Opening Bell: 9.26.17

Deutsche Bank is having a no good very bad Monday; Stumpf gets $123.6 million if he walks; Man caught using mannequin torso to cheat California carpool lane; and more.
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Deutsche Bank Slumps to Fresh Record Low on Capital Concerns (Bloomberg)
Deutsche Bank AG shares dropped to a record low amid concerns that mounting legal bills, including a looming fine over its pre-crisis mortgage bond business, may force the German lender to raise capital. The shares declined as much as 6.9 percent and traded at 10.71 euros at 12:38 p.m. in Frankfurt, down 6.1 percent. That brings losses to about 53 percent this year. The 38-member Bloomberg Europe Banks and Financial Services Index slipped 2.4 percent, with Deutsche Bank the worst performer.

Deutsche Bank says to solve problems without help from Berlin (Reuters)
Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) will solve its problems without relying on help from Berlin, Germany's flagship lender said on Monday. "(Chief Executive) John Cryan at no point asked the German Chancellor for the government to intervene in the U.S. Justice Department's mortgages case," a Deutsche Bank spokesman said on Monday...Analysts at Mediobanca said that a rights issue looked inevitable. "John Cryan always said that a rights issue would only be triggered by a larger-than expected litigation charge and it appears increasingly likely that Deutsche Bank investors will be asked to post bail for Deutsche's past crimes," they said in note on Monday.

Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf gets $123.6 million if he walks (USAT)
Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf stands to walk from the bank with $123.6 million in severance and stock value if he retires from the bank, which is still reeling from a scandal where millions of accounts were inappropriately opened for customers. Stumpf's $123.6 million in potential retirement walking money, as calculated by pay consulting firm Equilar as of mid-September, is the sum of Stumpf's $25.2 million in retirement payments, plus a $20 million pension, deferred compensation of $4.3 million as well as the $74 million in stock he already owns. Neither Stumpf nor Wells Fargo has stated the CEO's continued employment is in doubt, but he is eligible for the bank's retirement plan.

World stocks get twitchy before Trump-Clinton showdown (Reuters)
European and Asian shares retreated on Monday with investors focused on how Donald Trump would fare in a U.S. presidential debate against Hillary Clinton, while oil prices firmed before an informal OPEC meeting. Wall Street looked set to open lower, according to index futures ESc1 1YMc1, before the first of three debates, which was due to begin at 0100 GMT/2100 ET. Half of America's likely voters will rely on the presidential debates to help them make their choice between Republican Trump and Democrat Clinton in the Nov. 8 election, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Monday. "A good performance from Mr. Trump could see market volatility increase, particularly if investors think there is a possibility that he could actually win," wrote Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets in London.

Emirates airlines sued by angry lawyer for being stuck next to an obese man on a nine-hour flight (NYP)
Giorgio Destro claims his flight from Cape Town to Dubai was ruined by an overweight passenger whose body "spilled" into his seat on the Boeing 777. Destro snapped a selfie that shows him looking unhappy and apparently cramped in seat 29K next to the unidentified man who had the middle seat. The lawyer, from the Italian city of Padua, said he suffered throughout the flight last July and was told by cabin crew he could not change seats because the flight was fully booked, Italian newspaper Mattino Padova reported. "For nine hours I had to stand in the aisle, sit on seats reserved for the cabin crew when they were free and in the final phase of flight resign myself to suffer the 'spillover' of the passenger at my side," he told the newspaper in comments translated by The Local .

Wall Street is raising alarm bells over the possibility of a Trump presidency (MarketWatch)
Erik F. Nielsen, group chief economist at UniCredit Research, said his conversations with European investors fall into three “categories”: 1) Oh my God, this is bad; 2) This is not good, but the American democracy’s checks and balances are strong enough to prevent him from doing too crazy things; 3) Maybe he’ll be like Ronald Reagan and it all ends well. The economist said he’s firmly in camp No. 1, with his single-biggest concern a “complete lack of knowledge” about Trump’s policies. The fact that the candidate doesn’t have an economic or foreign-policy adviser with a known record of publications or views in the field at his disposal marks a troubling first in modern history, Nielsen said.

