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Boris Johnson Is No Party for Financial Markets [WSJ]
The pound was the best-performing major currency Monday after news broke that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson would that evening face a no-confidence vote by lawmakers of his own ruling Conservative Party. The challenge to his leadership follows widespread anger about parties held at Downing Street during the Covid-19 lockdowns. Mr. Johnson ended up hanging on to his job by 211 votes against 148, which may help explain part of sterling’s overnight dip…. Arguably, a chunk of the continuing underperformance is best ascribed not to specific trade relationships, policies or even indiscretions with cakes, but rather to Mr. Johnson prolonging the post-Brexit state of uncertainty…. Investors shouldn’t expect a potential leadership reshuffle to trigger a magical revaluation of U.K. stocks. But it could be a start.

JPM’s chief economist, others disagree with Dimon’s ‘hurricane’ warning [N.Y. Post]
[Bruce] Kasman said Monday that there is “no real reason to be worried about a recession,” arguing economic growth will continue in the months ahead – albeit at a slower pace due to high inflation that has rattled businesses and households…. We don’t see a near-term recession, we see a global economy which actually does okay in the second half of the year, with the US slowing and the rest of the world doing somewhat better,” he added….
Kasman’s view is shared by some analysts at Goldman Sachs, who told clients in a note Monday that the economy would slow in the months ahead but likely avoid a recession….

Recession will be 'hard to avoid' as stagflation risks rise: World Bank [Yahoo!]
In its updated Global Economic Prospects report, the World Bank slashed its forecast for global growth this year to 2.9%, down from the 4.1% forecast it published in January…. The World Bank urged governments to “cushion the blow” from rising energy and food prices, ease financial burdens by expanding debt relief, and dampen the impact of the ongoing pandemic by increasing vaccinations in low-income countries.

Jane Street Follows Elliott in Suing LME Over Nickel Trades [Bloomberg via Yahoo!]
Wall Street trading powerhouse Jane Street is seeking around $15 million in damages from the London Metal Exchange over its decision in March to cancel nickel trades after an unprecedented short squeeze…. “The LME’s arbitrary decision to cancel nickel trades during a period of heightened volatility severely undermines the integrity of the markets and sets a dangerous precedent that calls future contracts into question,” Jane Street said in emailed comments. The trading firm “has undertaken this action to recoup its losses caused by the LME’s illegal actions and to strengthen the exchange and restore the market’s trust in it,” it said.

Netflix, BlackRock CEOs Among Those Newly Sanctioned by Russia [WSJ]
The Kremlin said the named individuals would be included on its “stop list,” which means a ban on their travel to Russia for an indefinite period. It didn’t provide further details about what the sanctions entailed, or specifically why it was targeting those it named. In some cases, it included leaders of companies that have pulled out of Russia in the wake of the invasion, or that have taken other action that Moscow criticized at the time.

Cipriani to Get New Lifeline With Money From Hedge Fund [WSJ]
King Street Capital Management is in advanced talks to refinance about $150 million of operating debt held by Cipriani’s U.S. subsidiary, according to people familiar with the matter.
That funding would retire loans dating back to 2018 from Ares Capital Corp…. Cipriani’s New York restaurants and event spaces suffered during the pandemic, when public-health restrictions prevented restaurateurs from offering indoor dining for long stretches. It was also deluged with cancellations during a surge in Covid-19 cases caused by the Omicron variant, undermining its lucrative holiday-party and other big-event business.

