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Euro zone inflation soars to a record 10%, piling pressure on the European Central Bank [CNBC]
Core inflation, which excludes food and energy, climbed 4.8% on the year, up from 4.3% in August, and economists broadly expect the situation to get worse before it gets better…. “Indeed, while headline inflation may start to ease as a result of base effects and volatile energy prices, with the unemployment rate itself at a new low, core inflation is building momentum and is likely to rise further in the coming months,” [Principal Global Investors chief global strategist Seema Shah] said in an email Friday.

Fed’s preferred measure of inflation shows prices surged again last month [CNN]
The core inflation measure, which excludes the volatile categories of food and energy and is the number watched most closely by Fed policymakers, rose by 4.9% on a year-over-year basis in August, up from 4.7% in July. Core PCE surged by 0.6% for the month, a spike from July’s revised 0%.... To date, economists say the extent to which headline inflation has moderated — which is minimal to begin with — is almost entirely a function of lower energy costs. This is reflected in the stubborn persistence of high core inflation, which backs out energy as well as food prices.

Consumers kept spending in August amid rising earnings. [NYT]
Personal income, after taxes, rose 0.4 percent in August, the Commerce Department said Friday…. Consumer spending, the bedrock of the American economy, also rose 0.4 percent, a rebound from a decline in July, though still below the growth rate from earlier this year…. Spending on services rose 0.8 percent in August, while spending on goods fell, reflecting the gradual shift back to normal of consumption patterns that were disrupted during the pandemic.

BlackRock executive defends pensions strategy that fuelled UK crisis [FT]
Mark Wiedman, head of international and corporate strategy at BlackRock, said so-called liability-driven investing was going though “adolescent pains” after the UK mini-Budget last week…. Counterparties demanded extra collateral as gilt yields rose sharply, risking a fire sale of assets as pension funds searched for cash to meet these margin calls…. “This is a market with a very small number of natural buyers called pension funds and the Bank of England, so when they have margin calls and there’s no one on the other side of the trade that creates a little bit of instability.”

Don’t buy Occidental stock, analyst says, because Warren Buffett is buying [MW]
“All in, we think OXY is executing well and still has legs to the transformation of its capital structure, but the outperformance in shares, led by buying activity on the common shares from Berkshire Hathaway, keeps us on the sidelines, given a lack of clarity on Berkshire’s ultimate intentions,” [JPMorgan Chase analyst John] Royall wrote in a note to clients.

David Gottesman, 96, Wall St. Power and Warren Buffett Partner, Dies [DealBook]
“The only time a whale gets harpooned is when he surfaces,” Mr. Gottesman said in an interview for this obituary at his firm’s Park Avenue office in 2013….

