Opening Bell: 1.26.17

Dutch regulator accidentally reveals Soros' shorts; Wilbur Ross is an emotionless business machine; a sex line for Afghan youths; and more.
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Dutch regulator mistakenly reveals Soros short positions (FT)

Market rules introduced after the financial crisis require hedge funds to report their short positions to regulators. But only those that are larger than 0.5 per cent of a company’s outstanding shares are supposed to be made public. The regulator instead published details of all short trades reported in the Netherlands since the new rules came into force, meaning hundreds of previously non-public trades were briefly released into the public domain. Hedge funds whose trades were included in the release were angry. “When a bank or hedge fund makes a mistake they are fined — who will fine the Dutch regulator?” asked one manager.

Will Wall Street Turn On Trump? (VF)

What must be most galling is that these C.E.O.s have to sit there and take direction from a man whose private company has never made a public filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, who has never had to worry about his stock price. Heck, he probably doesn’t even pay taxes, a fact we would know for sure if he only agreed to release his tax returns, a subject he thinks no one cares about except the media. The time for some serious negotiation is nigh.

The Fragile Economic Foundation of Dow 20000 (WSJ)

Britain is leaving the European Union, a protectionist is in the White House, the front-runner in France’s presidential election wants out of the euro. Yet paradoxically, investors have concluded the world is getting less risky, not more. The result: a hunger for shares that carried the Dow Jones Industrial Average over the 20000 mark Wednesday for the first time.

One slip from Trump and this rally will grind to a halt, former Fed governor says (CNBC)

“I think there are very high expectations for executions on some of the economic parts of the program, cutting taxes, trying to rationalize their taxes to bring some of the $2 trillion trapped offshore to onshore, de-regulation. And these things, I think, are considered positive by most market participants. And if somehow there's a slip in execution that's the thing that will cause the markets to pause,” the former Fed governor stated.

Wilbur Ross and the Era of Billionaire Rule (BBG)

Ross wouldn’t comment for this story. After his assistant asked Bloomberg Businessweek not to contact anyone who works or has worked for WL Ross, a spokesman e-mailed a list of outside people Ross wanted to make available. It included two mayors, one governor, and six billionaires, among others. One of the nonbillionaires was C. John Wilder, a colleague Ross picked in 2015 to be executive chairman of the hobbled oil explorer EXCO Resources. “He wants to win, but business to him is not filled with a lot of emotion,” Wilder says. “Very emotionless, very deliberate, very calculated.”

RBS Sets Aside $3.8 Billion for U.S. Mortgage Settlement (WSJ)

The provision will likely push the 72% U.K. government-owned bank to one of its largest annual losses since its taxpayer bailout in 2008, further denting the bank’s prospects for paying dividends in the medium term.

Should regulators stop pushing banks to diversify their lending? (Chicago Booth)

Larger banks tend to collect more documented (or so-called hard) information while smaller banks rely more on conversations and personal relationships. “Concentration fosters lending expertise,” the authors write. “A bank with more exposure to an industry has better information about it, and, thus, less need to obtain high quality (and costly) financial performance information from borrowers in the industry.”

Sexologists are bringing succour to Afghan youths (AFP)

"I cannot do it without Viagra," the anonymous Afghan caller whispered into the phone, wary of being overheard by his family. The voice on the other end of the line was soothing, professional and reassuring: "Dear brother, don't be embarrassed. Your problem is not uncommon. We'll help you find a solution without potency pills."

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Opening Bell: 6.21.16

Ackman releases first video in a series (!!) of videos about Herbalife; Wilbur Ross tells Brits to wake the bloody heck up; Memphis police searching for woman who stole stripper pole; and more.

BobIger.Wolverine

Opening Bell: 12.14.17

Disney gobbles up Fox; Bill Ackman is going to make a comeback...eventually...just you wait; Wilbur Ross slipped his security detail in the Hamptons; square dancing is actually racist?; and more.

