became a symbol of the tragic mourning mother -- is used to produce stronger, lighter steel for industrial pipes and aircraft parts. It is mined in only three places on Earth, and the price of every kilogram is seven times higher than copper.

Philip Falcone’s HC2 Makes $1 Billion Offer for Andersons (WSJ)
Former hedge-fund manager Philip Falcone’s HC2 Holdings Inc. has made a bid to buy agricultural company Andersons Inc. for about $1 billion in cash. The offer, disclosed in a letter, values shares in Andersons at $37 apiece, a 43% premium over Tuesday’s closing price but well below the near $70 peak the stock hit in late 2014. The Wall Street Journal had reported on the bid and the letter earlier Tuesday.

Packed airports bring in ponies and clowns to ease traveler fury (NYP)
At Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, miniature horses from the nonprofit Seven Oaks Farms Miniature Therapy Horses in Hamilton, Ohio, are trotted in several times a month. “Animals help reduce stress and anxiety levels and put smiles on people’s faces,” airport spokeswoman Mindy Kershner told NBC News. “Unlike service animals, who are working and should not be touched, therapy animals can be patted and hugged.” Many airports use therapy dogs, but “we figured this is Kentucky, after all, so we need horses,” she said. San Diego International Airport is sending in clowns from the Fern Street Circus...Seattle’s Sea-Tac and Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson airports are providing musical performers to their pre-security areas...At Denver International Airport, customer service workers provide water, Hershey’s Kisses, Peppermint Patties and lollipops.

