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Opening Bell: 2.9.17

Lloyd Blankfein thinks everything is just fine; Steve Young is good at finance; Steve Bannon's Nazi-abortion-mutant film resurfaces; and more.
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Here's what Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein is telling clients about uncertainty in the market (BI)

"It's a vanity, always, at any given moment, to think, 'My goodness we have challenges of a dimension we've never seen before — the world is more uncertain,'" Blankfein said. "It's always seems uncertain when you're living in it, and it always seems so simple and sure when you're looking back at it."

The World According to a Free-Range Short Seller With Nothing to Lose (BBG)

At Concordia’s shareholder meeting in April 2016, according to local media reports, then-CEO Thompson said, “If you are a chicken farmer, your chickens will come home to roost.” Cohodes interpreted this as a threat. As for those chickens, sure, Cohodes’s eggs may sell for $13 a dozen at Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco, but he warns Thompson and other targets, present and future, not to under­estimate him. “Yeah, I have chickens, and yeah, I sell eggs in the city, but I spend about 1/32nd of my day doing chicken work,” he says. “I’m happy that he thinks I’m a chicken farmer. But I’m still intensely focused on some stuff. I will knock their heads off.”

Anthony Scaramucci tries to save job prospects with White House visit (NYP)

The Mooch’s job prospects could also be aided by buyout king Stephen Schwarzman, whose Blackstone Group last fall sold a stake in the Hilton hotel chain to HNA for $6.2 billion. Schwarzman may have backed The Mooch in recent meetings with Trump, sources said. Still, The Mooch has to win over Priebus who was, perhaps, the Wall Streeter’s most vocal critic, sources said. It was Priebus who put up the roadblock, three sources close to the situation said.

Steve Young Is an Athlete Who’s Actually Good at Finance (BBG)

Lots of professional athletes retire and attempt a second career in finance. Many fail. Others hang on as front-office window dressing, celebrity their only value. Young turns out to be the rare ex-jock who’s actually good at private equity—doing original research to find takeover targets, learning how to model deals in Microsoft Excel, and helping to manage the companies after acquisition. HGGC has generated an average annual yield of 66 percent over the last three years.

Trump Fixes Flaw in Post-Crisis Regulatory Crackdown (WSJ)

The most notable hit has been to mortgages to less creditworthy home buyers. In one 2014 study, Goldman Sachs found that the cost of credit where regulation and litigation have bit hardest, such as small- and medium-size business loans, credit cards and home equity loans, had risen relative to those loans with comparatively less regulatory burden, such as autos and large companies. In a 2015 followup, Goldman argued regulation has created a “two-speed” economy that favors big companies over small business and startups.

Inside the crash of Fling, the startup whose founder partied on an island while his company burned through $21 million (BI)

Nardone kicked other male users off the platform who posted inappropriate photos of themselves on the app. "They couldn’t even have a photograph with their shirt off," said a former employee. "Unless it was him. He would then boost himself to everybody on the [Fling] database."

As Goldman Embraces Automation, Even the Masters of the Universe Are Threatened (MIT)

At its height back in 2000, the U.S. cash equities trading desk at Goldman Sachs’s New York headquarters employed 600 traders, buying and selling stock on the orders of the investment bank’s large clients. Today there are just two equity traders left. Automated trading programs have taken over the rest of the work, supported by 200 computer engineers.

Steve Bannon Wanted Mel Gibson for His Movie About Nazis, Abortion, ‘Mutants’ (Daily Beast)

In its penultimate segment, the film examines “post-humanity,” “the Fountain of Youth,” and “The New Immortals”—who are “living happily… ever-after,” apparently thanks in part to “spare body parts for sale.” That’s followed by a “CODA” described only as “THE SINGULARITY,” and a final four-minute segment, described only as NOVUS ORDO SECULORUM—a slight variant of the Latin motto that translates to “New Order of the Ages” and appears just below the pyramid with an eye on the back of our one-dollar bills.

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