Opening Bell: 12.19.12

UBS In $1.5 Billion Libor Fine (WSJ) As part of the deal, UBS acknowledged that dozens of its employees were involved in widespread efforts to manipulate the London interbank offered rate, or Libor, as well as other benchmark rates, which together serve as the basis for interest rates on hundreds of trillions of dollars of financial contracts around the world. UBS's unit in Japan, where much of the attempted manipulation took place, pleaded guilty to one U.S. count of fraud. Authorities on Wednesday painted a picture of "routine and widespread" attempts by UBS employees to rig Libor and the euro interbank offered rate, or Euribor. The U.K. Financial Services Authority said it had identified more than 2,000 such attempts between 2005 and 2010 with the participation or awareness of at least 45 UBS traders and executives. Regulators on Wednesday released a trove of internal UBS emails and other communications—many of them colorful and expletive-laden—in which bank traders, sometimes with the knowledge of their managers, sought to manipulate the rates in order to boost their trading profits or mask the Swiss bank's mounting financial problems in 2008. UBS Traders' 'Humongous' Libor-Fixing Boasts (CNBC) The FSA documents suggest a macho trading culture on the UBS trading floor. Trader A also said: "if you keep 6s [i.e. the six month JPY LIBOR rate] unchanged today ... I will ****ing do one humongous deal with you ... Like a 50,000 buck deal." Traders and brokers implicated in the scandal referred to each other as "the three muscateers [sic]" and "captain caos [sic]." SAC's top consumer trader draws scrutiny from U.S. authorities (Reuters) U.S. authorities are examining trading by one of SAC Capital Advisors' most successful portfolio managers, Gabriel Plotkin, as part of a probe into the $14 billion hedge fund firm's investment in Weight Watchers International Inc last year, according to a person familiar with the investigation. Plotkin, a specialist in consumer and retail stocks who makes investment decisions for more than $1.2 billion worth of assets, is among several SAC portfolio managers whose trades are being investigated, said the source, who did not want to be identified. The source would not name the other managers. Federal authorities are trying to determine whether any of SAC Capital's retail and consumer portfolio managers traded Weight Watchers shares based on non-public confidential information about the diet company, said the source and another person familiar with the investigation. The two sources said it is too soon to conclude if there was any insider trading. Authorities have not charged Plotkin with any wrongdoing. Banks See Biggest Returns Since ’03 as Employees Suffer (Bloomberg) Shareholders, impatient for the industry to boost profit, were rewarded as Wall Street firms cut jobs and pay, and exited businesses. The shrinking unnerved employees, who watched the chiefs of two big banks lose their jobs and others contend with a drop in deal making and stock trading, stiffer regulations, trading losses, rating downgrades and scandals involving interest-rate manipulation and money laundering. “There’s always grumbling on Wall Street, which is pathetic given how overpaid we all are, but there is a level of angst this year that is just unprecedented,” Gordon Dean, who left a 26-year career at Morgan Stanley (MS) to co-found a San Francisco boutique advisory firm this year, said in a telephone interview. “It’s just a profound sadness and dissatisfaction.” Greek Bond Bet Pays Off for Hedge Fund (FT) One of the world's most prominent hedge funds is sitting on a $500 million profit after making a bet that Greece would not be forced to leave the euro zone, bucking the trend in a difficult year for the industry. Third Point, headed by the billionaire US investor Dan Loeb, tendered the majority of a $1 billion position in Greek government bonds, built up only months earlier, as part of a landmark debt buyback deal by Athens on Monday, according to people familiar with the firm. The windfall marks out the New York-based firm as one of the few hedge fund managers to have profited from the eurozone crisis. Standard and Poor's, the rating agency, raised its assessment of Greece's sovereign debt by several notches on Tuesday, citing the euro zone's"strong determination" to keep the country inside the common currency area. Fitch Warns US Could Lose AAA If 'Fiscal Cliff' Hits (Reuters) "Failure to avoid the fiscal cliff.. would exacerbate