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Fresh Budget Fights Brewing (WSJ) If Congress doesn't do more in the coming months, Moody's warned, the company could follow Standard & Poor's in downgrading U.S. debt. "Further measures that bring about a downward debt trajectory over the medium term are likely to be needed to support the AAA rating," Moody's said Wednesday. But the battles on how to do that are far from over. Republicans say any further deficit reduction or legislation to avoid across-the-board spending cuts should come from reducing spending. President Obama and many Democrats advocate a combination of tax increases and spending cuts. The most serious skirmish will arrive toward the end of February, when the U.S. Treasury is expected to be unable to pay all the government's bills unless Congress boosts the federal borrowing limit. Then on March 1, the across-the-board spending cuts of the fiscal cliff, deferred in this week's deal, are scheduled to begin slicing into military and domestic programs. And on March 27, a government shutdown looms unless Congress approves funding for government operations for the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. CEOs Pan Fiscal Cliff Deal, Vow to Continue Debt Fight (Reuters) "I think this deal's a disaster," said Peter Huntsman, chief executive of chemical producer Huntsman Corp. "We're just living in a fantasy land. We're borrowing more and more money. This did absolutely nothing to address the fundamental issue of the debt cliff." Former Wells Fargo CEO Dick Kovacevich said the agreement confirms that Washington and both parties are totally out of control. "I think it's a joke," Kovacevich said of the deal. "It's stunning to me that after working on this for months and supposedly really getting to work in the last 30 days that this is what you come up with." 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Pershing to Take 'Passive Shareholder' Role in General Growth (WSJ) Pershing Square Capital Management LP agreed to sell $271.9 million in General Growth Properties warrants to Brookfield Asset Management Inc., as part of a deal between the mall owner's two biggest shareholders that would resolve their recent disputes and see Pershing become a passive shareholder. Brookfield, in turn, offered to sell the warrants, which represent the right to acquire 18.4 million shares of General Growth stock, back to General Growth for the same purchase price. Pershing also agreed to limit its ownership stake in General Growth to no more than 9.9% and intends to become a passive shareholder. Brookfield agreed to limit its ownership in General Growth to 45%. Bank Of Canada won’t discuss melting plastic bills, says national security behind silence (NP) Disclosing details of behind-the-scenes discussions about tales of melting banknotes could endanger national security or international relations, says Canada’s central bank. In response to a formal request from The Canadian Press, the Bank Of Canada released 134 pages of internal records — almost completely blanked out — concerning allegations its new polymer bills melted in the scorching summer sun. The bank began issuing $100 polymer banknotes in late 2011, saying they were harder to counterfeit than paper notes and would last much longer. Unconfirmed reports of cooked currency emerged in July when a Kelowna, B.C., bank teller said she had heard of cases in which several bills had melted together inside a car. 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Paulson conspired with Goldman Sachs to deceive ACA Financial, which provided financial guaranty insurance for the deal, ACA Financial said in papers filed yesterday in Manhattan. Private Sector Added 215,000 Jobs Last Month (WSJ) Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires expected ADP to report a gain of 150,000 private jobs. Preet Bharara and other financial heavyweights opposing Paul Singer's attempt to get Argentina to pay debt (NYP) US Attorney Preet Bharara and BlackRock CEO Larry Fink are among the latest bold-faced names to oppose Singer’s attempt to get Argentina to pay him and others $1.3 billion on defaulted debt. Singer, the hedge fund billionaire who runs Elliott Management, is among the 8 percent of Argentina debtholders who refused to accept a 70 percent haircut following a 2001 default by the embattled South American country. Singer inched closer to winning the epic legal showdown in November when a federal judge ruled Argentina could not pay Fink’s BlackRock or other holders of the reorganized debt without putting money in escrow for Singer’s band of investors. An appeals court slowed Singer’s victory parade but refused to set aside the judge’s order. Now, Bharara, Fink’s $3.67 trillion bond firm and others are urging the appeals court to throw the case out. Basel Becomes Babel as Conflicting Rules Undermine Safety (Bloomberg) While higher capital requirements, curbs on banks trading with their own money and other rules have reduced risk, they have magnified the complexity of supervision, according to two dozen regulators, bankers and analysts interviewed by Bloomberg News. Even if the new regulations can be enforced, they don’t go far enough to ensure safety, said Robert Jenkins, a member of the Bank of England’s financial policy committee. 