CBOE to buy Bats in a $3.2 billion deal (MarketWatch)
CBOE Holdings Inc. confirmed Monday that it has agreed to buy Bats Global Markets Inc. in a cash and stock deal that valued at about $3.2 billion. Under terms of the deal, which is expected to consist of 31% cash and 69% CBOE stock, CBOE will pay $32.50 for each Bats share outstanding, which is a 2.2% premium to Friday's closing price.

Most U.K. CEOs Say They Would Consider Moving After Brexit (Bloomberg)
Some 72 percent of the CEOs surveyed said they voted “Remain” in the June 23 Brexit referendum, KPMG said on Monday in an e-mailed statement. While more than two-thirds said they’re confident Britain’s economy and their own companies will continue to grow over the next year, 76 percent are mulling some form of relocation."

Man caught using mannequin torso to cheat California carpool lane (UPI)
A California police department said a motorcycle officer ticketed a man for driving in the carpool lane with an artificial passenger -- a mannequin. The Brea Police Department tweeted a photo of the female-style mannequin, which was missing its legs, wearing a hoodie with its face partially obscured in the passenger seat of a driver's pickup truck. The department said the motorcycle-riding officer pulled up to the pickup truck's window Wednesday evening when it make a sudden lane change from the carpool lane in heavy traffic on the northbound 57 Freeway. The officer had intended to warn the driver about being mare careful while changing lanes, but the officer's attention was quickly drawn to the unusual passenger. The driver admitted he had been using the dummy in carpool lanes for a while before being caught.

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Opening Bell: 10.7.16

Pound flash crash; Twitter's no good very bad day; Qatari hearts Deutsche Bank; Vanilla Ice vows to ride out Hurricane Matthew; and more.

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Opening Bell: 9.9.16

Gundlach gets defensive; Deutsche Bank nears settlement; Investors prefer computers to traders; Judge cracks food jokes during Chipotle exec’s court appearance; and more.

Opening Bell: 07.23.12

Prosecutors, regulators close to making Libor arrests (Reuters) U.S. prosecutors and European regulators are close to arresting individual traders and charging them with colluding to manipulate global benchmark interest rates, according to people familiar with a sweeping investigation into the rigging scandal...Defense lawyers, some of whom represent suspects, said prosecutors have indicated they plan to begin making arrests and filing criminal charges in the next few weeks. Diamond Exit Fells Last Pillar In London’s Gekko Generation (Bloomberg) When Mervyn King and Adair Turner, the U.K.’s top two financial overseers, agreed to summon Barclays’s chairman to the Bank of England on July 2 and said they had lost confidence in Diamond, London’s best-known banker, they were making clear that the rules of the road had changed. “The signal to the City has got to be that if you behave badly you will be removed from your employment,” said Paul Myners, the government’s financial-services minister from 2008 to 2010 and former chairman of Gartmore Investment Management Ltd. “It will send shivers down the spine of anybody who is up to no good.” Spain Bans Short-Selling For Three Months (Reuters) Spain's stock market regulator banned short-selling on all Spanish securities on Monday for three months and said it may extend the ban beyond Oct. 23. The ban, which will not apply to market makers, will apply to any operation on stocks or indexes, including cash operations, derivatives traded on platforms as well as OTC derivatives, the regulator said in a statement. Greece Should Pay Wages in Drachmas Says German Lawmaker (Reuters) "Greece should start to pay half of its civil service wages, pensions and