Dollar edges up, Asian stocks slip as U.S.-China tensions flare [Reuters]
In reduced trade, with China and Japan on holiday, U.S. stock futures fell 1.7% and U.S. crude tumbled 7%. The safe-haven U.S. dollar rallied to one-week highs against the risk sensitive Australian and New Zealand dollars….
U.S. President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo added to worries with fresh efforts to pin blame for the pandemic on China, where the new coronavirus outbreak is believed to have originated…..
West Texas Intermediate crude futures last sat at $18.38 per barrel, down $1.40, while Brent futures were down 2.4%, or 62 cents, at $25.82.

J. Crew Files for Bankruptcy in Virus’s First Big Retail Casualty [NYT]
J. Crew announced that its parent company, Chinos Holdings, had filed for Chapter 11 protection in federal bankruptcy court for the Eastern District of Virginia. As part of its financial reorganization plan, it will hand over control to top creditors, including the hedge fund Anchorage Capital, by converting $1.65 billion of its debt into equity…. There is widespread acknowledgment that J. Crew is unlikely to be the only retailer to face the brink…. Other big industry names including Neiman Marcus and J.C. Penney are also struggling with the toll of mass shutdowns.

Fed Won’t Use Stimulus Aid to Push Libor Replacement [WSJ]
The Federal Reserve has scrapped plans to use a $600 billion aid program for small and midsize businesses to promote the use of its preferred replacement for the troubled London interbank offered rate…. The Fed said in a question-and-answer document accompanying the announcement that it made the change based on feedback from program participants. They had warned that “quickly implementing new systems to issue loans based on SOFR would require diverting resources from challenges related to the pandemic.”

Donald Trump And The Fed Could Be About To Destroy The U.S. Banking System [Forbes]
President Trump and the Fed are edging closer to negative interest rates—something legendary investor Warren Buffett has warned could have "extreme consequences…."
"One of the things [the Fed] wants to do is protect the banking system," William Lee, chief economist at the California-based economic think tank Milken Institute, told CNBC this weekend.
"We've learned our lesson from Japan and the Europeans; when you go to negative rates you start impairing the banking system.”

Hedge funds make money in April, Ackman gains 13.6% in month: investors [Reuters]
Pershing Square Capital Management, the New York-based hedge fund run by William Ackman that pushes companies to perform better, gained 13.6% in its Pershing Square Holdings fund in April, leaving it up 17.3% for the year…. Citadel, the Chicago-based hedge fund giant which relies on teams of traders to make bets on stocks, bonds, commodities and other securities, earned a 4% return in its flagship Wellington hedge fund last month, according to a performance estimate. The fund is now up 10% for the year, a person familiar with the numbers said….
On average, hedge funds gained 2.73% for the month through April 23 and are now off only 4.6% for the year, data from Morgan Stanley show.

Stocks Owned by Passive Funds Fared Worse in the Selloff. The Question: What’s the Reason? [WSJ]
Stocks with the highest ownership levels by passive funds fell nearly 3 percentage points more than those most likely to be owned by active managers (40.4% versus 37.5%)…. The sole exception to the rule appeared to be health care, which lost “only” 30.3% during the meltdown period, compared with 60.7% for energy companies or 45.2% for the financial services sector….
“It’s logical to say that sectors with highest passive ownership will fall more during a selloff,” argues Ms. Zhu. “My thinking is that it’s because ETFs will sell immediately when investors redeem assets; they don’t need to peek under the hood to decide which stocks to sell.”

Michael Cohen Remains in Prison Amid Confusion Over Coronavirus Release Policy [WSJ]
Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, didn’t return home as scheduled on Friday from federal prison…. Mr. Cohen’s early release hasn’t been rescinded, and he will be eligible at the end of the month….
Mr. Cohen’s predicament comes amid confusion over the way federal prison officials have been placing inmates in home confinement…. Officials have said they are continuing to review the cases that were in limbo, expediting release for those who qualify.