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Clock Ticks On Cyprus (WSJ) Cyprus, in an 11th-hour bid to unlock international aid, reopen the nation's banking system and preserve membership in the euro, readied a plan that would restructure its second-largest lender and enforce unprecedented restrictions on financial transactions. The proposals, if they take effect, would allow authorities to restrict noncash transactions, curtail check cashing, limit withdrawals and even convert checking accounts into fixed-term deposits when banks reopen. They have been closed since March 16. Parliament is set to debate the measures on Friday. If Cyprus can't pass them, it could find itself with little choice but to leave the euro zone—opening a Pandora's box that could threaten Spain and Italy. Time is short: The European Central Bank on Thursday threatened to cut off a financial lifeline if Cyprus's banks aren't stabilized by Monday. Credit Suisse Chief Gets 34% Raise (WSJ) Credit Suisse rewarded Chief Executive Brady Dougan for repositioning the bank in 2012 with a 34% pay rise, despite a fall in net profit for the year and a backdrop of growing criticism of executive remuneration. Mr. Dougan earned 7.77 million Swiss francs ($8.21 million), up from 5.8 million francs in 2011, when he took a pay cut as Switzerland's No. 2 bank by assets slogged through a difficult year in which its stock price fell 41%. Europe’s Bonus Clampdown Hits Two-Thirds of Fund Managers (Bloomberg) The European Parliament’s vote to cap bonuses in the asset-management industry could affect two- thirds of senior fund managers in the U.K., U.S. funds in Europe and hedge funds open to small investors. Bonuses should not exceed base salaries for managers of mutual funds regulated by the European Union, known as UCITS, European lawmakers in the economic and monetary affairs committee voted yesterday. The rules would cover 5 trillion euros ($6.5 trillion) of assets in UCITS, which include funds managed outside Europe and some linked to hedge-fund strategies such as John Paulson’s New York-based Paulson & Co. and Och-Ziff Capital Management Group. “If the final rules are even close to what has been agreed today, then this will fundamentally change the way asset managers are paid,” said Jon Terry, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLC. Asset managers “are now facing the toughest pay rules across the whole of the financial-services sector.” Boaz Says Dimon Should Have Known (NYP) The buck stops with Jamie Dimon. That’s the view of Boaz Weinstein, the hedge-fund manager who first speared the “London Whale” that led to $6.2 billion in trading losses for Dimon’s JPMorgan. Despite making a bundle by taking the other side of the bank’s bad bet, Boaz says that requiring bank CEOs to sign off on such trades is the only way to prevent debacles. As the “ultimate boss” of JPMorgan, Dimon should have had to approve the complicated trade, he said. “If you had a rule that anytime, anyone wants to make an investment in any one thing greater than $10 billion or $20 billion, the boss has to sign off on it,” then those types of disasters wouldn’t happen, Boaz said yesterday at the Absolute Return Symposium in Manhattan. Long Island Man Accepts Plea Deal in Fake Drowning (AP) The man, Raymond Roth, 48, of Massapequa, pleaded guilty to fourth-degree conspiracy. “The restitution Mr. Roth is ordered to pay ensures that the taxpayers won’t foot the bill for this scam,” said Kathleen M. Rice, the Nassau County district attorney. Prosecutors said Mr. Roth and his son, Jonathan Roth, 22, had plotted to collect about $400,000 in life insurance. The younger man’s case is pending. On July 28, Jonathan Roth told the authorities that his father had gone for a swim at Jones Beach and never came back. Responders searched for Raymond Roth for several days, while he was actually on his way to Orlando, Fla., prosecutors said. Raymond Roth’s wife found e-mails discussing the plot, and the authorities were alerted. Raymond Roth’s lawyer, Brian Davis, said on Thursday that he believed the plea bargain was fair, adding, “At this point, he wants to put it behind him.” Mood Sours In Northern Europe (WSJ) A worsening mood among businesses largely predated fraught negotiations over a Cypriot bailout, which economists say could stoke tensions surrounding the euro zone's debt crisis. Poorer sentiment among businesses lessens the chances of a rise in corporate investment, crucial for an economic recovery in the bloc at a time when most of its member states are cutting spending to control their debts. Economists See No Crisis With U.S. Debt as Economy Gains (Bloomberg) Three years after a government spending surge in response to the recession drove the U.S. past that red line -- the nation’s $16.7 trillion total debt is now 106 percent of the $15.8 trillion economy -- key indicators reflect gathering strength. Businesses have increased spending by 27 