rather than diminish the uncertainty over fiscal policy, and tip the US into an avoidable and unnecessary recession," Fitch said in its 2013 global outlook published on Wednesday. "That could erode medium-term growth potential and financial stability. In such a scenario, there would be an increased likelihood that the U.S. would lose its AAA status." Science explains Rudolph's red reindeer nose (CNET) A collection of Dutch scientists contributed to a paper titled "Microcirculatory investigations of nasal mucosa in reindeer Rangifer tarandus (Mammalia, Artiodactyla, Cervidae): Rudolph's nose was overheated." According to the paper, "The exceptional physical burden of flying with a sleigh with Santa Claus as a heavy load could have caused cerebral and bodily hyperthermia, resulting in an overworked nasal cooling mechanism that resembles an overheated cooling radiator in a car: Rudolph suffered from hyperemia of the nasal mucosa (a red nose) under more extreme heat loads during flight with a sleigh." Of course, scientists don't like to put all their scientific eggs into just one basket of science. The paper's authors acknowledge other theories for the red nose, including the common cold, alcoholic intoxication, or a parasitic infection of the nostrils. GM To Buy Back Stock From Treasury (WSJ) GM said it will purchase 200 million shares of stock held by the U.S. Treasury Department in the first step of the government's eventual exit from the auto maker within the next 12 to 15 months. The auto maker will pay $5.5 billion for the shares in a deal that is expected to close by the end of the year. The repurchase price of $27.50 a share represents a 7.9% premium over the closing price on Dec. 18. Berlusconi Says Italy May Be Forced to Leave the Euro Zone (Reuters) "If Germany doesn't accept that the ECB must be a real central bank, if interest rates don't come down, we will be forced to leave the euro and return to our own currency in order to be competitive," Berlusconi said in comments reported by Italian news agencies Ansa and Agi. Knight, Getco Confirm Merger (WSJ) The $1.8 billion deal for Knight, which values the firm at $1.4 billion plus $400 million in debt held by Getco, will create a trading powerhouse ranking as one of the largest players on U.S. exchanges and the main trading partner of online brokerage firms that service everyday investors. Porsche Executives Charged Over VW Bid (WSJ) Prosecutors have charged the former top executives of Porsche Automobil Holding SE with allegedly manipulating financial markets during the company's attempt to take over Volkswagen AG in 2008, lawyers representing the executives said Wednesday. A court in Stuttgart must now decide whether to open criminal proceedings against Porsche's former chief executive Wendelin Wiedeking and former finance chief Holger Härter, who are suspected of misleading investors when they denied trying to take over VW in 2008. Market manipulation in Germany can be punished with up to five years' imprisonment. From early March to October of 2008, Porsche issued at least five statements denying it was trying to raise its stake in Volkswagen to 75%, but the prosecutors allege that Messrs. Wiedeking and Härter had already decided to try to raise the stake and were preparing for the move by purchasing buy options on ordinary and preference shares of Volkswagen. The denials induced investors to sell or make bets the shares would fall by so-called short selling, the prosecutors said, which benefited Porsche by lowering the share price ahead of the planned takeover. Spanx Bandit On The Loose After JCPenney Heist (TSG) An unknown thief (or thieves) stole a whopping $4182 worth of the popular body shapers from a JCPenney in Vero Beach, according to an Indian River County Sheriff’s Office report. The Spanx theft was reported Friday afternoon after a JCPenney employee noticed “the empty rack in the women’s undergarment section.” The worker noted that the Spanx stock had been there the prior evening. A subsequent search of the store revealed that about 100 Spanx “were taken along with their plastic hangers.” The purloined undergarments--tan and black tops and bottoms--were from Spanx’s Assets Red Hot Label line, police reported. A JCPenney store manager gave cops an itemized list of the boosted body shapers, but it appears the Spanx Bandit will escape unscathed. Due to a lack of witnesses, evidence, or store surveillance video, no further investigative activity could be undertaken by a sheriff’s deputy.