other expenditures in drachmas now," Dobrint said. "A soft return to the old currency is better for Greece than a drastic move. Having the drachma as a parallel currency would allow the chance for economic growth to develop." All Eyes On Facebook Revenue (WSJ) Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expect Facebook to report second-quarter revenue of $1.1 billion on earnings of 12 cents a share. Facebook needs to hit those marks to prove that it can grow into the $100 billion valuation that it gave itself in its IPO. The valuation implies Facebook will grow at a significant pace, said Citigroup analyst Mark Mahaney. Facebook's "business has been showing significant revenue-growth deceleration," he said. "The market valuation implies at least a stabilization of revenue growth this year and next year." Using Small Business Loans To Generate Big Profits (WSJ) At a recent group-lending meeting in the Kawangware slum, about 10 miles from downtown, Jackson Munyovi sought $350 to build a new shanty for his wife and two children. The 31-year-old welder asked fellow church congregants and friends to co-sign a loan to finance building materials. A church deacon vouched for the borrower's assets, including a few metal-shop machines and his marital bed, and Mr. Munyovi promised to repay the loan in six months, plus 8% interest. And with that, Equity Bank Group—one of Africa's most ambitious banks—snagged another customer. The Kenyan bank has enjoyed a booming business lending to people with little collateral beyond the potential disgrace of letting friends down. Equity executives aren't shy about a business model that leverages societal mores and shame—often the strongest collateral to be found on a continent where formal credit records are scarce beyond the biggest cities. Avenue Capital Places Faith In Eurozone (NYT) Now, even as Europe’s economic problems worsen and the markets punish giants like Spain and Italy, Mr. Lasry is betting on a long-term comeback for the Continent. This month, his hedge fund, Avenue Capital, finished raising nearly $3 billion for a fund that will invest in the debt of troubled European companies. He has committed roughly $75 million of his own money to the new fund. That’s still a small part of his estimated $1.3 billion fortune, but Mr. Lasry is among a coterie of hedge fund and private equity managers who are gambling that the euro zone will stay intact and revive over the long run. Wealth chief could be Morgan Stanley’s No.2 (NYP) Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman may have found his No.2: Greg Fleming. That’s after Fleming, the president of Morgan Stanley Smith Barney and Morgan’s wealth management unit, proved to be the only bright spot in the firm’s otherwise disappointing second-quarter results...Gorman, 53, hasn’t anointed a second-in-command since he took over as CEO from John Mack back in 2009. But Morgan Stanley’s co-presidents of institutional securities, Colm Kelleher and Paul Taubman, and possibly CFO Ruth Porat (if she chooses to accept), are among those who could be named. Though still relatively new, having joined the company in 2009, Fleming has shown he’s a worthy contender for the crown. Tony Robbins ‘Firewalk Experience’ goes wrong (AP) Fire officials in California say at least 21 people were treated for burns after attendees of an event for motivational speaker Tony Robbins tried to walk on hot coals...at least three people went to a hospital and most suffered second or third-degree burns. Robbins was hosting a 4-day gathering called “Unleash the Power Within” at the San Jose Convention Center. Witnesses say on Thursday, a crowd went to a park where 12 lanes of hot coals were on the grass. Robbins’ website promotes “The Firewalk Experience” in which people walk on super-heated coals. Witness Jonathan Correll says he heard “screams of agony.”

