Opening Bell: 6.5.17

John Paulson's money could use company; ETF battles are getting intense; Canada Man mows lawn near tornado, UK Man flees terror attack with pint; and more.
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John Paulson Goes From Hot to Not as Most Client Money Vanishes (BBG)
Since the end of 2015 alone, assets at Paulson & Co. have fallen by $6 billion from losses and client withdrawals. The decline, underscored in the firm’s most recent regulatory filing, leaves Paulson and his employees with just $2 billion in client money. Most of the remaining $8 billion is Paulson’s own fortune.

Fretting over savings, Mrs Watanabe turns to bitcoin (Reuters)
"After I first heard about the bitcoin scheme, I was so excited I couldn't sleep. It's like buying a dream," said Mutsuko Higo, a 55-year-old Japanese social insurance and labor consultant who bought around 200,000 yen ($1800) worth of bitcoin in March to supplement her retirement savings. "Everyone says we can't rely on Japanese pensions anymore," she said. "This worries me, so I started bitcoins."

Lawyers warn Saudi Aramco of New York IPO litigation risks (FT)
“The company is very conservative,” said one person briefed on the matter. Saudi Aramco’s assets in the US, including the country’s biggest refinery Motiva, were more vulnerable to legal action, he said. “It would be reckless to list in New York when advised so strongly against it,” he said.

Goldman, Nomura heeded warnings before Venezuela bond deal (Reuters)
In early May, Goldman Sachs turned down a request from Caracas to convert $5 billion in sovereign bonds into marketable securities partly because it would mean dealing directly with a Venezuelan state bank, according to people familiar with the talks. The complexity of the operation was the primary concern for Goldman, but the Wall Street bank also weighed reputational risks after opposition politicians called it to warn about the potential damage of being seen as aiding President Nicolas Maduro's administration.

Quant on Quant: Picking Winners in the Era of Machine Investing (BBG)
The burgeoning field of computer-driven investing has grown so large and complex that a Singapore family office has decided you need a quant to find the right quants.

Passive funds are on pace to eat the entire US stock market by 2030 (Qz)
Passive funds will swallow up the US stock market before too long, according to Pictet Asset Management. Index trackers currently hold more than 40% of US stocks, according to Pictet’s analysis, and if the present rate of growth continues they could eventually own everything by 2030, or perhaps a bit before.

The Bloody Fight for ETF Scraps Is About to Get Even Worse (BBG)
In an increasingly crowded market, where more than 2,000 ETFs compete for assets in the U.S. alone, many upstarts face challenges. More and more firms are shuttering ETFs that fail to accrue assets, resulting in a record 98 closures last year. Others are merging and forming partnerships with larger companies. Jim Ross, who oversees State Street's ETF business and helped start the first one in 1993—the mighty SPDR S&P 500 Trust—has a blunt message for new issuers. “I talk to a lot of folks getting into this space,” Ross says. “I say, ‘Listen, if you don’t have a strategy to get to your first $50 million, don’t come in. You are wasting your money.’ ”

Man drinking pint while fleeing terror becomes symbol of London spirit (Metro UK)
A photo of victims fleeing the horrific attack in London Bridge has become a surprising symbol of Londoners’ resilience. This is because one of the people caught up in the attack, part of a crowd running away from the scene, is holding his pint. The unnamed man managed to run down the road clutching his drink, without spilling even a drop.

Man mowing lawn near tornado "was keeping an eye on it" [Photo] (KWQC, Alberta, CA)
Theunis Wessels is a man who likes to finish what he starts. On Friday evening, he began mowing his lawn in the town of Three Hills and kept mowing even as a towering tornado appeared in the distance. When his wife, Cecilia, saw him cutting the grass with the tornado at his back, she snapped a dramatic photo. Theunis took the tornado in stride and said he was “keeping an eye on it” while he continued to mow.

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larry-fink-goth

Opening Bell: 4.18.17

Larry Fink does not "identify as powerful"; ETFs are taking over Canada; apparently Navy SEALs can't do porn; and more.

