Opening Bell: 12.22.17

Michael Milken has a sixth sense for donating bad stocks; banks are already changing their 2018 forecasts; Dalio on tax reform: meh; get fucked by bitcoin (literally); and more.
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Bitcoin Plunges 25% in 24 Hours in a Cryptocurrency Market Rout (WSJ)
Bitcoin has fallen more than 30% over the past four days, its fifth such decline of that magnitude this year, according to Charlie Bilello, director of research at Pension Partners, an investment-advisory firm in New York. In the prior four instances, it took Bitcoin an average of 38 days to hit a new high.

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Hundreds of People Made Gifts of Stock With Great Timing (WSJ)
When Michael Milken donated $27 million of stock to charity in September 2013, the former junk-bond financier’s timing scarcely could have been better, for tax purposes. Twenty-six trading days later, the shares of K12 Inc., an education company in which he was an early investor, lost 38% of their value in a single day. A decade prior, he donated stock in another company he helped seed, LeapFrog Enterprises Inc., shortly before it fell 25% in one day. That meant Mr. Milken’s stock gifts would have been worth millions of dollars less if made a few weeks later. So would have been his potential tax deductions.

Trump Promised to Protect Steel. Layoffs Are Coming Instead. (NYT)
Layoffs have stunned steelworkers who, just a year ago, greeted President Trump’s election as a new dawn for their industry. Mr. Trump pledged to build roads and bridges, strengthen “Buy America” provisions, protect factories from unfair imports and revive industry, especially steel. But after a year in office, Mr. Trump has not enacted these policies. And when it comes to steel, his failure to follow through on a promise has actually done more harm than good.

The stock rally is unfolding so fast investment banks are already raising their 2018 forecasts (CNBC)
Credit Suisse and Canaccord Genuity joined a growing list of top Wall Street banks that have raised their 2018 outlooks for U.S. equity markets before the year has even started. The two echoed peers in citing the Republican tax bill in adjusting their S&P 500 targets higher, with a reduced corporate tax rate expected to buoy earnings for scores of the nation's largest companies more than they expected when hatching their initial 2018 outlooks.

Eric Schmidt’s surprise Alphabet announcement rekindles ‘womanizing’ rumors (Page Six)
According to another source, “it could be just that, in the current environment we’ve reached a tipping point. It is now unacceptable for the head of a public company to be running around with multiple mistresses while his wife is at home.” Alphabet declined to comment beyond the press release.

The Tax Changes Don’t Do What’s Needed (Ray Dalio)
There’s a tremendous opportunity cost arising from common sense sorts of things not being done or being cut back on—from not investing in infrastructure because of budget concerns and regulatory bureaucracy, to not improving education for similar economic and bureaucratic reasons. So we’ll do the tax adjustment tweak and the regulatory tweak—a little bit here and a little bit there—but we won’t change things materially. In other words, the headline is that we’re still not dealing with the bigger issues.

JPMorgan Dips a Toe Into Analysis of Bitcoin Futures Volatility (BBG)
“The signs of implied risk-reversals rarely change on a high frequency basis, except in the notable case of precious metals. From that point of view, the claims of Bitcoin behaving as ‘digital gold’ find a justification,” the strategists wrote. “Since the value of Bitcoin is highly dependent on market sentiment, one can expect ‘BTC/USD risk-reversals’ to experience significant swings.”

Now You Can Literally Get Fucked by the Price of Bitcoin (Motherboard)
Bitcast is a that service tracks the real-time value of Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin on a chart that syncs with a line of internet-connected Lovense sex toys. When the value goes up, the vibrations intensify. When it goes down, the vibes back off. The Lovense connected sex toy line offers standard Fleshlights and dildos, but also more discrete buttplugs, prostate massagers and vibrators, meaning you could feasibly wear a connected toy while you go about your day, sensing every change in Bitcoin price like a horny sixth sense.

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Opening Bell: 11.30.17

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Opening Bell: 9.26.17

Bitcoin is a bubble, says top crypto fund manager; congressional aides have a nice insider-trading sideline; good managers hold fewer stocks; why Yoda appears in Saudi history textbooks; and more.

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Opening Bell: 11.13.17

Bitcoin is doing the opposite of going up; Goldman bankers hit the hinterlands; Bill Miller wants you to know he's not senile; angry people smash Keurigs; and more.

