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GameStop Resurgence Reinforces New Reality for Hedge Funds [WSJ]
U.S. stock-picking hedge funds, which bet on and against stocks, are more tilted toward bullish bets than in any other period since 2010, Morgan Stanley’s prime brokerage unit said in a note this week…. To protect themselves, hedge funds have gravitated toward bets that spread out their risk, said managers and their clients. Some are following new internal rules to close out short positions before they lose too much money…. Another lesson from GameStop is to avoid disclosing certain holdings so as to not attract attention from opposite-minded investors. One strategy is to use so-called total return swaps….

Mortgage Companies Want In on the IPO Boom. Investors Aren’t Convinced. [WSJ]
Two lenders that have gone public this year, Home Point Capital Inc. loanDepot Inc., considerably scaled back their offerings. Another lender, AmeriHome Mortgage, abandoned its IPO plans and instead said it would sell to a bank. Shares of Caliber Home Loans Inc., which were expected to list in October, have yet to hit the public market.

SPAC Frenzy Emboldens Silicon Valley Startups to Forgo Venture Funding [WSJ]
Increasingly that means companies, like Archer, arrive on public markets before establishing such business basics as commercially ready technology. In the past, private companies raised round after round of venture capital, growing in valuation and refining their business plans before listing publicly, often more than 10 years after their founding…. While venture capitalists have enjoyed the high valuations brought by the SPAC frenzy, some have grown concerned.

Thasunda Brown Duckett will become the second Black female CEO currently in the Fortune 500 [Fortune]
Many of the women currently serving as Fortune 500 chiefs are concentrated in the bottom half of the list, meaning they oversee companies that are smaller by revenue. Often, these leaders are in industries like retail that have done a better job promoting women to the top jobs…. Duckett has long been a rising star in the finance industry and at JPMorgan, where her role as consumer banking chief since 2016 saw her oversee $600 billion in deposits, 4,900 branches, and 40,000 employees. She's also held roles as CEO of Chase Auto Finance, SVP for emerging markets and affordable lending, and SVP in home lending. She started her career at Fannie Mae, where her work included leading affordable housing initiatives for people of color.

Bitcoin may replace bonds, Cathie Wood says [MarketWatch]
“You think about the traditional 60/40 stock-bond portfolio, but look what’s happening to bonds right now. If we are ending a 40-year secular decline in interest rates, that asset class has done its thing. What’s next? We think crypto could be the solution,” said Wood…. “We know there’s a concern given all the quantitative easing and the no-rules based monetary policy out there. Fixed income has done 40 years of really hard work,” Wood said. “If Bitcoin represents a new asset class, why not invest in it?”

TikTok owner ByteDance to pay $92M in US privacy settlement [AP]
The federal lawsuit alleged that TikTok broke the Illinois biometric privacy law, which allows suits against companies that harvest consumer data without consent, including via facial and fingerprint scanning. Illinois is the only state with a law that allows people to seek monetary damages for such unauthorized data collection.

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Opening Bell: 8.17.21

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By mattbuck [CC BY-SA 2.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 or CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Opening Bell: 8.24.17

Credit default swaps are coming back in style; Social Capital wants to end the IPO as we know it; Buddhist bitcoin; and more.

By kloniwotski (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Opening Bell: 9.11.17

Goldman wants to conquer U.K. retail; China is done tolerating bitcoin; Jamie Dimon's fondness for D.C. grows; don't shoot guns at the hurricane; and more.

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Opening Bell: 4.5.21

Masa buys; GameStop sells; journalism saved?; chocolonely; and more!

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Opening Bell: 7.6.21

Di-don’t; “people don’t like commuting, but so what?”; money can’t buy the district attorney’s office; and more!

gamestop 3

Opening Bell: 3.9.21

GameStop, victims bounce back; SoFi buys a charter; SPAC daddies; private equity hiring (lobbyists); and more!