Who will be in your lock-down ‘bubble’? [Daily Mail]
An easing of lockdown rules could allow people to socialise with up to ten of their closest family and friends, it can be revealed today…. people would nominate a small list of those they want to be able to see, drawn from no more than one or two households.
Those involved would then be able to meet for meals and other social activities. But neither group would be allowed to mingle with others outside the 'cluster'…. Belgium and Scotland are also looking at the idea.

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By World Economic Forum from Cologny, Switzerland [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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Opening Bell: 1.9.17

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Opening Bell: 5.15.17

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Opening Bell: 9.23.20

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Opening Bell: 11.9.17

The sad, strange story of Deutsche Bank; banks are ditching the Fed; Cohn on taxes; millennials are (you guessed it!_ killing the very foundation of financial capitalism; sheep like Obama; and more.

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Opening Bell: 4.3.17

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By Sadie Hernandez [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Opening Bell: 8.17.16

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Opening Bell: 11.30.12

Germany Approves Greek Aid (WSJ) German parliamentarians approved with an overwhelming majority a package of new aid measures for Greece Friday, clinching support for a plan to close a €14 billion ($18.17 billion) gap in the heavily indebted nation's finances and to ready a near €44 billion tranche of promised aid. The vote shows that German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been able to consolidate the support of her center-right coalition of Christian Democrats and Free Democrats, many of whom have expressed skepticism that Greece can be saved without significant costs to German taxpayers. Her coalition voted 90% in favor of the measures. Leave "fairy world" behind, Draghi tells euro zone (Reuters) "We have not yet emerged from the crisis," Draghi told Europe 1 radio. "The recovery for most of the euro zone will certainly begin in the second half of 2013." "The crisis has shown that we were living in a fairy world," the ECB chief later added at a conference with top financial officials, pointing to the unsustainable debts, weak banks and poor policy coordination that gave birth to the crisis three years ago. Obama Takes ‘Fiscal Cliff’ on the Road; Republicans Stew (CNBC) President Barack Obama, reapplying his re-election campaign theme of protecting the middle class, heads to Pennsylvania on Friday suggesting that Republicans could spoil Christmas by driving the country over the "fiscal cliff." The president's road trip, visiting a factory that makes Hasbro's [HAS 38.60 --- UNCH] Tinkertoys, is infuriating Republicans. House Speaker John Boehner called it a "victory lap" as he rejected Obama's proposals to avoid the cliff, the combination of tax increases and spending cuts set to start taking effect in January. Berkshire Hathaway, CaixaBank Agree to Reinsurance Deal (WSJ) Berkshire Hathaway will pay CaixaBank SA million €600 million ($778.7 million) for the future cash flow from a portfolio of life insurance policies, the Barcelona-based bank said Friday, a rare dip into a fiscally stressed euro-zone country for the investment firm run by Warren Buffett. If You Like Late Nights, Try Being an Analyst in Hungary (WSJ) As the clock ticked toward midnight on a recent night, stock analyst Gergely Gabler sat sleepily in his pajamas at the small desk in his bedroom, waiting. Then, just after 12, he sprang into action, evaluating the newly released earnings report of Hungary's largest bank. For the next two hours, Mr. Gabler worked on a report about OTP Bank's performance for clients of his firm, Hungarian brokerage Equilor Investments, before catching some shut eye, only to awake about 3½ hours later so he could be in his office to field questions by 7 a.m. Burning the midnight oil is a painful quarterly tradition for analysts and financial journalists in Hungary, where the country's biggest blue-chip companies publish their results in the wee hours, after markets in New York have closed and long before they open anywhere in Europe. "I'm a night owl, so I don't mind staying up," Mr. Gabler said. The hard part, the 28-year-old said, is getting out of bed the next day. That morning, he grabbed a red-and-black can of Hell, a caffeine-laden Hungarian energy drink, to fuel his workday. Moody's Puts Aston Martin on Watch for Downgrade (NYT) “The review was prompted by a significant deterioration in Aston Martin’s liquidity profile as per end September 2012, caused by a much weaker cash generation and operating performance in the third quarter than anticipated by the