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.

Coming soon to a Bridgewater office near you.

Opening Bell: 11.7.17

Ray Dalio's number-two is reportedly kinda handsy; Forbes says Wilbur Ross lied to them about being a billionaire for years; Dick Fuld is back, baby; Bjork wants to give you cryptocurrency; and more.

By Maggie Hoffman (Tomato Soup Grilled Cheese) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Opening Bell: 8.5.16

Wilbur Ross expects Donald Trump to start acting normal; Goldman warns on Brexit effects; Georgia man busted after raging at wife over too cheesy grilled cheese sandwich; and more.

Opening Bell: 07.31.12

RBS Braces Itself For Libor Deal (WSJ) RBS stands apart from the other banks caught up in a trans-Atlantic probe of the rate misdeeds because of the U.K. government's 83% stake in the lender. That has put U.K. authorities in an awkward position: They are under intense pressure to get tough on wayward banks but also are eager to protect the value of a taxpayer asset. Defendant in Insider Case: I Was Just Doing My Job (WSJ) Doug Whitman, a former hedge-fund manager, doesn't deny that he probed public companies for nonpublic information. But his criminal-defense team plans to argue that its client was doing exactly what he was supposed to do when he persuaded employees of public companies to give him information that those companies' top brass didn't want getting out. Mr. Whitman "was doing what every diligent, competent fund manager and analyst should do—checking up on companies' management to make sure they are being forthright with their investors," said David Anderson, Mr. Whitman's lead defense attorney, in an email. Tiger Management Helps Next Generation Funds (NYT) In a relatively young industry where stars can quickly fade, Tiger Management — and its myriad affiliates like Falcon Edge — is the closest thing to a hedge fund dynasty. After a brief career in finance, Mr. Robertson started Tiger in 1980 with seed money from friends and family. He regularly racked up double-digit returns by taking big positions in companies with good long-term growth prospects and aggressively betting against those stocks poised to fall. Mr. Robertson trained his young protégés — the so-called Tiger cubs — in the same tradition, creating the next generation of hedge funds stars. After leaving Tiger in 1993, Lee Ainslie started Maverick Capital, which currently manages roughly $10 billion. Stephen F. Mandel Jr. began Lone Pine Capital in 1997. Two years later, Andreas Halvorsen opened Viking Global. “We really gravitated to young people, and that was a great deal of our success,” said Mr. Robertson, 80, who often hired people in their 20s. “I was just an old goat with all these young geniuses around.” As the first wave of Tiger cubs age, they are breeding new funds, too. Blue Ridge Capital, where Mr. Gerson honed his skills, has been a particularly good incubator for talent. While Blue Ridge has subscribed to the long-term strategy of Tiger, the founder, Mr. Griffin, has infused the firm with his own philosophy. As a proponent of behavioral finance, he trained analysts like Mr. Gerson to identify how ego and emotion can affect the market and stock performance. Biggest Chapter Yet For A Poison Pen (WSJ) Daniel Loeb isn't one given to half-measures. The hedge-fund manager competes in triathlons, never, ever drinks from a plastic water bottle and is unsparing at times in his criticism of corporate executives. That is exactly how his investors like him. "I didn't give him the money to have a mellow Dan Loeb," said Hugh F. Culverhouse, a Miami investor whose family once owned the Tampa Bay Buccaneers football team. "If I want a mellow Dan Loeb, let me redeem."...The Yahoo campaign signals a new phase in Mr. Loeb's career. Until now, he was perhaps best-known for his poison-pen letters, in which he has scolded executives for everything from keeping relatives on the payroll to socializing at the U.S. Open tennis tournament. Armed with a much bigger war chest—Third Point managed just $1.7 billion as of April 2009—Mr. Loeb can now aim for bigger targets. Mr. Loeb and his investors have a lot riding on a Yahoo revival. "If he makes money on his position, it will be good," said David Tepper, a fellow hedge-fund manager who has known Mr. Loeb for years. "If he doesn't make money, what is the point?" British man rescued off French Atlantic coast after being overcome with Olympic mania and trying to swim to America (DM) The unnamed 34 year old holidaymaker told his friends on the beach at Biarritz that he was off to New York to carry the Olympic spirit across the Atlantic. They thought he was joking but knowing that he was a strong swimmer decided to let him go telling him that