percent since the end of 2009. The annual rate of new home construction jumped about 60 percent. Employers have created almost 6 million jobs. And with borrowing costs near record lows, the cost of paying off the debt is lower now than in the year Ronald Reagan left the White House, as a percentage of the economy. BP to return $8 billion to shareholders from TNK-BP sale (Reuters) BP, which completed the sale of the half-owned TNK-BP to Russian state oil firm Rosneft on Thursday, said the move, designed to increase the value of remaining shares, was an amount equivalent to the value of the company's original investment in TNK-BP in 2003. Man finds knife blade in his back three years after stabbing (TS) A Northwest Territories man was just scratching what he thought was an annoying old itch earlier this week when it turned out to be a knife blade that had been buried in his flesh for almost three years. “I jumped in a cab and went straight to emergency,” said Billy McNeely, 32. The story goes back to an April 2010 birthday party in McNeely’s home town of Fort Good Hope, N.W.T. McNeely said a fight broke out between himself and another man over an arm-wrestling contest that ended up with McNeely being stabbed five times. “They stitched me up and bandaged me up,” said McNeely. “They never took X-rays.” Ever since, McNeely has had a lump in his back where the knife went in. Doctors and nurses told him nerves had been damaged in the stabbing. But the old wound never stopped nagging. “I always had back pains. There was always a burning feeling with it.” The injury was constantly itchy and irritated. It set off metal detectors. That was explained away as a metal fragment that had lodged in his bone. On Monday, while McNeely and his girlfriend were asleep in bed, the pain came back. “I sat up, I tried to rub it and scratch it the way I always did, and then the tip of my nail caught a piece of something solid, something sharp. “My girlfriend got up and she started playing around with it and she manoeuvred my back in a certain way and the tip of a blade poked out of my skin.” Doctors dug out a blade measuring about seven centimetres long.

Opening Bell: 03.20.13

JPMorgan Bosses Hit By Bank Regulator (WSJ) JP Morgan was downgraded in a confidential government scorecard over concerns about the company's management and its board, a blow to a firm that has long been considered one of the best-run on Wall Street. The New York company's management rating from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency fell one notch last July to a level that signifies oversight "needs improvement," following the revelation of what are known as the "London whale" trading losses, said people familiar with the regulatory assessment. Grading is on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being worst. J.P. Morgan had been at level 2, indicating "satisfactory management." The people said the downgrade to level 3 wasn't solely related to a London employee's large trades—in indexes tracking the health of a group of companies—that led to losses exceeding $6 billion. BlackRock’s CEO Fink Says Cyprus Is Not a Major Problem (Bloomberg) Laurence D. Fink, chief executive officer of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, said Cyprus is not a major problem and U.S. equities will rise 20 percent this year as the economy rebounds. “It has some symbolism impact on Europe, but it’s not a really major economic issue,” Fink said of Cyprus in a Bloomberg Television interview in Hong Kong today. “It’s a $10 billion issue. It does remind us of the frailty of Europe. It does remind us that the European fix will be multiple years.” Freddie Mac Sues Big Banks (WSJ) sued more than a dozen of the world's biggest banks for alleged manipulation of interest rates, in the first government-backed private litigation over the rate-rigging scandal. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, by the mortgage-finance giant joins scores of other suits piling up in U.S. courts, seeking billions of dollars in damages from banks that allegedly manipulated the London interbank offered rate and other crucial financial benchmarks. Freddie Mac sued the British Bankers' Association alongside the banks, putting the private association of large British banks for the first time in the cross hairs of a Libor lawsuit. A probe by U.S. and U.K. regulators has uncovered evidence of widespread rate rigging by some traders. Three banks have agreed to pay penalties totaling about $2.5 billion, and about a dozen companies remain under investigation. The BBA has agreed to transfer its responsibility for overseeing Libor to a new operator. Litigation Forces Deutsche Bank to Restate Profits (Reuters) Deutsche Bank cut its previously reported 2012 pretax profit by 600 million euros ($773 million) on Wednesday, hit by new charges related to mortgage-related lawsuits and other regulatory investigations. Europe's biggest bank by assets declined to say why it had increased litigation provisions to 2.4 billion euros, forcing it to correct its Jan. 31 earnings report which already showed the worst quarterly loss in four