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Opening Bell: 12.17.20

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Opening Bell: 02.07.13

Credit Suisse Returns To Profit (WSJ) In the fourth quarter, Credit Suisse's net profit was 397 million francs, compared with a net loss of 637 million francs a year earlier when restructuring charges weighed on earnings. Revenue, which includes interest income, fees and trading proceeds, rose 29% to 5.8 billion francs. Analysts had expected a profit of 563 million francs and revenue of 6.14 billion francs. State Lawsuits Could Add To S&P Exposure (WSJ) On Tuesday, the Justice Department sued S&P for allegedly causing some banks and credit unions to lose $5 billion after relying on the company's ratings of mortgage-linked securities. However, the $5 billion claim, which S&P has dismissed as "meritless," is only part of the legal battle being fought by the world's largest credit-ratings firm by number of deals rated. Thirteen states and the District of Columbia have followed in the Justice Department's footsteps, filing separate lawsuits against S&P on Tuesday. The California attorney general alone is suing S&P for about $4 billion to recover funds for two of the country's largest public pension funds, according to its lawsuit. Other states, such as Colorado and Arkansas, are demanding S&P give back the revenue it earned on precrisis ratings of hundreds of securities. State prosecutors allege S&P presented its ratings as based on objective and independent analysis but actually were inflated to cater to the banks that helped arrange and sell the securities. S&P Hires Top Defense Attorney for $5 Billion Lawsuit (Reuters) Standard and Poor's has hired John Keker, one of the country's top white-collar defense attorneys, to help fight the $5 billion lawsuit brought by the U.S. government this week. Keker, who is based in San Francisco and has represented everyone from cyclist Lance Armstrong to Enron's Andrew Fastow, was hired at the recommendation of Floyd Abrams, a prominent New York attorney who also represents the ratings firm. RBS Settles Rate Charges (WSJ) CFTC enforcement chief David Meister said Wednesday that the trading floor was "laden with conflicts of interest," where RBS traders "seized the opportunity to ask colleagues sitting in the next chair for false rate submissions." From mid-2006 to the end of 2010, traders at RBS tried hundreds of times to rig the London interbank offered rate, or Libor, sometimes succeeding, said U.S. and U.K. regulators as they announced a $612 million settlement with the British bank. ‘Historic Winter Storm’ Moving Toward U.S. Northeast (Bloomberg) A “potential historic winter storm” and blizzard may dump 2 feet of snow on Boston and eastern Massachusetts, potentially causing power outages and leaving 10 inches in New York City. Eighteen to 24 inches (46 to 61 centimeters) of snow may fall in Boston, and the city has an 85 percent chance of receiving at least 12 inches from the storm that is expected to arrive in two days, according to the latest forecast from National Weather Service in Taunton, Massachusetts, published at at 4:25 a.m. Eastern Standard Time. “Heavy snow and gusty winds will bring the potential for blizzard conditions. The worst of the storm will be Friday night into the morning,” the weather service said. The storm arrives on almost the 35th anniversary of the Blizzard of 1978, which killed 99 people, destroyed 2,000 homes, drove 10,000 residents into shelters and paralyzed eastern Massachusetts and northern Rhode Island for a week, according to the weather service. Ireland Moves Toward Debt Deal (WSJ) Under Ireland's new proposal, the government will provide a long-term bond to the Irish central bank that replaces the note, the Irish finance ministry said. IBRC will be liquidated and its remaining commercial property assets will be dispatched to Ireland's so-called bad bank, the National Asset Management Agency. Mr. Noonan told lawmakers early Thursday that there was still "no deal," but he needed to announce new powers to liquidate IBRC—the first step toward potentially striking such a debt agreement—to protect the country from unspecified legal challenges. Man Claims IRS Agent Coerced Him Into Sex (CBS) An Oregon man is suing the U.S. Government and a female IRS agent he alleges pressured him into sex, by threatening a tax penalty. Vincent Burroughs, of Fall Creek, Ore., says the harassing relationship began in August of 2011 when Dora Abrahamson, an agent with the Internal Revenue Service, called him and said he would be audited, CBS affiliate KVAL reports. Burroughs says he didn't know Abrahamson, and that he hadn't met her before those calls - nor had he heard that he was being audited by the IRS. "She was sending me texts that she wanted to come out, give me massages because she needed to help me relax," Burroughs said in a phone interview with KVAL News. Over the next two months, Burroughs alleges that Abrahamson sent him several flirtatious text messages - offering