Opening Bell: 05.16.12

Greece Teeters As Talks Fail (WSJ) In a potent sign of Greeks' rising anxiety, depositors withdrew €700 million ($898 million) from local banks on Monday alone, according to the country's national bank—a significant escalation in capital flight from the country. Greek President Karolos Papoulias told party leaders that the situation facing Greece's lenders was very difficult and that "the strength of banks is very weak right now," according to a transcript released Tuesday. Merkel: I Want Greece To Stay In The Euro (CNBC) In an interview with CNBC's "Worldwide Exchange," Merkel said: "I want, just like Jean-Claude Juncker, that Greece stays in the euro. I think that would be good for Greece and for all of us. If Greece believes that we can find more stimulus in Europe in addition to the Memorandum (the deal stuck with the Troika), then we have to talk about that," she said, but she underlined that Greece and its euro zone partners had to be able to trust each other. What Happens When Greece's Money Runs Out (Reuters) "I'm really not sure Greece could survive for very long if external money was cut off," said Darren Williams, economist at fund manager AllianceBernstein. "But what an experience of IOUs may do rather quickly is bring home to the average Greek citizen just how much more difficult a place it is outside the bailout program and outside the euro." Moore Leads Hedge Funds Betting on JPMorgan Before Losses (Bloomberg) Hedge funds Moore Capital Management LLC and Blue Ridge Capital LLC boosted their stakes in JPMorgan Chase, while Kingdon Capital Management LLC divested, before the shares plunged because of a $2 billion trading loss. Moore, the $15 billion New York-based firm run by Louis Moore Bacon, bought 6 million shares of JPMorgan and its $297.3 million stake was its largest U.S. stock holding as of March 31, according to a filing yesterday with the Securities and Exchange Commission. John Griffin’s New York-based Blue Ridge purchased 1.85 million shares, raising its stake in the bank to 6.14 million. The man who beached ‘Moby Iksil’ (NYP) Boaz Weinstein, a renowned CDS index arbitrageur who launched Saba in 2009, in early February recommended the index, which tracks a basket of US corporate bonds. “They are very attractive” and can be bought at a “very good discount,” said Weinstein, a former Deutsche Bank proprietary trader, speaking at the Harbor Investment Conference on Feb. 2. It appears the index was so cheap because Iksil was buying it to make a big short bet. Weinstein, whose Saba overseas $5.5 billion in assets, decided to go long and said he bought the index a few days before the conference at around 120 basis points. For a while, Weinstein’s genius trade wasn’t working out. The IG9 Index continued to sink under the weight of the Whale’s buys — hitting a low of 105 on March 21. But two weeks later, on April 3, reports surfaced about the Whale’s outsize positions and the tide started to turn. The price spiked to 130 as traders piled on. What JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon first termed a “tempest in a teapot” started to get serious. By last week, Dimon announced a $2.3 billion loss on the Whale’s trade, and word spread that Iksil’s head may roll. Meanwhile, Weinstein, who earned roughly $100 million last year, saw his position and the index continue to soar. The CDS index traded around 146 yesterday. Facebook Said to Raise Size of IPO to 421 Million Shares (Bloomberg) Facebook is boosting the number of shares for sale in its initial public offering to 421.2 million, allowing the world’s most popular social network to raise as much as $16 billion. Existing holders will offer 241.2 million shares, compared with the 157.4 million they originally planned to sell, according to a regulatory filing today. Menlo Park, California- based Facebook and its existing holders had earlier planned to offer 337.4 million shares. Soros’s Firm Buys JPMorgan, Suntrust in First Quarter (Bloomberg) The $25 billion Soros Fund Management LLC, based in New York, increased the value of its stake in financials by 7 percent, including 606,000 shares of JPMorgan worth $28 million as of March 31, and 3.2 million shares of Atlanta-based Suntrust valued at $77 million, according to a filing yesterday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Paulson Holds to Gold ETFs in First Quarter, Profits as Prices Rise (Reuters) So that's nice. Housing Starts Probably Rebounded From a Five-Month Low (Bloomberg) “Homebuilding is inching up pretty much everywhere in the U.S.,” said Patrick Newport, an economist at IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts. “The days when housing was a drag on the economy are behind us.” Even so, “housing activity is at depressed levels,” with foreclosures “still a problem for builders,” he said. Bloomberg Reporter Makes Wardrobe Adjustment On Camera (DM, NYO) A microphone mishap led one television reporter from revealing a bit more than she expected. When it became clear that one reporter's mic was not working, the cameraman swapped over quickly to Sara Eisen. Clearly thinking she was off-camera, the Bloomberg News reporter was adjusting her skirt and smoothing out her undergarments. Because the camera swapped over to her sooner than expected, the financial-savvy viewers caught a glimpse of Ms Eisen's underwear...In spite of the hiccup, Ms Eisen was able to brush her skirt down and get back to business. She flashed a quick, knowing smile and then moved right into the news about Spain's banking system debate.

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.

