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.”

Opening Bell: 7.24.15

Hedge fund's bet on Obamacare pays off; China wants lots of Silicon Valleys; Banks probed re: FIFA; "Brave topless models defend First Amendment at courthouse"; and more.

Opening Bell: 1.14.16

JP Morgan beats expectations; Mike Mayo expects activists to target banks; "Sleazy dirtbags run Silicon Valley"; Australian man stops car theft with flying kick through passenger window; and more.

Opening Bell: 09.13.12

Ray Dalio: US Economy Out Of Intensive Care (Reuters) Hedge fund titan Ray Dalio said the U.S economy had come out of the "intensive care unit," but he warned against any quick move to "austerity" budget measures. "We were in the intensive care unit," Dalio, who runs the $120 billion hedge fund Bridgewater Associates, told more than 200 guests at the Council of Foreign Relations in New York on Wednesday. "We are largely healed and largely operating in a manner that is sustainable if we don't hit an air pocket." Dalio said a major challenge for U.S. politicians will be dealing with the so-called "fiscal cliff," the year-end expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts and previously agreed-upon cuts in defense spending and social programs, a combination which some economists say could lead to a recession. Dalio sided with economists who worry that a sharp reduction in government spending could lead the United States back into recession. "We can't just worry about too much debt," Dalio said. "We have to worry about too much austerity." German Court Clears Rescue Fund (WSJ) Germany's highest court cautiously approved the creation of the euro zone's permanent bailout facility, but insisted that the country keep its effective veto on all of the vehicle's decisions, a ruling that removes a question mark over two crucial elements of the euro zone's plans for mastering its debt crisis. Treasury Backs Plan For Standard Chartered Settlement (NYT) The lawyers approved a potential prepayment amount this week, a crucial step to a final agreement, though it will be much smaller than the $340 million the bank had to pay to New York State’s top banking regulator in a related case, according to three officials with direct knowledge of the settlement talks. The differing penalties stem from determinations by federal authorities and Manhattan prosecutors that the bank’s suspected wrongdoing was much less extensive than the state banking regulator’s claims that Standard Chartered had schemed with Iran to hide from regulators 60,000 transactions worth $250 billion over a decade. Insiders Get Post IPO Pass (WSJ) Wall Street underwriters increasingly are allowing corporate insiders to sidestep agreements that prevent them from quickly selling shares after initial public offerings. In the latest instance, several Wall Street banks on Wednesday allowed early investors and management of ExactTarget Inc. to sell more than seven million shares of the online marketing company a week ahead of the planned end of a "lockup" agreement. Under lockup pacts, underwriters bar company insiders from selling their shares, usually for 180 days after an IPO. The lockup restricts the supply of shares, helping buoy IPO prices; releasing more shares on the market can keep a lid on stock prices. Anna Gristina sits down with TV shrink Dr. Phil, says she won't talk to prosecutors about associate (NYDN) The Soccer Mom Madam's little black book has been whittled down to a single name. In her first major interview since being released from Rikers Island in June, Anna Gristina dishes to TV talk show shrink Dr. Phil about how prosecutors have hounded her for dirt on a just one associate. “They have an agenda to get me to talk about a certain person,” she told the daytime doc. Gristina refused to reveal the mystery man, or woman. Oprah's former head-shrink sidekick, who sat down at the kitchen table in Gristina's Monroe, N.Y. farmhouse, asked why the accused flesh-peddler didn't just save herself and give prosecutors the information they want. “I have a deep sense of loyalty and I'm Scottish." Gristina denied the criminal allegations during the teary interview, maintaining she was developing an online dating site where married men could meet single women. Whistleblower Key To Buyout Probe (WSJ) New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's probe of tax practices at private-equity firms is based on information from a whistleblower, according to a person familiar with the matter. The information came from someone who approached Mr. Schneiderman's office between roughly nine months and a year ago, this person said. Under the state's False Claims Act, the attorney general can investigate alleged fraud against the state basedon a whistleblower's allegations. The ongoing probe is examining whether partners at private-equity firms changed management fees into investment income to delay tax payment and pay less—or avoid taxes altogether. Some private-equity firms use so-called management-fee conversions, while other firms avoid them. Wall Street Hopes for Romney, but Expects Obama to Win (CNBC) In an unscientific poll, 46 percent of respondents to the September CNBC Fed Survey said they expect President Obama to win reelection. Only 24 percent believe Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney will get the job. Longtime Madoff Employee To Plead Guilty (Reuters) Irwin Lipkin, a former controller of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC, will appear in Manhattan federal court on Th ursday, prosecutors said in a letter to the judge. He will plead guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and falsifying documents, prosecutors told U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain in the letter. Suspect pulls gun on victim while having sex in a moving car (WNN) The incident began Sep. 2 when the victim and his two friends went to the Paddy Wagon Irish Pub in Port Charlotte. When the bar closed early Monday morning they invited two girls they met to one of the friend’s home on Atlas Street. One of the women and the victim went into a bedroom to have sex. The girl said she needed $250, which he said he didn’t have. She asked how much he had and he gave her $120. The victim then went to the bathroom and when he returned, found the two women had left the home. The victim had obtained the woman’s cell phone number earlier at the bar and called her; they agreed to meet at the Pick N Run store on Peachland Boulevard. When he got there he expected to meet the woman who took the $120. Instead, Linscott walked up to his Nissan Sentra and said the other girl ditched her. Linscott got into his car and as they drove off, he said she began touching him and having sex while he was driving. The victim told detectives she also said she needed money and he told her he already gave her friend $120 earlier. The victim said Linscott then put a .357 Taurus revolver to his head and demanded money. The victim grabbed the gun and a fight ensued in the moving car; he said he punched her in the head so she would release the gun. He told detectives he was in fear of his life and lost control of his car, struck a palm tree, went airborne and then ran across two front yards in the 1200 block of Dewhurst Street.