years. Yoga-Pants Supplier Says Lululemon Stretches Truth (WSJ) A Taiwanese supplier to Lululemon Athletica was bent out of shape on Tuesday after the yoga-clothes retailer blamed it for producing a shipment of pants that were unacceptably see-through. The supplier, Eclat Textile Co. of Taiwan, hit back at Lululemon, saying the clothes it shipped weren't "problematic." "All shipments to Lululemon went through a certification process which Lululemon had approved," Eclat Chief Financial Officer Roger Lo said in an interview. "All the pants were manufactured according to the requirements set out in the contract with Lululemon." Bernanke Seen Keeping Up Pace of QE Until Fourth Quarter (Bloomberg) The Fed chief will probably halt the unprecedented easing in the first half of next year after expanding central bank assets to a record of about $4 trillion, according to median estimates by 46 economists surveyed March 13-18 before a two-day meeting of policy makers ending today. Unemployment will have fallen to 7.3 percent from its current 7.7 percent when the Fed starts to pull back on its buying, the economists said. Supreme Court Sacks Goldman (NYP) The Supreme Court yesterday refused to hear the bank’s appeal of a federal court ruling in a lawsuit alleging it misled investors about dicey mortgage-backed securities. SEC Digging Into Fund Fees (WSJ) The Securities and Exchange Commission is closely scrutinizing the fees and expenses, including travel and entertainment, that hedge funds and private-equity firms charge to their investors. As part of the Dodd-Frank financial law, the SEC now oversees more than 1,500 additional such advisers that were required to register with the agency. In that capacity, the SEC is checking to ensure they are charging their investors reasonable expenses. "Exotic" expenses like travel, entertainment and consulting arrangements are more likely to attract the agency's attention than routine charges like legal and accounting fees, say compliance consultants who advise funds on registration and reporting requirements. A Volatile Investor Buys Into a Softer Approach (WSJ) It has been a long slog for Mr. Hohn, whose fund bets big on a small number of out-of-favor stocks and often holds on for several years. It lost 43% in 2008, among the worst losses by a hedge-fund that year, according to industry-tracker HFR. Hedge funds on average lost 19% that year. Even the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index, which plunged as the economy descended into the worst financial crisis in decades, did better. But with a 30% return in 2012 and a 14% gain this year, TCI has crossed its high-water mark, or the point at which investment gains make up for losses and managers can begin collecting performance fees again, according to clients. "A lot of people wrote me off," Mr. Hohn said in an interview last month. "A lot of people fired us, a few people stuck by us, and we've worked and worked and made it all back for them." JPMorgan, MF Global Trustee Reach $546 Million Settlement (Reuters) As part of a settlement reached with James Giddens, the trustee who is tasked with liquidating MF Global Inc, JPMorgan will pay $100 million that will be made available for distribution to former MF Global customers. JPMorgan will also return more than $29 million of the brokerage's funds held by the bank, while releasing claims on$417 million that was previously returned to Giddens. Man, 18, forbidden from saying 'bingo' for 6 months (NKY) As part of 18-year-old Austin Whaley’s punishment, Kenton District Judge Douglas Grothaus recently ordered the Covington man not to say the word “bingo” for six months. “Just like you can’t run into a theater and yell ‘fire’ when it’s not on fire, you can’t run into a crowded bingo hall and yell ‘bingo’ when there isn’t one,” said Park Hills Police Sgt. Richard Webster, the officer who cited Whaley. On Feb. 9, Webster was working an off-duty security detail at a Covington bingo hall on West Pike Street when Whaley entered the hall with several other youths and yelled “bingo,” Webster said. “This caused the hall to quit operating since they thought someone had won,” Webster wrote on his citation. “This delayed the game by several minutes and caused alarm to patrons.” Webster said the crowd of mostly elderly women did not take kindly to Whaley’s bingo call. “At first, everybody started moaning and groaning when they thought they’d lost,” Webster said. “When they realized it wasn’t a real bingo, they started hooting and hollering and yelling and cussing. People take their bingo very seriously.” Had Whaley apologized for his actions, Webster said he probably would have sent him on his way with a warning. “But he refused to say he was sorry,” Webster said...WhenWhaley appeared in Kenton District Court last week, the judge ordered Whaley: “Do not say the word ‘bingo’ for six months.” The youthful defendant could have faced up to 90 days in a jail and a $250 fine on the misdemeanor charge. So long as Whaley, who had no prior criminal record, doesn’t get into any more trouble within six months, though, the charge will be dismissed.