Opening Bell: 12.11.12

HSBC To Pay Record Penalty (WSJ) HSBC on Tuesday plans to acknowledge that for years it ignored possible money laundering, part of a record $1.9 billion settlement with U.S. authorities that caps the bank's disastrous foray into the U.S. market. The U.K.-based banking company is expected to forfeit nearly $1.3 billion as part of a deferred prosecution agreement, the largest-ever U.S. forfeiture for a bank, according to people briefed on the agreement between HSBC and multiple U.S. agencies. The deal includes a civil fine of more than $650 million, according to these people. As part of the agreement, the bank will admit to violating the Bank Secrecy Act, the Trading with the Enemy Act and other U.S. laws intended to prohibit money laundering, a government official said. Three Arrested In Libor Probe (WSJ) Three British men have been arrested as part of an investigation into the rigging of interest rates, the U.K. Serious Fraud Office said Tuesday. The SFO said the men, aged 33, 41 and 47, are being questioned at a London police station, and that it and the City of London Police executed search warrants on a home in Surrey and two homes in Essex. The arrests are the first by authorities amid a global probe into alleged rigging by bank personnel of the London interbank offered rate over several years. Morgan Stanley Weighs Share Buyback (WSJ) Morgan Stanley might soon ask U.S. regulators to let the securities firm buy back shares for the first time in more than four years, according to people familiar with the firm's thinking. The Wall Street bank could make its request to the Federal Reserve as soon as January as part of the annual "stress-test" process, these people said. The stress tests started in 2009 as a way to convince investors that the largest banks could survive a financial crisis. They have been used to determine banks' ability to pay dividends or buy back shares. Share-repurchase and dividend plans are due from 19 large financial firms by Jan. 7. "Fiscal cliff" outcome still uncertain; talks continue (Reuters) As the pace of talks quickened to avert the "fiscal cliff" of steep tax hikes and spending cuts set for the end of the year, senior members of the U.S. House of Representatives of both parties cautioned that an agreement on all the outstanding issues remained uncertain. Republicans and Democrats are not close to "finishing anything," California Representative Kevin McCarthy, the Republican whip in the House, told Fox News Monday night. "There's nothing agreed to. They are just beginning to talk," he said of House Speaker John Boehner and President Barack Obama. Meanwhile, Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, said on MSNBC Monday he thought Congress could resolve some of the issues by the December 31 deadline -- among them the hikes in tax rates-but might have to leave others for the new Congress that takes office in January. Europe in Better Shape Than US: Strategists (CNBC) "The 'fiscal cliff' in the U.S. is a worry," Garry Evans,Global Head of Equity Strategy at HSBC told CNBC on Tuesday. "And that's one of the reasons that I'm underweight the U.S. and I prefer Europe - it's a bit of an unusual place to be." Insider Trading Probe Widens (WSJ) Federal prosecutors and securities regulators are taking a deeper look into how executives use prearranged trading plans to buy and sell shares of their company stock. The Manhattan U.S. attorney's office has launched a broad criminal investigation into whether seven corporate executives cited in a recent Wall Street Journal article traded improperly in shares of their own company's stock, according to a person familiar with the matter. These executives lead companies in industries ranging from retailing to energy to data processing. Stephen Baldwin Wants Tax Truce (NYP) Stephen Baldwin is hoping to set things right after he was arrested Thursday and charged with failure to file state income taxes for three years. “I went myself [to the police] in a pre-arranged kind of way, but that won’t stop the process of the powers that be being upset about it,” Baldwin told Page Six at the Plaza Hotel’s Oak Room on Sunday. “I had this pretty serious issue with filings that weren’t handled appropriately. To be honest with you, it’s a situation right now where my lawyers are in a conversation now with New York state and the district attorney’s office, and I’m very hopeful that everything should be fine,” he said. According to reports, the “Usual Suspects” star was arraigned for failure to file tax returns from 2008 to 2010. He owes more than $350,000 in taxes and penalties, and could face jail time. “You have to pay your taxes . . . I just got caught up in a situation that I’m hoping we’re gonna work out,” he said. U.S. Profit on AIG Climbs to $22.7 Billion on Share Sale (Bloomberg) The Treasury Department is selling 234.2 million shares at $32.50 each in the sixth offering since the 2008 rescue. The proceeds boost the U.S. profit on the rescue that began in 2008 to $22.7 billion, the Treasury said in an e-mailed statement. Fed Seen Pumping Up Assets to $4 Trillion in New Buying (Bloomberg) “It’s going to be massive and open-ended in size,” said Joseph LaVorgna, chief U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. in New York and a former New York Fed economist. In EU, A Test Of Wills (WSJ) Among the concerns of EU officials are moves by regulators in countries such as Germany and the U.K. to discourage European banks from moving funds back to their home countries, these officials said. EU officials are considering taking legal action against governments that they view as having adopted overzealous policies that violate the single-market rules, these officials said. The first step would be a formal warning to national authorities. The dispute could eventually land before the European Court of Justice if there is no policy change. The officials' hope, though, is that they can resolve the dispute without resorting to legal action. Celtics’ Chris Wilcox fined $25K for flipping off ‘Kiss Cam’ during loss to 76ers (YS) ...The gag concludes when the camera pans to the opposing bench, where players usually laugh, fake kiss or just ignore the camera. Boston's Chris Wilcox had a slightly different and less appropriate reaction. Wilcox greeted the 17,921 Wells Fargo Center fans with his middle finger. He was serenaded by boos and received an earful from an assistant coach moments later.