Opening Bell: 8.18.17 - Dealbreaker

Opening Bell: 8.18.17

Truth Gundlach strikes again; Leon Cooperman has some strong words for Bill Ackman; Trump is worth $2 billion to Twitter; Marilyn Monroe sex dolls are not kosher; and more.
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Jeff Gundlach Is Attacking the WSJ for a Story That Hasn’t Come Out Yet (BBG)
“Hard to believe. Reporter claims DoubleLine in financial distress! Says I announced no bonuses this year as a result. WTF?! With record AUM?” Gundlach posted on Aug. 5. In a separate post that day, Gundlach disputed that he’s “‘berating’ employees constantly. Constantly?! Try NEVER. Life is good at DoubleLine.” Late Wednesday, DoubleLine analyst Loren Fleckenstein forwarded emails with a Journal reporter to Bloomberg, the Financial Times, New York Times and other news outlets. In the message exchange, Fleckenstein -- citing a reporter’s after-hours call to an employee’s spouse -- called the journalist a “coward,” then later said that “‘creep’ fits better.”

GundlachExplainsItAll

What Is Trump Worth to Twitter? One Analyst Estimates $2 Billion (BBG)
That’s the conclusion of Monness Crespi Hardt & Co. analyst James Cakmak, who has a neutral rating on Twitter shares. It’s not that the president’s defection would touch off a mass exodus, lowering the number of “monetizable” daily active users, Cakmak said in an interview. Instead, losing its most prominent user would hit Twitter’s intangible value and lead to what’s known as multiple compression. “There is no better free advertising in the world than the president of the United States,” said Cakmak.

BILLIONAIRE BARRAGE: Lee Cooperman is stepping up his attack against Bill Ackman (BI)
"I'm not in the business of criticizing people, but I think this is disgraceful," he told Business Insider Thursday, his voice rising. "I think his conduct is irresponsible. There’s a way of dealing with it; he could have quietly presented his findings to the company, allow them to digest it. The company has been run as an open book." Ackman casts a "negative aspersion" on the hedge fund industry, he added. SEE ALSO: Ackman’s big ADP pitch flops on Wall Street

Wrong-Way Gas Bet Fueled Goldman’s Second-Quarter Swoon (WSJ)
Essentially, it was a bet on the timely completion of pipelines under construction to ferry a glut of gas out of the region. But one of those pipelines ran into trouble this spring: the 713-mile Rover, which would transport gas from the Marcellus to the Midwest and beyond. Its developer, Energy Transfer Partners, in February bulldozed a historic Ohio home without notifying regulators, and scrambled to finish clearing trees before the roosting season for a protected bat species. In May, federal regulators barred Energy Transfer from drilling on some segments of the route after a series of fluid spills.

Dimon’s Remarks on Trump, Charlottesville Provoke Discussion Inside J.P. Morgan (WSJ)
One of the more critical commenters wrote: “Chase has become extremely political this year and I must be honest and say that others and myself have taken offense to much of it.” He added that President Trump “condemned all hateful actors, as he should have. I have to see this conflict in my private life. I never thought I would deal with it at my workplace.”

Goldman’s sketchy case to buy (and then sell) bitcoin (FT)
As per the Goldman trading desk, discussing the possibility of trend exhaustion that could take bitcoin back to about $2,200: “Once a full five-wave sequence is in place, the market should in theory enter a corrective phase. This can last at least one-third of the time it took to complete the preceding advance and retrace at least 38.2 per cent of the entire move.” Invocation of invisible market forces seen through their effects is only a few steps removed from a horoscope. Sagittarius is rising, sell gold.

FYI: Web ad fraud looks really bad. Like, really, really bad. Bigly bad (The Register)
With ad networks, after fees and bots – which account for 30 per cent of traffic – are taken into account, $1 buys $0.07 worth of ad impressions viewed by real people. With open ad exchanges – where bots make up 70 per cent of traffic – that figure is more like $0.01. In other words, web adverts displayed via these networks just aren't being seen by actual people, just automated software scamming advertisers.

This celebrity is the most popular sex doll request (NYPost)
He told us that as many as half of the orders the company receives are for celebrity lookalikes, with Marilyn Monroe one of the most popular requests. However, the sex robot company is forced to refuse these orders – since they can’t use anyone’s likeness without their permission. Engineer Douglas said: “Marilyn comes up quite often. The caveat is we need the approval of the person or family. “If you wanted a robot that looked like Marilyn Monroe, you would have to have her estate approve it.”

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GundlachExplainsItAll

Opening Bell: 6.14.17

Jeff Gundlach would like you to please panic now; sentient humans make up just 10 percent of stock trading; apparently the old I'm-only-shoplifting-as-a-sociological-experiment excuse doesn't fly anymore; and more.

