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U.S. weekly jobless claims total 207,000, higher than expected amid omicron spread [CNBC]
“Weekly unemployment claims only ticked up for the latest week, showing the surge in Omicron cases hasn’t increased layoffs,” said Robert Frick, corporate economist at Navy Federal Credit Union. “Given the surge is expected to drop significantly in the next month, and employers are clinging to the workers they have in the face of a record number of employees quitting, omicron may not affect layoffs at all.”

Hedge fund Senvest posts 85% return in 2021 riding GameStop meme, among Wall Street’s best [CNBC]
In the year through November, Senvest, with $3.2 billion in assets under management, stood as the best-performing hedge fund, according to figures tallied by HSBC…. Those who were on the opposite side of the GameStop trade had a harder time recovering. Melvin Capital, which met the ire of retail traders due to a publicly disclosed put position on the video-game retailer, posted losses of 39 percent in 2021, according to a person with knowledge of the figures.
However, after January, Melvin was firmly positive, with returns of 33 percent between Feb. 1 and Dec. 31, the person said.

U.S. Venture Capital Shattered Records in 2021 [II]
U.S. investments in venture capital exceeded $300 billion for the first time, nearly doubling 2020’s $166.6 billion figure…. “The way that [nontraditional investors] have jumped headfirst into venture…is driving many of the data trends we’re seeing,” [CAIA senior analyst Kyle] Stanford said. “Companies are able to raise these $100 million rounds much easier than they have in the past because there’s so much of this extra-large capital trying to get stakes in these companies before they go public.”

Despite Theranos and Other Disasters, Startup Founders Have More Power Than Ever [WSJ]
“Founders have as much or more control in the [Silicon] Valley ecosystem than they have ever had,” says Adam Epstein, an adviser on corporate governance to CEOs and their boards.
Why? For many in the startup world, Theranos and its ilk are the exceptions to what they see as a rule: that, in general, founder control is essential for the dynamism characteristic of American-style capitalism and innovation.

Crypto scammers took a record $14 billion in 2021 [CNBC]
Losses from crypto-related crime rose 79% from a year earlier, driven by a spike in theft and scams.
Scamming was the greatest form of cryptocurrency-based crime in 2021, followed by theft — most of which occurred through hacking of cryptocurrency businesses….
One problem with DeFi, according to Kim Grauer, Chainalysis’ head of research, is that many of the new protocols being launched have code vulnerabilities that hackers are able to exploit. Twenty-one percent of all hacks in 2021 took advantage of these code exploits.

Crypto Security Is Biggest Concern for Institutional Investors [Bloomberg]
The survey of institutional investors and wealth managers, who collectively manage around $108.4 billion, showed 79% see asset custody as the key consideration whether to invest in this space….
Respondents are also optimistic about the prospect of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission being empowered with more authority to regulate these assets…. “If the SEC is granted these extra powers, 73% of institutional investors and wealth managers believe this will have a positive impact on the price of crypto and digital assets and 32% believe it will have a very positive effect,” the report said. 

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djemog

Opening Bell: 7.23.20

Unemployment rises; Tesla surprises; Bryant bankrupt; herding east; and more!

By Mike Cauldwell (https://www.casascius.com/photos.aspx) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Opening Bell: 5.3.22

The Crypto Cops are coming; NFTS are cratering; Elliott is prowling; GameStop shorts are squirming; and more!

By Luis Villa del Campo from Madrid, Spain (Times Square - NASDAQ) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Opening Bell: 3.11.22

Chinese companies on the chopping block; recession risk rises; crypto-401(k)s checked; Elon Musk is homeless; and more!

(Getty Images for New York Times)

Opening Bell: 2.8.17

Druckenmiller buys something shiny; hedge fund scams 9/11 heroes; Harambe-shaped cheeto attracts $100k; and more.

By Mike Cauldwell (https://www.casascius.com/photos.aspx) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Opening Bell: 6.9.21

Cascade of cash; infrastructure talks buckle; NuBuffett; and more!

arod

Opening Bell: 2.5.21

Relief filibuster catches COVID; Giuliani’s guys catch SEC attention; Clover Health, too; A-Rod’s grand SPAC; and more!

By Mike Cauldwell (https://www.casascius.com/photos.aspx) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Opening Bell: 5.26.21

MGM-azon; stonks stomp shorts; blue-chip birthday; a modest proposal re: cryptocurrencies; and more!