a boat would come to rescue him if he got into difficulty. The man swam well beyond buoys 300 yards out to sea marking legal limits for bathing. Then, watched by lifeguards on the shore, he continued swimming until he was out of sight on his 3,594-mile journey. The lifeguards called out a helicopter and a diver dropped into the sea and explained to the man that it was not a good idea to swim across the Atlantic and advised him to head back towards France. He replied that he was a strong swimmer and felt up to it. At the same time lifeguards arrived in a rescue dinghy and threw the eccentric a line before towing him back to the beach. Laurent Saintespes, senior officer at Biarritz airbase told Agence France Presse, ‘He was a bit naive. But at a time when the Olympics are taking place in London you have to see the funny side of things’. Billionaire Jeff Greene On Democracy (NYM) Lately—like at a recent lunch with Steve Schwarzman, who has likened Obama to Hitler—Greene’s been trying another tactic. “Now I appeal to them selfishly,” he says. “ ‘Don’t you realize that if you don’t take care of this kid when they are 10 years old, you’ll take care of them when they are 20 and 100 instead? We just have to pay a little more taxes. It’s not going to kill us. You buy car insurance. Why not buy some democracy insurance?’ People think that Obama is this leftist, socialist guy,” he says. “But I don’t think they understand what people can go for when they are at the end of their line.” South Korean Youth Eschew Samsung Jobs For Facebook Dreams (Bloomberg) Not so long ago, South Korean students dreamed of lifetime jobs at Samsung Electronics Co. Now, many are shunning the juggernaut, intent on trying to emulate the likes of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. Sim Cheol Hwan, 27, is typical of the trend. He wants to take a break from college in Seoul to set up a company rather than line up for job interviews at Asia’s biggest electronics company paying an average of 77.6 million won ($68,300) a year. So he’s set himself up in his own business making apps for Samsung and Apple phones. “I don’t want to get a job at a top 10 Korean company,” said the Hanyang University engineering student, who spent two years in the military. “Zuckerberg’s success proves that there is a lot of money to be made” in startups. Regulators Target Day-Trading Firm (WSJ) In the Romanian city of Cluj-Napoca, inside a garret up a narrow wooden staircase, four young men in T-shirts spend the day moving rapidly in and out of stocks, trying to ride their shifting momentum for profits. "It's very stressful," says one, dressed in a green T-shirt, blue shorts and Adidas sneakers. "The market is very hard to figure out." The four traders are part of a world-wide network initially set up by a Toronto-owned firm called Swift Trade Inc. Swift's founder, Peter Beck, turned it into one of the largest day-trading operations in the world over the past decade by aggressively expanding into far-flung locations, from China to Nicaragua to Romania, where he could recruit traders on the cheap. Mr. Beck also took an aggressive stance toward the law, say regulators in several countries where his firm has traded. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is expected on Tuesday to announce a settlement with Mr. Beck and an in-house brokerage unit for not establishing a supervisory system to prevent "a pattern of manipulative trading activity," according to a copy of the settlement reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. The Best CFOs: A Wall Street Journal Ranking (WSJ) #16: Ann Marie Petach, BlackRock. Chewbacca costume head from ‘Star Wars’ sold for $172K (NYDN) A Chewbacca headpiece used in the original "Star Wars" trilogy sold for a whopping $172,200 at a movie memorabilia auction this weekend. The loyal and lovable walking carpet swept the competition, which included an "Edward Scissorhands" costume worn by Johnny Depp that sold for $86,100 and an Everlasting Gobstopper used in the 1971 movie "Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory" that sold for $49,200. The Chewie mask was described by auctioneer Profiles in History as the "finest full costume headpiece of Chewbacca from the original trilogy in private hands," and "the finest screen-correct Chewbacca costume head from the Star Wars trilogy known to exist." The eyes are actual casts of Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew's closed eyes, the auctioneer said. The expected price for the well-liked Wookie was between $60,000 and $80,000, plus fees and taxes, according to the auction catalog...Four years ago, someone spent a reported $240,000 to get the lightsaber prop used by actor Mark Hamill in the first two movies.