Opening Bell: 01.07.13

Regulators Give Ground To Banks (WSJ) Global banking regulators watered down a key element of their plan for creating a safer financial system, giving ground to banks that argued the rules were unworkable and financially risky. The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, a group of the world's top regulators and central bankers, said Sunday that it agreed to relax a rule designed to ensure that big banks are able to weather financial crises without running short of cash. Bowing to two years of intense pressure from the banking industry, the regulators made it easier for banks to meet the rule, known as the "liquidity coverage ratio," and delayed its full implementation until 2019. It is the latest instance of regulators chipping away at their landmark 2010 response to the global financial crisis. The regulators argue that the changes make banking rules much stronger than they were before the crisis. Herbalifers Stay Resolute (WSJ) When hedge-fund manager William Ackman unveiled his 334-slide presentation alleging that Herbalife is a pyramid scheme, it did nothing to shake Joanne Clare. The 38-year-old Staten Island mother of three has been selling the company's weight-loss products and supplements since 2004, when she says they helped her drop from 210 to 160 pounds in four months. She now sells as much as $3,500 a month of Herbalife products to her 30 clients and the two distributors in her "down line." "People have always said it's a pyramid scheme, but it's not," Ms. Clare said, adding that the bulk of her earnings come from sales to clients, not her cut of her recruits' take. Mr. Ackman's declaration that he had bet more than $1 billion against Herbalife caused many investors to flee, sending the stock down 38% in four days in late December. But some of the company's 3.1-million-strong army of distributors were unmoved. Eliot Spitzer Ends His Show On Current TV (NYT) The announcement comes a few days after Al Jazeera said it was acquiring Current TV. Later this year, the Qatar-owned broadcaster plans to turn the channel into an Americanized version of the international news channel Al Jazeera English. Mr. Spitzer said he had a “wonderful time” at Current, but emphasized that his relationship was with Al Gore and Joel Hyatt, Current’s co-founders, not with Al Jazeera. “Moving forward, their mission will be different,” he said — more international newscasts, less liberal talk about the news. Citi's Corbat builds bridges (Reuters) Citigroup Inc's Michael Corbat has been meeting with bank regulators in his first months as CEO, as he looks to bolster relationships and finalize the bank's plan to return capital to shareholders, sources familiar with the matter said. Corbat also expects to name his team of top managers within the next week or so, one of the sources said on Sunday. Corbat is expected to play it safe when Citigroup asks the U.S. Federal Reserve for permission for moves such as buying back shares or increasing dividends, analysts and investors said. His predecessor, Vikram Pandit, lost his job in October in part because the bank's request for returning capital was denied in March. The bank, which is due to submit its plan to the Fed on Monday, has not yet done so, the source said. The third-largest U.S. bank will only seek approval to buy back shares and not raise dividends, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday. Last year, the bank wanted permission to return more than $8 billion to shareholders over two years, the paper said. For Newly Minted MBAs, A Small Paycheck (WSJ) For graduates with minimal experience—three years or less—median pay was $53,900 in 2012, down 4.6% from 2007-08, according to an analysis conducted for The Wall Street Journal by PayScale.com. Pay fell at 62% of the 186 schools examined. Even for more seasoned grads the trend is similar, says Katie Bardaro, lead economist for PayScale.com. "In general, it seems that M.B.A. pay is either stagnant or falling," she says...It is all a far cry from the late 1980s and early 1990s heyday for M.B.A.s, when some companies would hire 100 or more M.B.A.s. It wasn't uncommon to recruit first, and fill actual jobs later. DOJ pledges to respect Swiss law in tax probe (Reuters) Swiss chief finance diplomat Michael Ambuehl was given a verbal pledge from the U.S. Department of Justice to respect Swiss law when asking for bank client data of potential tax dodgers, a newspaper reported on Sunday. Switzerland is in negotiations with U.S. authorities to find a deal that would end tax probes into at least ten Swiss banks suspected of helping clients dodge taxes, including Credit Suisse and Julius Baer. The Alpine country is trying to preserve what is left of its cherished banking secrecy that suffered a severe blow in 2009 when UBS, the first Swiss bank that came under scrutiny in the U.S., was required to disclose client data. Brazilian prison gaurds catch cat that slipped through the gate with escape tools taped to its body (NYDN) Guards at a Brazilian prison nabbed a white cat that slipped through the gate with a cell phone, drills, small saws and other contraband taped to its body. Alagoas prison spokeswoman Cinthya Moreno says the cat was caught New Year’s Eve at the medium-security prison in the city of Arapiraca. The O Estado de S. Paulo