By Василий Красюк (http://www.herbalife.ru) [GFDL or CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Opening Bell: 8.29.16

Short-seller says Herbalife may have misled investors, SEC; Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley reinvent themselves; IPO market poised for a rebound; Cop accidentally filmed himself stealing marijuana; and more.

Opening Bell: 09.20.12

Regulators Try To Beat Clock In Rate Probe (WSJ) The Justice Department recently asked several banks to sign "tolling" agreements, in which the companies promise they won't challenge any enforcement action on the grounds that the alleged wrongdoing occurred beyond the statute of limitations, people close to the investigation said. The requests were sent to all the major banks under investigation, these people said, including Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan, RBS, and UBS. Libor-Like Manipulation Possible in Other Benchmarks, Iosco Says (Bloomberg) The same lack of oversight that enabled traders to manipulate the London interbank offered rate plagues other benchmarks around the globe, according to a group of international securities regulators. Fewer than half of the benchmark interest rates surveyed in the U.S., Europe and Asia were based on actual transactions, according to a confidential International Organization of Securities Commissions discussion paper obtained by Bloomberg News. Instead, the rates were calculated by methodologies that were unclear, not transparent and only rarely subject to specific regulatory standards or obligations, the group said. Nomura Cuts Up to 30% of Europe Investment Bank Jobs (CNBC, earlier) Nomura is making wide-ranging cuts in its European investment banking division on Thursday, according to sources, with up to 30 percent of jobs likely to go...“Today is D-day, there is a crazy atmosphere, everybody knows it is going to be big,” one source told CNBC. Citigroup Warns Irish Investors to Plan for Losses (Bloomberg) All of the optimism that Ireland can raise money in the markets and avoid a debt restructuring is premature as the nation struggles to emerge from its worst recession in modern history, said Michael Saunders, Citigroup Inc.’s head of European economics in London. “Ireland faces an almost impossible task to get back to fiscal balance,” Saunders said. Visits to the country showed “life is tough, very tough and not getting that much better anytime soon,” he said. Debt Investors Aren't Just Waiting For the Next Downgrades in Europe (WSJ) As many investors brace for possible downgrades of Spain and Italy, some are already positioning themselves for the potential fallout in the countries' €180 billion ($234.9 billion) corporate-debt markets. Even with the prospect of aid from the European Central Bank, Spain and Italy could still face credit downgrades, investors say. The main focus is on Spain and Moody's Investors Service Inc. Moody's has said it may cut Spain to "junk" status, a move that would likely be followed by lockstep cuts of its banks and several companies to junk. Such a move would likely trigger a wave of selling from investors who can only own bonds with investment-grade ratings. Some ratings-sensitive investors are selling ahead of the move. Others are getting ready to buy. Couple Accused Of Selling Neighbor's Puppy On Craigslist (NYDN) Scott and Roxanne Duff accused of calling police when a neighbor’s 6-month-old Rottweiler and a Labrador retriever showed up at their house Sept. 3. They asked what to do with the dogs and were told to contact a local shelter or reach out to the regional dog catcher, police told the Valley News Dispatch. But that didn’t happen. While the couple returned the Labrador to their neighbor, they later told police the Rottweiler puppy had run away. That neighbor didn’t believe this story, and told police the next day that he thought the Duffs still had his puppy. When police asked the couple about the puppy again, they allegedly admitted to selling it on Craigslist for $50 High-Speed Trading In The Spotlight (WSJ) Since rapid-fire trading firms now provide many of the buy and sell orders that support the market, investors are at the mercy of automated systems that can run amok during volatile times, according to Dave Lauer, who last year quit his job as a trader for an elite Chicago high-frequency trading outfit. Mr. Lauer is part of a growing chorus of industry insiders blowing the whistle on approved trading techniques that they say are designed by the traders who derive the most benefit. Mr. Lauer is now a consultant on market-structure issues for Better Markets, a Washington, D.C., advocacy group funded by a hedge fund. He plans to tell senators how he came to believe that high-speed trading has made the market less fair for many investors, according to his advance testimony for a Senate panel on computerized trading. Blankfein Admits Tougher Regulation Needed (Reuters) "You have to go out and you have to take steps. You have to have different regulation, maybe more regulation in certain respects," he said, while addressing a room full of bankers and lawyers on Bay Street — the financial hub of Toronto. Bias Suit Against Deustche (Reuters) Kelley Voelker said she learned of her firing two weeks ago, after having been told on Aug. 21 that no one in her hedge-fund group would lose their jobs in connection with the bank’s global cost-cutting plan. Deutsche Bank had in July announced 1,900 job cuts, but on Sept. 11 said that number would grow. Voelker’s last day at her New York office was Sept. 12, her lawyer said. Voelker first sued Deutsche Bank last September. She claimed to have never been promoted since joining the bank in 1998, and that the bank had tried to demote her after she took maternity leave, which she called being “mommy-tracked.” Monica Lewinsky Set To Reveal Bill Clinton's Sex Secrets In Tell-All (NYP) Lewinsky, who turns 40 next year, is out for “revenge” and ready to air bombshell details from her Oval Office trysts with the former Horndog-in-Chief in a $12 million memoir, according to friends, who say she plans to describe plans to describe Clinton's “insatiable desire for three-way sex, orgies and the use of sex toys of all kinds." In the 14 years since she became a national punch line, Lewinsky has gotten her master’s degree, worked briefly as a news correspondent and launched a failed handbag line. “No one will hire her and she can’t get a job because of Clinton,” a sympathetic friend told The Post yesterday. “She needs to make money somehow.”