Opening Bell: 04.15.13

Citi's First-Quarter Profit Rises 30% (WSJ) Citigroup reported first quarter net income on Monday of $3.8 billion, up 30% from a year earlier and triple the profit from last quarter, on improved revenue in its capital-markets unit. Per-share profit of $1.23 handily beat Wall Street consensus of $1.17. Excluding a $198 million charge for a valuation adjustment on Citi's own debt, it would have been $1.29 per share. First-quarter revenue rose 3% from a year earlier and 12% from the fourth quarter, in part because Citi pulled $652 million previously set aside for loan losses, helping the bottom line. Greece on Track to Receive Next Aid Tranche (WSJ) The deal now paves the way for Greece to receive a promised €2.8 billion ($3.67 billion) aid tranche from its creditors this month, and another €6 billion disbursement next month, pending approval from euro-zone finance ministers who are expected to discuss the country's reform program at a meeting May 13. Pension Group Moves to Split JPMorgan Chairman, CEO Roles (CNBC) A group of JPMorgan Chase shareholders urged support for its proposal to split the chairman and CEO roles at the big bank in a letter Monday. The proposal is number "6" in the proxy materials for JPMorgan's shareholder meeting, taking place May 21 in Tampa, Fla. Among the multiple reasons cited for the split, the group points to lapses in oversight evidenced during the London Whale debacle. Perhaps the most compelling reason for splitting the roles: The bank's being in constant crosshairs with regulators. It's being investigated by eight regulators at present. Iceland Is First in Europe to Sign Free Trade Pact With China (Bloomberg) Iceland’s Foreign Minister Ossur Skarphedinsson signed the deal with Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng in Beijing today, bringing to a close six years of talks, according to Iceland’s Foreign Ministry. Nesting falcon hits Vodafone customers in Southampton (BBC) A peregrine falcon nesting by a faulty transmitter has meant mobile phone reception has not been able to be restored to parts of Southampton. Vodafone engineers discovered a female bird nesting when they tried to repair the faulty mast on 9 April. The phone company said it could not legally access the mast until any chicks had fledged, possibly in June. Peregrine falcons are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. The nest's location cannot be revealed. It is not yet known if the bird was the cause of the original fault. Mobile phone users left without signal have criticised the speed of Vodafone's response. Elizabeth Corbett said: "I understand the nesting birds are out of their control but their reaction to it has been extremely slow." A Vodafone spokesman said the company was being "very careful" in dealing with the protected species. "We're already looking at alternative contingency plans and we'll inform our customers as soon as we can. "While this is inconvenient for our customers, it is great news that the falcons are nesting in the city." Cyprus Offers Citizenship to Foreign Depositors (Reuters) Cyprus will relax requirements for citizenship, including for bank depositors who lost large amounts of money in the deal with the EU and IMF, in an effort to keep foreigners interested in investing in the island state, the president said on Sunday. Getco, Knight Alter Deal Terms (WSJ) Getco and Knight on Monday altered their merger to comply with New York Stock Exchange listings standards, according to a document filed with regulators. They revised the ratio by which shares of Knight and units of privately held Getco will be exchanged for stock in the combined company. This will elevate the merged Getco-Knight's share price above the minimum $4 per-share required for new companies listed on the Big Board, according to the document. Brokers Face Pay Disclosures (WSJ) Securities regulators are widely expected to start forcing stockbrokers who get big bucks when they defect to another firm to tell their clients. Defendant tries to 'duck' into Honolulu court (HW) The basic rule for anyone wishing to enter Circuit Court on Oahu is no knives, guns, or anything that could be classified as a weapon. Michael Hubbard was well aware of the rule when he returned to the courthouse Monday morning to see his court officer regarding one of his two pending felony assault cases. What he didn't know is that the list of items not allowed in court included beer and live animals. Like the dozens of people who filed into the security line, Hubbard took his turn of waiting patiently for security guards to screen him. Upon reaching the X-ray screening machine, he gently placed his bag onto the conveyor belt and then walked through the metal detector. The officer screening Hubbard's bag noticed two bottles and an unidentified object. Deputies asked him to open his bag, but he refused, which arose their suspicions. "Deputies told him that if he didn't open the bag, he couldn't enter and that he needed to leave immediately," said Toni Schwartz, public information officer for the Department of Public Safety. Hubbard insisted on keeping the contents of his bag a secret. Officers eventually escorted him outside, where he relented and blurted out, "There's a live duck in there!" The guards didn't know what Hubbard meant, but when they opened the bag, comprehension was crystal clear. An actual live duck was inside, along with two 40-ounce bottles of beer.