By ETF Group / ETF Ride Systems (http://www.etf.nl/media/PDF/ETF_Mystic_Mover.pdf) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Opening Bell: 10.31.17

The ETF price wars are getting bloodier; SEC employees happen to be pretty good stockpickers; bonuses are back, baby; Louisiana supreme court decides that man requesting a "lawyer, dawg" could have wanted a "lawyer dog"; and more.

Opening Bell: 12.03.12

Fiscal Cliff Talks At Stalemate (WSJ) Leading figures on both sides doubled down on their positions in interviews that aired Sunday, and they blamed each other for the current standoff, reflecting the talks that House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) told "Fox News Sunday" have gone "nowhere." Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, speaking on the same program for the Obama administration, suggested Republicans needed to take a breather from negotiations but would ultimately agree to raise tax rates—a key White House demand that is part of its push to raise $1.6 trillion in taxes over 10 years. "It's obviously a little hard for them now, and they're trying to figure out where they go next, and we might need to give them a little time to figure out where they go next," Mr. Geithner said. Geithner Joins Boehner to Trade Blame on Fiscal Cliff Talks (Bloomberg) “There’s not going to be an agreement without rates going up,” Geithner said in a taped interview that aired Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” Republicans will “own the responsibility for the damage” if they “force higher rates on virtually all Americans because they’re unwilling to let tax rates go up on 2 percent of Americans.” Clock Ticks For SAC Investors (WSJ) Seventy-five days remain until Feb. 15, the date by which investors must tell SAC whether they want to pull money from the firm during the next redemption period...Some investors already decided to pull out. French bank Société Générale SA, which has client money in SAC through its Lyxor asset-management arm, has put in a request to pull its money from the firm, according to people familiar with the matter. It is unclear how much money Lyxor has in SAC. Many, however, said they would reserve judgment, at least for now. Ironwood Capital Management, a San Francisco-based investment firm with client money in SAC, has been in touch with investors about the position and is monitoring the situation, said a person familiar with the firm. Last week, a unit within Morgan Stanley's MS +0.06% asset-management arm that has client money with SAC sent a note telling employees it would monitor the situation and be in touch frequently with SAC, according to a person familiar with the bank...Greycourt & Co., Inc., a Pittsburgh-based firm that manages about $9 billion for wealthy families, says it is sticking with SAC. Greycourt cited the stellar long-term returns of the firm, what it says is a robust compliance staff at SAC, Mr. Cohen's promise to cover any penalties himself and a belief that the firm's investment portfolio would be well-protected, even if it eventually faces charges. "The SAC portfolio is liquid enough that I'm not terribly concerned," says Gregory Curtis, Greycourt's chairman. "I very much hope that [Mr.] Cohen hasn't been behaving badly, but either way I'm not too concerned about our client positions." UK’s Euro Trade Supremacy Under Attack (FT) The City of London should be deposed as the euro's main financial center so the single currency club can "control" most financial business in the euro zone, France's central bank governor has said. Christian Noyer of the Banque de France said there was "no rationale" for allowing the euro area's financial hub to be "offshore", in a blunt assessment that will fan UK concerns over EU rules being rigged against it. "Most of the euro business should be done inside the euro area. It's linked to the capacity of the central bank to provide liquidity and ensure oversight of its own currency," Mr Noyer told the Financial Times while touring Asia to promote Paris as a renminbi trading center. "We're not against some business being done in London, but the bulk of the business should be under our control. That's the consequence of the choice by the UK to remain outside the euro area." Zoe Cruz trying to make a return to high finance, has reconciled with John Mack (NYP, earlier) Sources say Cruz has reconciled with her former boss Mack, who helped fuel her rise within their firm before their falling out. He has been helping his one-time protégée in her efforts to land at a buyout firm such as KKR. Mack also has been a shoulder for Cruz to lean on as she copes with the split from her husband Ernesto Cruz...