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Euro-Zone Deal Faces Hurdles (WSJ) Germany's reluctance to put its taxpayers' money at risk in other countries' banks is proving the biggest obstacle to letting the euro zone's bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism, invest directly in banks that need more capital. In Ireland, Spain, Greece and Cyprus, bailouts of struggling banks are placing heavy burdens on the state, adding to fast-rising national debts. Buffett Disappointed With Berkshire's 'Subpar' $24 Billion Gain (CNBC) Warren Buffett called 2012 "subpar" in his annual letter to shareholders as Berkshire Hathaway's per-share book value rose 14.4 percent, less than the S&P 500's 16-percent increase. It's the ninth time in 48 years this has happened. Buffett notes that the S&P has outpaced Berkshire over the past four years and if the market continues to gain this year the benchmark stock index could have its first five-year win ever. "When the partnership I ran took control of Berkshire in 1965, I could never have dreamed that a year in which we had a gain of $24.1 billion would be subpar ... But subpar it was." Buffett: Berkshire on hunt for more Heinz-like deals (Reuters) "If we get a chance to buy another Heinz, we will do that," Buffett said on CNBC. Berkshire likes the ketchup maker's business, the price of the $23 billion deal, and its partner in the transaction, private equity firm 3G Capital, Buffett said in an extended interview. HSBC Reports Declining Profit and Says Costs Are Increasing (Bloomberg) Pretax profit for 2012 dropped 5.6 percent to $20.65 billion, trailing the $23.49 billion estimate of 26 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Revenue fell 5.4 percent to $68.33 billion from $72.28 billion, HSBC said today in a statement. Chief Executive Officer Stuart Gulliver is being thwarted in his plan to reduce costs to 48 percent to 52 percent of revenue as the London-based lender set aside $1.9 billion to settle U.S. money-laundering probes and boosted spending on compliance by $500 million. Expenses as a proportion of revenue climbed to 62.8 percent from 57.5 percent, and wage inflation in markets such as Latin America is increasing, HSBC said today. Swiss Back Executive-Pay Controls (WSJ) The plan, dubbed the "rip off" initiative by the country's media, bans so-called golden-handshake and golden-parachute severance agreements. It also requires greater transparency on loans and retirement packages for senior executives and directors. Beauty queen took my heart, then she took me for $96,000 ride: hedge-funder's suit (NYP) Rishi Bajaj, 33, says he opened his heart, then his wallet, to Miss New Mexico Teen USA 2007 Liz Kranz after she told him she was considering selling her eggs to raise cash for a relative in rehab. The sob story got the beauty a $20,000 loan from Bajaj, he claims in a Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit. Bajaj, who co-manages the $620 million hedge fund Altai Capital, then told Kranz, 24, to pick out a car for the couple to share — and was “surprised” when she selected a 2012 BMW that came with a $17,070 down payment. They met in July 2012 and dated for “several months,” even vacationing together in Italy, where, Bajaj said in court papers, he let Kranz use his American Express card. Kranz, of the Lower East Side, was also allowed to use Bajaj’s AmEx to buy a dress for a wedding they attended. Bajaj and Kranz, who lived briefly in LA, eventually broke up. There were “disagreements about their remaining obligations to each other,” Bajaj said in court papers. He claims the pageant queen kept her hands on his credit card and racked up tens of thousands in charges...In all, Bajaj claims Kranz spent $58,860 on his credit card over three months last year. In a November letter, his lawyer accused her of “theft, fraud and other egregious misconduct” and demanded she repay the full $58,860 in credit-card purchases. NYC to be hit hard by sequester: Merrill Lynch economist (NYP) Two months’ worth of job gains are about to vanish nationwide, warns a Merrill Lynch economist — and New York City, whose unemployment rate is already at an eye-popping 8.8 percent, will be hit exceptionally hard in this employment carnage as Washington begins to enact a series of controversial spending cuts known as the sequester. “It will set the economy back a few months in the job market,” Ethan Harris, co-head of global economics research at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, told The Post. “The national job market recovery has been modest, and it has been weaker locally in New York.” Nationally, Harris calculated a loss of about 300,000 jobs, roughly two months of average job gains, if the sequester is enacted untouched. Job-Hunt Time Shrinks in U.S. From Record High (Bloomberg) For 13 million out-of-work Americans, record spells of joblessness are abating. The median duration fell to 16 weeks in January from 25 weeks in June 2010, Labor Department data show. Fewer people compete for each opening as hiring expands, and persistent long-term unemployment is starting to mend. The progress supports Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke’s view that America’s labor market remains flexible and isn’t succumbing to hysteresis, or permanently higher joblessness, similar to Europe in the 1980s, said Dale Mortensen, a professor of economics at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and 2010 Nobel laureate. That suggests continued monetary stimulus can bring about a faster healing. Slim Risks Losing World’s Richest Person Title as Troubles Mount (Bloomberg) Slim’s lead over the next-wealthiest man, Bill Gates, narrowed last week to about $4.8 billion -- the closest spread in almost a year. The Lebanese immigrant’s son, who acquired Mexico’s phone monopoly and turned it into a pan-Latin American powerhouse, lost almost a 10th of his net worth last month, winnowing his fortune to $71 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Dennis Rodman: Kim Jong Un Wants President Obama to ‘Call Him’ (ABC) In his first interview since returning to the U.S. from an unprecedented visit to North Korea last week, former NBA star Dennis Rodman said he bears a message for President Obama from the country’s oppressive leader, Kim Jong Un. “He wants Obama to do one thing: Call him,” Rodman told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on “This Week.” “He said, ‘If you can, Dennis – I don’t want [to] do war. I don’t want to do war.’ He said that to me.” The athlete also offered Kim some diplomatic advice for potential future talks with President Obama. “[Kim] loves basketball. And I said the same thing, I said, ‘Obama loves basketball.’ Let’s start there,” Rodman said.

By Kiefer. from Frankfurt, Germany (Europäische Zentralbank / European Central Bank) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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