Opening Bell: 04.03.13

Barclays High-Pay Culture Brought Disrepute: Report (WSJ) Barclays PLC suffered from "a lack of self-awareness" in recent years as a culture of high pay and short-term incentives brought the bank into disrepute, according to an independent report by lawyer and investment banker Anthony Salz. The Salz Review, which was commissioned by Barclays' former chairman after the bank admitted to trying to rig interbank interest rates last summer, describes how in about 10 years the lender expanded to become a disparate set of businesses, each with its own culture. "The result of this growth was that Barclays became complex to manage," the report published Wednesday said. "Despite some attempts to establish group-wide values, the culture that emerged tended to favor transactions over relationships, the short term over sustainability, and financial over other business purposes." The 235-page report—which cost Barclays about £17 million ($25.7 million) to have produced—recommended a series of reforms aimed at trying to foster a common sense of purpose across the bank. To this end, Barclays' board must play a more active role in overseeing the business and Barclays' human resources department must be given more power to stand up on issues such as pay, the report said. Ex-Goldman Sachs Trader Taylor Said to Surrender to FBI (Bloomberg) Former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. traderMatthew Taylor planned to surrender today to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a person familiar with the matter said. Taylor was accused Nov. 8 by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission of concealing an $8.3 billion position in 2007 that caused New York-based Goldman Sachs to lose $118 million. Morgan Stanley hired Taylor in March 2008, less than three months after Goldman Sachs disclosed in a public filing that he had been fired for building an “inappropriately large” proprietary trading position. Cyprus Bailout Details Emerge After IMF Deal (WSJ) The IMF statement set out the tough terms the tiny nation of 800,000 has to meet to get the bailout, calling the task ahead "challenging." Cyprus, an economy of roughly €17 billion in annual output, needs to push through cuts and savings worth 4.5% of gross domestic product by 2018 to hit a primary-surplus target of 4% of GDP outlined in the bailout deal, the IMF statement said. These cuts will come on top of savings worth 5% of GDP the government is already implementing through to 2015. An extra 2% of GDP in extra revenue will come from an increase in the country's corporate tax from 10% to 12.5% and an increase in the tax on interest income from 15% to 30%. The country's corporate-tax rate will remain among the lowest in Europe, on an equal footing with Ireland's, and will allow Cyprus to continue to use its tax regime to attract businesses, but the increase in withholding tax will make it substantially less attractive as a place for individuals to leave their savings. Cyprus Leader Invites Family Firm Probe (FT) Cyprus president Nicos Anastasiades has urged judges investigating the country's banking disaster to examine transactions handled by his family law firm as "a priority" in a bid to defuse public anger over last-minute transfers by well-connected Cypriots, Russians and Ukrainians who thereby avoided a "haircut" on their uninsured deposits. The move followed questions over whether a company managed by the president's son-in-law made use of inside information to transfer more than 20 million euros out of Laiki Bank days before its collapse. Marc Lasry In French Follies (NYP) Lasry, the CEO and co-founder of Avenue Capital, is on his way to getting a plum assignment as the US ambassador to France as a reward for his many years as a big Democratic fundraiser. But the Moroccan-born, French-speaking American could encounter some uncomfortable moments when he lands in Paris, given his views on the land of fine wine, crusty baguettes — and European socialism. “We don’t invest in France,” he said at a New York hedge-fund conference sponsored by French bank BNP in June 2010, even apologizing to his hosts as he made the comment. Lasry, who is a bankruptcy lawyer by training, loves to chide other countries for their creditor-unfriendly ways. His $11.7 billion distressed debt fund buys up beaten-down credits of companies headed towards bankruptcy, with the payout determined by their ranking in the process. That can be dicey in countries like France, he explained at the BNP conference, as “the legal system is very much tilted towards helping unions and workers.” As a result, he said, “you might find your claim disallowed.” 1,000 pot plants seized in Queens in warehouse raid (NYDN) A massive drug operation went up in smoke Tuesday when law enforcement officials raided an indoor marijuana farm in Queens. Authorities seized more than 1,000 pot plants - along with grow lights and other gear - from the 44th Rd. warehouse in Long Island City just after 3 p.m. , police sources said. Officials from the NYPD, state police and the federal Drug Enforcement Agency also rounded up five suspects in the sweep. New York-for-Buenos Aires Swap Theory Spreads: Argentina Credit (Bloomberg) Argentina’s refusal to improve its offer to holders of defaulted debt suing for full payment in the U.S. is deepening speculation that the nation will sever ties with the overseas bond market. The proposal submitted on March 29 mimics the terms of Argentina’s 2005 and 2010 debt exchanges, a move that could lead to a default on the restructured notes unless the country removes them from U.S. jurisdiction. BofA Chief Moynihan Said to Summon Managers for Revenue Push (Bloomberg) Bank of America Corp. Chief Executive Officer Brian T. Moynihan has summoned more than 100 of his regional leaders to a private meeting today where they’ll be pushed to boost the lender’s flagging revenue, said two people with direct knowledge of the project. Managers at the two-day event in Chicago will be judged on how much progress they’ve made in helping to sell more products to the 53 million customers of the second-biggest U.S. lender, said the people, who asked for anonymity because Moynihan’s plan hasn’t been made public. Revenue has dropped every year of Moynihan’s three-year tenure as he sold assets, repaired the firm’s balance sheet and settled more than $40 billion in claims tied to defective mortgages. Private Sector Adds 158,000 Jobs (WSJ) Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires expected ADP to report a gain of 192,000 private jobs. However, the February job gain was revised up to 237,000 from 198,000 reported a month ago. SEC Embraces Social Media (WSJ) In a ruling that portends changes to how companies communicate with investors, the Securities and Exchange Commission said Tuesday that postings on sites such as Facebook and Twitter are just as good as news releases and company websites as long as the companies have told investors which outlets they intend to use. Gray seal pup saved from death on Montauk beach now recovering (NYDN) The three-month-old seal, underweight at 40 pounds, is now resting in one of the foundation's rehabilitation tanks at the Atlantic Marine World aquarium in Riverhead. "She feels very sassy in her tank and doesn't appreciate anything we are doing for her," laughed Kimberly Durham, director of the rescue program, "which is a good sign. A nasty seal is a good sign that she is getting better because they are wild animals.

(Getty Images)

Opening Bell: 12.13.17

Big upset in Alabama senate race; Google looms over Fidelity; bitcoin shorts only cost you 5x leverage; Dina Powell eyes a return to Goldman; don't check your phone while running from the police; and more.