[who] was once reprimanded by his superiors in the mid-2000s for frolicking in a hotel pool in Midtown after a company Christmas gala with a group of female assistants, according to sources familiar with the situation. SEC Chief Delayed Rule Over Legacy Concerns (WSJ) Internal SEC emails, released to a congressional panel and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, appear to show how a last-minute intervention by a consumer lobbyist might have helped persuade Ms. Schapiro to change her mind and delay one of the centerpiece measures of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups, or JOBS, Act. In Panicky Russia, It’s Official: End of World Is Not Near (NYT) There are scattered reports of unusual behavior from across Russia's nine time zones. Inmates in a women's prison near the Chinese border are said to have experienced a "collective mass psychosis" so intense that their wardens summoned a priest to calm them. In a factory town east of Moscow, panicked citizens stripped shelves of matches, kerosene, sugar and candles. A huge Mayan-style archway is being built — out of ice — on Karl Marx Street in Chelyabinsk in the south. For those not schooled in New Age prophecy, there are rumors the world will end on Dec. 21, 2012, when a 5,125-year cycle known as the Long Count in the Mayan calendar supposedly comes to a close. Russia, a nation with a penchant for mystical thinking, has taken notice. Last week, Russia's government decided to put an end to the doomsday talk. Its minister of emergency situations said Friday that he had access to "methods of monitoring what is occurring on the planet Earth," and that he could say with confidence that the world was not going to end in December. He acknowledged, however, that Russians were still vulnerable to "blizzards, ice storms, tornadoes, floods, trouble with transportation and food supply, breakdowns in heat, electricity and water supply." Similar assurances have been issued in recent days by Russia's chief sanitary doctor, a top official of the Russian Orthodox Church, lawmakers from the State Duma and a former disc jockey from Siberia who recently placed first in the television show "Battle of the Psychics." One official proposed prosecuting Russians who spread the rumor — starting on Dec. 22. Old testimony may bite Cohen in SEC case (NYP) Steve Cohen’s sworn testimony in another legal skirmish could come back to haunt his $14 billion hedge-fund empire...In 2011, Cohen gave several days of deposition testimony in the civil fraud case, in which Fairfax sued SAC and other firms for allegedly conspiring to drive down its share price. The case was dismissed due to a lack of evidence, but the testimony offers a rare look into Cohen’s views on illegal trading. In his testimony, Cohen called SEC rules on insider trading “vague” and said he doesn’t expect his employees to follow the company’s internal compliance manual to the letter. When asked whether it was “legal or illegal to trade on material nonpublic information,” Cohen said: “It depends on the circumstance.” “So there are circumstances, in your view, in which it is legal . . . to trade on the basis of material, nonpublic information?” asked Fairfax ’s lawyer, Michael Bowe. “Yes,” Cohen said. Among them, he said, is when employees trade in the opposite direction of the nonpublic information they receive. He also said he didn’t expect employees to adhere to the company’s compliance manual in every situation. “See, we don’t operate our firm in absolutes,” he said. “When I look at this manual, I see guidelines.” Morgan Stanley trader probed over trades made while at Goldman (Reuters) Morgan Stanley trader Edward Glenn Hadden is under investigation by regulators at CME Group over trades in Treasury futures four years ago while he was employed by Goldman Sachs, according to a regulatory filing. Hadden is a managing director and head of global interest rates products at Morgan Stanley. Prior to joining Morgan Stanley, Hadden was a partner at Goldman Sachs, and head of government bond trading. Hedge Funds Increase Bullish Bets Most Since August (Bloomberg) Hedge funds increased bullish bets on commodities by the most since August as evidence that China is accelerating outweighed concern that U.S. lawmakers have yet to resolve an impasse over automatic spending cuts and tax rises. Krawcheck, possible SEC head, raises Washington (Reuters) ...many who have worked with her say Krawcheck was a smart, analytical and competent executive who not only knew the business, but was good at building consensus among different units of companies. She helped restore brokerage Smith Barney's reputation at Citigroup and was popular with many of the financial advisers at Merrill Lynch. Schumer and other lawmakers contacted by Reuters did not return calls or requests for comment about meetings with Krawcheck or their thoughts about her. In the end, of course, Krawcheck may not land in Washington at all, two people who know her said. She has had discussions about a variety of roles with several companies, one source said. "She has lots of balls in the air," said the source, who asked not to be named because the conversations were private. "Sallie always has a plan." Bret Easton Ellis mistakenly asks for cocaine on Twitter (DJ) Bret Easton Ellis, famed author of "American Psycho," tweeted a request for cocaine Sunday morning, leaving many to speculate that it was supposed to be a private message...“Come over at do bring coke now,” he tweeted at 3:44AM, stranding his 360,000 followers in a state of bewilderment regarding what the cryptic tweet could possibly mean.