to give massages, asking to meet him, and sending racy photos of herself to his cell phone. "She said she knew more than my mother knew about me," said Burroughs. In the lawsuit, Burroughs says in September 2011 Abrahamson came to his home wearing provocative attire. "Next thing I know, she's at my gate, honking...so I opened my gate, she came into my property dressed exactly like [when] she texted me," Burroughs said. The lawsuit states: "She said that she could impose no penalty, or a 40% penalty, and that if he would give her what she wanted, she would give him what she needed." E-Mails Imply JPMorgan Knew Some Mortgage Deals Were Bad (NYT) When an outside analysis uncovered serious flaws with thousands of home loans, JPMorgan Chase executives found an easy fix. Rather than disclosing the full extent of problems like fraudulent home appraisals and overextended borrowers, the bank adjusted the critical reviews,according to documents filed early Tuesday in federal court in Manhattan. As a result, the mortgages, which JPMorgan bundled into complex securities, appeared healthier, making the deals more appealing to investors. The trove of internal e-mails and employee interviews, filed as part of a lawsuit by one of the investors in the securities, offers a fresh glimpse into Wall Street's mortgage machine, which churned out billions of dollars of securities that later imploded. The documents reveal that JPMorgan, as well as two firms the bank acquired during the credit crisis, Washington Mutual and Bear Stearns, flouted quality controls and ignored problems, sometimes hiding them entirely, in a quest for profit. Harvard’s Gopinath Helps France Beat Euro Straitjacket (Bloomberg) When French President Francois Hollande unveiled a plan in November for a business tax credit and higher sales taxes as a way to revive the economy, he was implementing an idea championed by economist Gita Gopinath. Gopinath, 41, a professor at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has pushed for tax intervention as a way forward for euro-area countries that cannot devalue their exchange rates. “Fiscal devaluation” is helping France turn the corner during a period of extreme budget constraints, former Airbus SAS chief Louis Gallois said in a business- competitiveness report Hollande commissioned. Gopinath’s support for the theory took shape through her years teaching at Harvard and the University of Chicago and particularly as a Ph.D. student at Princeton University under the guidance of Kenneth Rogoff, Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas and Ben Bernanke, now chairman of the Federal Reserve. While her earlier work on current accounts and balance of payments garnered praise, it is her recent focus on the 17 euro nations that has national leaders paying action. John Thomas Financial Said To Draw Regulatory Probe (NYP) Wall Street brokerage firm John Thomas Financial, owned by flamboyant founder and CEO Tommy Belesis — who gained more than 15 minutes of fame from his role in Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” — is being probed by the brokerage industry, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the FBI, The Post has learned. Agents from the FBI’s New York office have been knocking on doors of people associated with the firm, asking questions about JTF’s business practices, including cold calling by brokers and Belesis’ overseas accounts, sources told The Post. Fewer Workers Filed Claims for U.S. Jobless Benefits Last Week (Bloomberg) Applications for jobless benefits dropped 5,000 to 366,000 in the week ended Feb. 2, Labor Department figures showed today. Economists forecast 360,000 claims, according to the median of 53 estimates in a Bloomberg survey. Big Mac Prices Show Which Euro Zone States Best at Belt-Tightening (Reuter) Economist Guntram Wolff took the data and found that the price rise in Greece, Portugal and Spain has been less than the euro zone average, while in Ireland the price actually fell. These are the main countries undergoing deep economic reform due to the debt crisis. This contrasts with price rises above the euro zone burger average in Germany. Wolff concludes from this that economic adjustment is working. For example, In Ireland, which has made spending cuts after receiving international aid, the burger price has fallen from 3.80 euros to less than 3.50 euros. There is one notable exception, however. Heavily-indebted Italy is the most expensive country in the euro area to buy a Big Mac - 3.85 euros - while it costs just 3.64 euros in Germany. PETA: Naked chicken corpses aren't sexy (CM) The American founder of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, president Ingrid Newkirk, criticised a newspaper for running a picture of a raw chicken. "We don't want to see any chickens on display, but instead want them to live natural, happy lives with their families. Sexily displaying the corpse of a chicken who has been bred to grow so big, so quickly, that many collapse under their own weight, is just additionally offensive."