newspaper reported Saturday that all of the prison’s 263 inmates are suspects in the smuggling attempt, though a spokesperson said, “It will be hard to discover who is responsible since the cat does not speak.” Loeb, Cooperman Stand Out in Horrid Year for Hedge Funds (CNBC) Third Point was the clear hedge fund standout in a horrible year for the industry as almost nine out of 10 managers underperformed the S&P 500. Omega Advisors' Leon Cooperman also scored big. Loeb — once better known for his acerbic letters to CEOs — used an activist position in Yahoo and the contrarian buying of Greek bonds to drive the firm's flagship fund to a 21 percent gain in 2012. The firm's more-leveraged Ultra fund posted an even bigger 34 percent return...Cooperman's fund had a net return of 26 percent in 2012. Banks Zero In On Foreclosure Pact (WSJ) Banks were closing in on a $10 billion foreclosure-abuse settlement with regulators that could be announced as soon as Monday, according to people familiar with the talks. The settlement was nearly complete Sunday afternoon, the people said, after the Federal Reserve backed down on a demand for more compensation for consumers and other changes to the pact. Bankers threatened to walk away from the deal if the Fed's demand for an additional $300 million was included, a person briefed on the talks said. Junk Bonds' Fire Is Poised to Fade (WSJ) Junk bonds started 2013 much like they finished 2012—on fire. In just three trading days this year, bonds of low-rated companies delivered returns of almost three-quarters of a percent, even as most other types of bonds lost value. And junk bonds continued to clock new milestones: Average prices soared to their highest since 2004 and average yields, which decline as prices rise, dropped below 6% for the first time ever, according to Barclays. But the rapid march is making fund managers and analysts wary. Prices are now so high—averaging more than 105 cents on the dollar—that there is little room for them to climb much further, some investors say. These are lofty prices for bonds that usually trade below 100 cents, reflecting the higher default risk for such companies. At the very least, returns will pale in comparison with the 15% achieved in 2012, analysts and investors say. NHL, Players Settle Labor Dispute (AP) On the 113th day of a management lockout and five days before the league's deadline for a deal, the bleary-eyed sides held a 6 a.m. news conference to announce there will be a season, after all. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and union head Donald Fehr both appeared drained, wearing sweaters and not neckties, when they stood side by side at the hotel and announced labor peace. "We have reached an agreement on the framework of a new collective bargaining agreement, the details of which need to be put to paper," Bettman said. "We've got to dot a lot of Is, cross a lot of Ts. There's still a lot of work to be done, but the basic framework of the deal has been agreed upon." Hostess in Talks to Sell Off Bread Brands (WSJ) Hostess could disclose Flowers, Grupo Bimbo or others as opening bidders in a looming bankruptcy-court auction for the assets as soon as this week, said people familiar with the matter. Hostess, whose bread brands include Wonder Bread, Nature's Pride, Home Pride, Merita and Butternut, is still determining how to split up assets and package them for buyers, one of the people said. Gérard Depardieu gives up French citizenship after bitter tax fight (GM) In a fit of pique, French movie star Gérard Depardieu announced during the weekend that he would give up his citizenship after politicians and the media took him to task for moving to Belgium and avoiding an impending tax hike for the rich. Mr. Depardieu is not France’s first fiscal refugee but his high-profile door-slamming so monopolized public debate that Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault had on Monday to parse whether or not he had insulted the actor. “I did not call Mr. Depardieu a loser, I said that it was loser-like [to move to Belgium to avoid taxes],” Mr. Ayrault told reporters...The “loser” comment seemed to have been the jab that stung Mr. Depardieu the most. “Loser, did you say loser?” the 63-year–old actor began an open letter to Mr. Ayrault that appeared Sunday in Le Journal du dimanche. Mr. Depardieu wrote that he had paid a total of €145-million in income tax in the last four decades and kept 80 people employed. He added that he had been taxed at a marginal rate of 85 per cent this year. “I am giving you back my passport and my social insurance, which I had never used. We no longer have the same fatherland. I am a true European, a citizen of the world.”

Lloyd Zoom

Opening Bell: 8.22.17

Lloyd Blankfein can't quit trolling Trump; Jeff Gundlach could use a friend right now; Steve Mnuchin's wife is apparently reprising her role as Marie Antoinette; and more.

Photo: Getty Images.

Opening Bell: 6.20.16

Visium to shut funds amid probe; Gundlach fears Trump; Credit Suisse puts 5 on leave; Colorado company releases wine for cats; and more.

Opening Bell: 11.16.15

Elizabeth Warren is coming for BlackRock; Gundlach thinks Fed may stay put; CEO prepares for economic apocalypse by hoarding gold; ‘I Just Got Sucked In,’ Says Man Who Gave $718,000 to Psychics; and more.