Cryan.CalmDown

Opening Bell: 7.25.17

John Cryan opens up (kind of); Goldman bids adieu to ETF market making; Wisconsin company literally getting under employees' skin; and more.

Opening Bell: 02.19.13

SAC’s Cohen May Face SEC Suit as Deposition Hurts Case (Bloomberg) U.S. investigators have subpoenaed a 2011 deposition of SAC Capital Advisors LP founder Steven Cohen, whose sworn statements on insider-trading compliance may hurt him as he tries to persuade regulators not to file a lawsuit with the potential to shut his $14 billion firm. The SEC told the hedge fund Nov. 20 that it planned to sue SAC for securities fraud and so-called control-person liability for failing to supervise employees. The same day, the agency accused an ex-SAC portfolio manager and his hedge-fund unit of insider trading for persuading Cohen, 56, to make $700 million in illegal trades. Prosecutors also indicted the manager. Cohen’s testimony, reviewed by Bloomberg News, establishes his personal control over the unit, CR Intrinsic, and records his unfamiliarity with his firm’s compliance and ethics policies on insider trading. “I’ve read the compliance manual, but I don’t remember exactly what it says,” Cohen said. Morgan Stanley Strives to Coordinate 2 Departments Often at Odds (Dealbook) Traditionally, traders and investment bankers think of themselves as the elite of Wall Street and look down on the retail business, seeing it as pedestrian...Yet since Morgan Stanley moved to acquire control of the Smith Barney brokerage business from Citigroup in 2009, the balance of power has shifted to wealth management, which now accounts for almost 52 percent of the company’s earnings, up from roughly 16 percent in 2006. Paulson Leads Funds to Bermuda Tax Dodge Aiding Billionaires (Bloomberg) A decade after the U.S. Internal Revenue Service threatened to crack down on what it said were abuses by hedge-fund backed reinsurers, more high-profile money managers are setting up shop in tax havens. Paulson, SAC Capital Advisors LP’s Steven A. Cohen and Third Point LLC’s Daniel Loeb have started Bermuda reinsurance companies since 2011, following a similar Cayman Islands venture by Greenlight Capital Inc.’s David Einhorn. Options Activity Questioned Again (WSJ) Over the past year, unusually large positions were established shortly in advance of news that moved shares of Nexen Inc., Youku Inc., Human Genome Sciences Inc., Constellation Brands Inc. and, most recently, CBS Corp. All turned profitable after the news. A spokeswoman for the SEC, which regulates stock and options trading, said the agency would neither confirm nor deny the existence of inquiries into trading tied to those companies. No charges have been filed in the Heinz case, which was linked to a Swiss trading account, but the move to freeze the assets is one of the fastest enforcement actions ever filed by the agency, according to officials. The SEC said Friday that the timing and size of the trades were highly suspicious given the account had no history of trading in Heinz securities in the last six months. Prosecutors, Shifting Strategy, Build New Wall Street Cases (Dealbook) Criticized for letting Wall Street off the hook after the financial crisis, the Justice Department is building a new model for prosecuting big banks. In a recent round of actions that shook the financial industry, the government pushed for guilty pleas, rather than just the usual fines and reforms. Prosecutors now aim to apply the approach broadly to financial fraud cases, according to officials involved in the investigations...The new strategy first materialized in recent settlements with UBS and the Royal Bank of Scotland, which were accused of manipulating interest rates to bolster profit. As part of a broader deal, the banks’ Japanese subsidiaries pleaded guilty to felony wire fraud. Russians Wade Into the Snow to Seek Treasure From the Sky (NYT) Ever since the meteor exploded somewhere over this impoverished Siberian town, Larisa V. Briyukova wondered what to do with the fist-size stone she found under a hole in the roof tiles of her woodshed. On Monday, a stranger knocked on her door, offering about $60, Ms. Briyukova said. After some haggling, they settled on a price of $230. A few hours