Opening Bell: 02.28.13

EU Bonus Rules Meet Anger (WSJ) The new rules would prevent banks from promising bonuses that exceed an employee's salary—though, with shareholder approval, bonus payments could rise to double the salary. The rules, which are supposed to kick in at the beginning of next year and appear to be the world's toughest, still need to be approved by EU member states and the full European Parliament. European banking executives and trade groups say the rules—which are likely to apply to all European bank's employees around the world—will put the industry at a severe disadvantage relative to U.S. and Asian banks, and that it will provoke unintended consequences. Banks early Thursday weren't yet publicly commenting as they digested the news. But executives privately didn't hold back. "It's a disaster," said a senior investment-banking executive at a top European bank. "It's a crazy policy" that could jeopardize European banks' abilities to hire employees in the U.S. or Asia. Jockeying Stalls Deal On Spending Cuts (WSJ) With mandatory across-the-board spending cuts set to begin Friday, the White House and congressional Republicans are poised to let the deadline pass, each calculating that their hand in negotiations only grows stronger if they scorn a quick compromise. The first face-to-face meeting on the issue between President Barack Obama and congressional leaders won't happen until Friday—the deadline for Mr. Obama to set in motion $85 billion in broad spending cuts. None of the participants expect the morning meeting at the White House to produce a breakthrough. In the run-up, with no serious talks under way, each side is maneuvering to ensure the other catches the blame if the cuts kick in. Cuts Unlike To Deliver Promised US Budget Savings (Reuters) The $85 billion cut to budget authority amounts to about 2.4 percent of the $3.6 trillion the U.S. government is expected to spend in the fiscal year that ends on Sept. 30. The actual amount of savings is much less - $43 billion in the current fiscal year, according to the Congressional Budget Office. That's because federal agencies don't spend all of the money they are allocated in any given fiscal year. A $1 billion aircraft carrier, for example, may take years to build. Even at that lower level, the effects are likely to ripple across the world's largest economy in a way that will work against deficit-reduction efforts. Scrutiny Of Heinz Trades Grows (WSJ) The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, a Wall Street self-regulator, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are reviewing numerous trades in Heinz stock shortly before the buyout announcement sent the share price soaring Feb. 14, the people said. The inquiries add to an investigation the Securities and Exchange Commission disclosed Feb. 15 into what it called a "highly suspicious" $90,000 purchase of stock options the day before the deal, a position with a potential profit of $1.7 million. The FBI also has said it launched a criminal investigation into options activity ahead of the deal. Flowers Foods Set To Buy Wonderbread From Hostess (NYP) After no other bidders emerged to challenge it, Flowers Foods is set to snare Wonder and a slew of other bread brands being sold by bankrupt Hostess Brands for $360 million. How The Pope's Retirement Package Compares To Yours (CNBC) Let's start with the basics: The pope emeritus will receive a monthly pension of 2,500 euros, according to Italian newspaper La Stampa. That translates to almost $3,300, or close to the monthly maximum of $3,350 that Social Security will pay to an American who retires this year. Few people will actually qualify for that amount. For starters, you would have to wait until 70 to retire. You would also have to spend most of your working life earning Social Security's taxable maximum pay, which is set at $113,700 this year. "That's quite rare," said Richard Johnson, director of the program on retirement policy at the Urban Institute. He pointed out that the average Social Security check is about $1,200 a month — not enough to pay for the typical American retiree's expenses. "For most people, if you look at the median, Social Security counts for about 40 percent of their income. So it's important, but people rely a lot on other savings, like pensions or 401(k) savings," Johnson said. A big nest egg is not something the pope emeritus has to worry about. The Roman Catholic Church will cover his living expenses, provide him with a spacious home inside the Vatican and pay for everything from cooked meals to housekeepers, according to The Telegraph. Such services are not available to the typical American senior, unless he or she pays for an assisted living facility or resides in a nursing home, Johnson said...Health care costs are one of the big risks that older Americans face, and while Medicare pays for the bulk of their expenses, many things are left uncovered, Johnson said. Meanwhile, the pope emeritus will continue to be a member of the Vatican's generous private health care policy, the BBC reported. Blackstone Profits From Regulation With Citigroup Deal (Bloomberg) Blackstone has devised a way to profit from regulation: It’s helping banks meet tougher capital rules without the pain of selling assets or raising equity. The firm last year insured Citigroup against any initial losses on a $1.2 billion pool of shipping loans, said two people with knowledge of the transaction, who asked not to be identified because the matter is private. The regulatory capital trade, Blackstone’s first, will let Citigroup cut how much it setsaside to cover defaults by as much as 96 percent, while keeping the loans on its balance sheet, the people said. RBS Moves To Appease UK (WSJ) The 81%-state-owned bank unveiled a series of moves to ease government and regulatory pressure on the bank to become more U.K. focused and better capitalized. Chief Executive Stephen Hester confirmed that it would list around 25% of the U.S.-based RBS Citizens bank in the next two years "to highlight the valuable nature of the business." RBS also said it would further pare back its investment bank, shedding jobs and cutting risk-weighted assets to £80 billion ($121.3 billion), from £101.3 billion at the end of 2012. Unemployment aid claims fall by 22,000 last week (AP) The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid fell 22,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 344,000, evidence that the job market may be picking up. The four-week average of applications dropped 6,750 to 355,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. That was the first drop in three weeks. Too Big To Fail Hurting Too Small To Compete Banks (Bloomberg) Investors such as Joshua Siegel, founder and managing principal at New York-based StoneCastle Partners LLC, see bigger changes at the other end of the spectrum. Small banks will seek mergers because their management teams are aging and new regulations are too costly to bear, he says. “If you need one major overriding theme of the industry in the next three, five, seven, 10 years: massive consolidation, thousands of banks,” says Siegel, whose firm managed $5.1 billion as of the end of last year and invests in small banks. In the U.S., “I do see probably anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000 banks being swallowed up, and what you’ll see then is a more- concentrated system.” Dennis Rodman Tells Kim Jong Un: You Have A Friend For Life (NYP) Rodman and Kim sat side by side at an exhibition game in Pyongyang on Thursday, chatting as they watched players from North Korea and the US play in mixed teams, Alex Detrick, a spokesman for the New York-based VICE media company, told The Associated Press. Rodman later addressed Kim before a crowd of thousands, telling him, "You have a friend for life," Detrick said. The encounter makes Rodman the most high-profile American to meet with the young North Korean leader, said to be a diehard basketball fan.