company and compared to Moody’s expectations,” Falk Frey, a Moody’s analyst, said in a statement. Harvard Approves BDSM Group (Crimson) It started last October with a meal in Currier dining hall with a handful of friends who shared something in common: an affinity for kinky sex. More than a year after the group first began informally meeting over meals to discuss issues and topics relating to kinky sex, Harvard College Munch has grown from seven to about 30 members and is one of 15 student organization that will be approved by the Committee on Student Life this Friday. Michael, who was granted anonymity by The Crimson to protect his privacy, is the founder of Munch, an informal lunch or dinner meeting for people across the kink community. For him, the recognition will provide a sense of ease for current and future members, knowing they are receiving institutional support. “It’s a little hyperbolic for me to get teary-eyed and paternal about sophomores, but it’s really a joy to see the experience they will have now,” Michael said. Michael said there are many benefits to being officially recognized on campus such as being able to poster for events and promote Munch’s presence...But for Michael, the biggest advantage to being recognized comes with “the fact of legitimacy,” he said. “[Our recognition] shows we are being taken seriously.” Mae, a member of the organization who asked to be identified by her middle name, said since its formation the group has provided her with a comfortable space to discuss her interests. “I didn’t think that anyone was even remotely interested [in kink] on campus,” Mae said. “It’s a community where you can feel safe, and you can feel comfortable talking about [kink].” Cohen's Damage Control (NYP) Beleaguered hedge fund honcho Steve Cohen held a conference call yesterday for his roughly 1,000 employees to explain potential civil charges against his firm, SAC Capital Advisors. The call with SAC’s employees went over similar talking points as the call with investors the previous day, according to a person familiar with the call. In the latest call, officials notified employees that last week, the $14 billion Stamford, Conn., hedge fund received a Wells Notice from the Securities and Exchange Commission tied to trading by a former portfolio manager who was arrested Nov. 20 on insider trading charges. McDonald’s Starved for Ideas as Burger King Lures Diners (Bloomberg) Burger King has been excelling at a game McDonald’s worked to perfect years ago, introducing a steady stream of new menu items, such as snack wraps and gingerbread sundaes for the holidays. McDonald’s has “not had anything to talk about of substance,” Michael Kelter, a New York-based analyst at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., said in an interview. “People are going elsewhere.” Hong Kong IPOs Generate Little Excitement (WSJ) Hong Kong appears unlikely to regain its position as the world's top venue for initial public offerings anytime soon. In recent days, the city's biggest IPO in two years drew only lukewarm support, while another deal ran up against insufficient demand and a third was postponed. Recession Left Baby Bust as U.S. Births Lowest Since 1920 (Bloomberg) The country’s birth rate fell 8 percent from 2007 to 2010, according to a Pew Research Center report. The rate dropped 6 percent for U.S.-born women and plummeted 14 percent for foreign-born females since 2007, the onset of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. The decline continued last year to the lowest point since records began in 1920. Rogue caviar fugitive Mario Garbarino admits his guilt in fishy egg smuggling scheme (NYDN) Isidoro (Mario) Garbarino, 69, who went on the lam 23 years ago pleaded guilty Thursday to smuggling $10 million worth of Russian and Iranian savruga and beluga to New York more than two decades ago. Garbarino’s plea deal requires him to pay $3 million in restitution. He also faces up to four years in prison when he is sentenced in January. Garbarino, a supplier to fancy gourmet shops including Zabar's, was indicted in 1987 for cheating the government on import duties. Feds say his Bronx company, Aquamar Gourmet Imports, engaged in an elaborate scheme to smuggle more than 100,000 pounds of the expensive delicacy from 1984 to 1987. As part of the plot, Garbarino switched the high-quality caviar with much cheaper American caviar which he then sold to Pan Am, other airlines and cruise ships operators as the real thing. In 1989, Garbarino fled. He was nabbed two months ago in Panama and extradited to New York. "Isidoro Garbarino ran his high-end importation business in a low-end way — cheating the government out of millions of dollars in tax revenues and defrauding his international clients who paid top dollar for exotic caviar they did not receive," said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara...Garbarino admitted he “occasionally misrepresented the nature of the caviar” to avoid paying the required taxes.