later, another man pulled up, looked at the hole in the roof and offered $1,300. “Now I regret selling it,” said Ms. Briyukova, a 43-year-old homemaker. “But then, who knows? The police might have come and taken it away anyway.” On Friday, terror rained from the skies, blowing out windows and scaring people over an enormous swath of Siberia. But by Monday, for many people what fell from the sky had turned to pure gold, and it touched off a rush to retrieve the fragments, many buried in deep February snows. Many of those out prospecting looked a lot like Sasha Zarezina, 8, who happily plunged into a snowbank here in this village of a thousand, laughing, kicking and throwing up plumes of powdery snow. Then she stopped, bent over and started to dig. “I found one!” she yelled. A warm breath and a rub on her pants later, a small black pebble, oval like a river rock, charred and smooth, was freed of ice. While trade in material from meteorites is largely illegal, there is a flourishing global market, with fragments widely available for sale on the Internet, usually at modest prices. At least one from the recent meteor was available on eBay on Monday for $32, and there is a Web site called Star-bits.com devoted to the trade — much to the displeasure of scientists and the countries where the objects were found. UK's Lloyds fined $6.7 million for mis-sold insurance (Reuters) Britain's financial regulator on Tuesday fined Lloyds Banking Group 4.3 million pounds ($6.7 million) for failing to handle complaints relating to insurance sold on loans and mortgages properly. The Financial Services Authority (FSA) said failings in the bank's systems and controls resulted in up to 140,000 customers experiencing delays in receiving compensation for being mis-sold payment protection insurance (PPI). Horsemeat Scandal Draws in Nestlé (FT) Switzerland-based Nestle on Monday removed pasta meals from shelves in Italy and Spain and suspended deliveries of all processed products containing meat from German supplier, H.J. Schypke, after tests revealed traces of horse DNA above 1 per cent. Nestle said it had informed the authorities. Is Berlusconi Getting a Poll Bounce From Tax Evaders? (CNBC) The media mogul, who has been convicted of tax fraud, has promised to introduce a tax amnesty for evaders if elected and to abolish the real estate tax. Swelling U.S. Labor Force Keeps Fed at Ease (Bloomberg) In the short run, the larger labor force will have an unfortunate side effect: It will slow the fall in unemployment. Mellman sees the jobless rate dropping to 7.5 percent by year- end from 7.9 percent now. It fell 0.7 percentage point in 2012. In the longer run, a bigger supply of labor is good news because it swells the pool of Americans available and willing to work, enhancing the economy’s potential to grow, according to Julie Hotchkiss, a policy adviser at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. It also has a silver lining for investors. The gradual fall in unemployment will allow policy makers to keep monetary policy looser for longer without having to worry about igniting a wage- driven rise in inflation. Couple Getting Affectionate Drive Through Home (WO) "She told the investigating trooper that her and the boyfriend were getting a little amorous and the trooper suspects that's probably why she lost control of the vehicle," said Florida Highway Patrol spokeswoman Kim Montes. Walker lost control of the vehicle and slammed into an unoccupied home. The vehicle went all the way through the house. The impact was so dramatic, the pressure blew a window in another part of the house out. Florida Highway Patrol troopers said Walker was injured when debris fell inside the vehicle. She was taken to Halifax Medical Center to be checked out. Her boyfriend, Charles Phillips, was not hurt.

Goldman.JustAddButter

Opening Bell: 9.22.17

Goldman is slipping in the I-banking rankings; ETF market effects provide opportunities for active managers; Jamie Dimon still hates bitcoin; Netflix is leading our children into sin; and more.

(Getty Images)

Opening Bell: 1.21.21

Fannie/Freddie flop; Klarman’s complaints; 2021 the year of the SPAC ETF; Starboard seeks scalps; and more!

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.