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Opening Bell: 12.20.12

Report Says Libor-Tied Losses at Fannie, Freddie May Top $3 Billion (WSJ) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac may have lost more than $3 billion as a result of banks' alleged manipulation of a key interest rate, according to an internal report by a federal watchdog sent to the mortgage companies' regulator and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. The unpublished report urges Fannie and Freddie to consider suing the banks involved in setting the London interbank offered rate, which would add to the mounting legal headaches financial firms such as UBS AG and Barclays face from cities, insurers, investors and lenders over claims tied to the benchmark rate. Libor Documents May Boost Civil Suits (WSJ) Analysts have published a range of estimates of the potential impact to the industry of lawsuits stemming from the manipulation—in some cases they reach into the tens of billions of dollars or more. It likely will be years before the extent of any liabilities becomes clear. For the lawsuits to succeed, plaintiffs must prove that banks successfully altered the interest-rate benchmarks and caused the plaintiffs to suffer a loss. Michael Hausfeld, chairman of Hausfeld LLP, a co-lead counsel on one of the lawsuits, said the UBS settlement was "extremely useful" for the litigation. The "extraordinary emails" published by the regulators exposed the "pervasiveness of the culture and the activity." UBS Trader Hayes Exposed at Core of Libor Investigation (Bloomberg) Tom Hayes, one of two former UBS AG traders charged by U.S. prosecutors, is portrayed by American regulators as the kingpin of a three-year campaign that succeeded in manipulating global interest rates. Hayes, 33, was charged with wire fraud and price-fixing, the Department of Justice said in a criminal complaint unsealed yesterday. The trader and Roger Darin, a former short-term interest-rates trader at UBS whose responsibilities included the firm’s yen Libor quotes, were also charged with conspiracy...Hayes colluded with brokers, counterparts at other firms and his colleagues to manipulate the rate, the Justice Department said. Between 2006 and 2009, a UBS trader made at least 800 requests to the firm’s yen Libor rate-setters, about 100 to traders at other banks, and 1,200 to interdealer brokers, according to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which didn’t identify Hayes by name. “Many UBS yen derivatives traders and managers were involved in the manipulative conduct and made requests to serve their own trading positions’ interests,” the CFTC said. “But the volume of unlawful requests submitted by one particular senior yen derivatives trader in Tokyo dwarfed them all.” IntercontinentalExchange Agrees to Acquire NYSE Euronext (Bloomberg) IntercontinentalExchange Inc., the 12-year-old energy and commodity futures bourse, agreed to acquire NYSE Euronext for cash and stock worth $8.2 billion, moving to take control of the world’s biggest equities market. ICE, based in Atlanta, will pay $33.12 a share for the owner of the New York Stock Exchange, 38 percent above yesterday’s closing price, according to a statement today. Both boards approved the proposal and the companies expect to complete the transaction in the second half of 2013. Last year, the U.S. Justice Department blocked a joint hostile bid by ICE and Nasdaq OMX Group for the New York-based company on concern the combination would dominate U.S. stock listings. Greece Faces 'Make or Break' Year (FT) We can make it next year if we can stick to the program agreed with the EU and IMF," finance minister Yannis Stournaras said in an interview with the Financial Times. However, "the break would be if the political system finds the situation too difficult to handle", he added, referring to the danger of social unrest about austerity that could force the two left-of-center parties to bring down the governing coalition. "What we have done so far is necessary but not sufficient to achieve a permanent solution for Greece," Mr Stournaras said. "The issue now is implementation." Boehner's 'Plan B' Gets Pushback (WSJ) The mood at the White House was gloomy, while on Capitol Hill it fluctuated. Few seemed confident the nation would avoid the tax increases and spending cuts known as the fiscal cliff, but others noted major Washington deals are usually reached only after several near-death experiences. Preparing for the World's End, Just in Case (WSJ) Tony Brown, a private investigator in Southern California, says he has spent nearly $60,000 preparing for Teotwawki — an acronym for "the end of the world as we know it"—or SHTF—when the "s--- hits the fan." Mr. Brown has purchased an ultralight plane and amassed three tons of food in his kitchen, about a third in freeze-dried meals. About a year ago, Mr. Brown started a website to recruit a community of preppers to plan for a cataclysm. In the first several months, he said he received few inquiries. But by the summer, traffic to the site soared and applications have come rolling in since. He recently capped the group at 175 members—all are responsible for their own one-year supply of food—though he is still seeking a doctor, meteorologist and ham-radio operator. Mr. Brown has contingency plans for four doomsday scenarios he deems most likely—a supervolcano, solar flare, major earthquake or hyper inflation—and a large underground bunker in case of a nuclear attack. He doesn't believe the world will end on Dec. 21, "but, just in case, I want to have everything ready by then," he said. US Economy Grew 3.1%; Jobless Claims Rise (Reuters) Weekly jobless claims rose to 361,000 in the latest week. Claims has been expected to rise to 357,000, from 343,000 the prior week. BofA’s Moynihan Said to Kill Proposal to Cut Pay for Brokers (Bloomberg) Bank of America Corp. Chief Executive Officer Brian T. Moynihan blocked a proposal to cut the main component of most brokers’ pay for 2013, said a person with direct knowledge of the matter. The plan would have reduced the so-called grid payout for Merrill Lynch financial advisers by two percentage points, the person said, requesting anonymity because it wasn’t made public. The changes, which would have affected advisers generating less than $1 million in commissions, were seen as a way to cushion the costs of new bonuses, the person said. In $18 Million Theft, Victim Was a Canadian Maple Syrup Cartel (NYT) It was an inside job of sorts. Thieves with access to a warehouse and a careful plan loaded up trucks and, over time, made off with $18 million of a valuable commodity. The question is what was more unusual: that the commodity in question was maple syrup, or that it came from something called the global strategic maple syrup reserve, run by what amounts to a Canadian cartel. On Tuesday, the police in Quebec arrested three men in connection with the theft from the warehouse, which is southwest of Quebec City. The authorities are searching for five others suspected of being involved, and law enforcement agencies in other parts of Canada and the United States are trying to recover some of the stolen syrup. Both the size and the international scope of the theft underscore Quebec’s outsize position in the maple syrup industry. Depending on the year, the province can produce more than three-quarters of the world’s supply. And its marketing organization appears to have taken some tips from the producers of another valuable liquid commodity when it comes to exploiting market dominance. “It’s like OPEC,” said Simon Trépanier, acting general manager of the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers. “We’re not producing all the maple syrup in the world. But by producing 70 to 78 percent, we have the ability to adjust the quantity that is in the marketplace.” NYers who believe in Mayan apocalypse search for sex before the world ends (NYP) While some people around the world are arming themselves and digging into bunkers, many New Yorkers are simply hoping for a hot time. “I will be looking for an end-of-the-world hook-up,” Dennis Cintron, 29, a Lower East Side bartender, told The Post. “If you’re going to go out, go out with a bang.” Cintron said he’ll buy new clothes and get a haircut for the big day because he wants some “companionship” to ring in the rapture. Sara Saperstein, 26, of Bushwick is also hoping for one last romp. “It’s like New Year’s. I want to go out on a wild note!” Saperstein said. She won’t have trouble finding a spot for that. More than a dozen bars and clubs in New York City are throwing end-of-days bashes, including a comedy show at the Bell House in Gowanus and an “End of the Funking World Party” at B.B. King Blues Club in Midtown. Other singles posted ads on Craigslist.org and OKCupid.com, seeking apocalypse-themed dates, “casual encounters” and even “end of the world sex.” “If you’ve got no plans for the apocalypse, let’s get together,” wrote a 30-year-old single guy from Midtown. He added, “Send me how you’d like to spend your last hours on earth — and a photo.”