Frontrunning: March 23, 2012

  • More HFT Posturing: SEC Probes Rapid Trading (WSJ)
  • Fed’s Bullard Says Monetary Policy May Be at Turning Point (Bloomberg)
  • Hilsenrath: Fed Hosts Global Gathering on Easy Money (WSJ)
  • Dublin ‘hopeful’ ECB will approve bond deal (FT)
  • EU Proposes a Beefed-Up Permanent Bailout Fund (WSJ)
  • Portugal Town Halls Face Default Amid $12 Billion Debt (Bloomberg)
  • Hidden Fund Fees Means U.K. Investors Pay Double US Rates (Bloomberg)
  • Europe Weighs Trade Probes Amid Beijing Threats (WSJ)
  • Bank of Japan Stimulus Row Fueled by Kono’s Nomination (Bloomberg)

Overnight Media Summary via Reuters


* Federal securities regulators are examining whether some sophisticated, rapid-fire trading firms have used their close links to computerized stock exchanges to gain an unfair advantage over other investors.

* A Bank of America program allows homeowners to hand over deeds to their houses and sign leases that will let them rent the houses back from the bank at a market rate.

* Roche is cutting the price of two expensive cancer drugs in India, a shift for the Swiss drug maker, which long has argued that consumers everywhere should pay the same price for its medications.

* U.S. Federal Reserve governor Daniel Tarullo appearing before a Senate panel on Thursday, said he wants the Fed to keep trying to finalize rules restricting the ability of banks to make bets with their own money.

Echoing Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, however, Tarullo said there is a "real possibility" that won't happen before the July 21 deadline, putting the onus on the government to provide greater clarity to financial firms.

* T-Mobile USA, reeling from an exodus of customers and the failure of its planned sale to AT&T Inc last year, will cut 5 percent of its workforce and close seven call centers as part of a broader restructuring that will stretch for the next three months.



The European Commission has recommended increasing the size of the euro zone's rescue system from 500 billion euros to 940 billion euros ($1.24 trillion) by combining the existing, temporary bailout fund with a facility that is due to start this summer, according to an "options note" obtained by the Financial Times.


India's coalition government was rocked by a fresh corruption scandal on Thursday after it was accused of forgoing $210 billion in potential revenues by selling coal assets too cheaply to some of the country's top industrialists.


Football giant Real Madrid has lent its name to a $1-billion theme park being planned on an artificial island in the United Arab Emirates in the latest brand extension by a football club.


Goldman Sachs underlined the scale of its ambition for its new European headquarters in London by holding talks with three high-profile architect practices, including Foster and Partners, the practice behind some of London's most famous landmark buildings.


Gavin O'Reilly, the embattled chief executive of Independent News & Media, has described pressure from the publisher's largest shareholder to step down as "almost reminiscent" of former U.S. President George Bush's invasion of Iraq.


FedEx, the package delivery company, on Thursday appeared to rule out a move to spoil a proposed tie-up between rivals UPS and TNT Express, insisting that its focus remains on profitable organic growth within Europe.


The three big credit rating agencies must improve their transparency, IT and internal controls and strengthen the committees that oversee decisions on individual securities, the first EU inspections of Standard & Poor's, Moody's and Fitch have found.


International Airlines Group has offered a limited number of extra concessions to try to secure regulatory approval for its acquisition of BMI British Midland, Lufthansa's lossmaking UK subsidiary.


Lawyers representing 11,000 Nigerians will on Friday serve the details of a claim against Royal Dutch Shell at the High Court after negotiations about compensation for two oil spills in the Niger delta fell apart last week.


Germany's Wolfgang Schauble has emerged as the frontrunner to take over the powerful Eurogroup of euro zone finance ministers, prompting criticism that Berlin controls too many European economic agencies and sparking a diplomatic land grab for other high-profile posts.


* Taken together, the increasing production and declining consumption have unexpectedly brought the United States markedly closer to a goal that has tantalized presidents since Richard Nixon: independence from foreign energy sources, a milestone that could reconfigure American foreign policy, the economy and more.

* Ross Martin, executive vice president of MTV Scratch, a unit of the giant media company Viacom, and his team are trying to help General Motors solve one of the most vexing problems facing the car industry: many young consumers today just do not care that much about cars.

* Four months before a best-selling Alzheimer's drug, Aricept 23, was set to lose its patent protection, its makers received approval for a higher dosage that extended their exclusive right to sell the drug. But the higher dosage caused potentially dangerous side effects and worked only slightly better than the existing drugs, according to an article published Thursday in the British Medical Journal.

The drug was developed by the Japanese pharmaceutical company Eisai but is marketed in the United States in a partnership with Pfizer.

* Shortly after getting a request from the Food and Drug Administration for safety data about an artificial hip, Johnson & Johnson executives decided to discontinue making the device.

* Bank of America said Thursday that it would offer a small number of customers facing foreclosure the option to remain in their homes and rent the property instead. The program highlights how investors are increasingly interested in becoming landlords on troubled properties.

* Melvin Schweitzer, a New York Supreme Court judge, dismissed a lawsuit brought by nine graduates of New York Law School who accused their alma mater of misleading them about their postgraduate employment prospects.

* Depending on who is speaking, a bill approved by the Senate on Thursday to make it easier for small companies to raise money will either improve the economy by creating jobs or cause unwitting investors to get swindled. The Senate voted 73 to 26 to approve the JOBS Act, whose acronym stands for Jump-start Our Business Start-ups.

* Tesla Motors is increasingly relying on customer down payments to finance operations as it fleshes out its lineup of electric cars. Without the deposits, the company's operations would have consumed $175 million of cash last year instead of $114 million.

* The deadline for nominations to become president of the World Bank is 6 p.m. Friday, but thus far Jeffrey Sachs, a development economist, is the only named candidate to have emerged.

* JPMorgan Chase quietly paid $384 million to American Century Investment Management after losing an arbitration over accusations of breaches related to the bank's purchase of a retirement plan services business.



- Thailand's prime minister hailed the possibility of free-trade negotiations with Canada on Thursday and welcomed Ottawa's rediscovered interest in southeast Asia.

In her remarks, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra noted that it has been 15 years since a Canadian prime minister last made a bilateral visit to the nation of 66 million, which is among the world's fastest growing economies.

- Less than a year after they voted to send the federal New Democrats to the benches of the Official Opposition, large numbers of Canadians say an NDP government would be good for the country.

A new poll released Friday by Nanos Research suggests that 49 per cent of Canadians agree or somewhat agree that Canada would be in good hands if the New Democrats were in office.

- His support on council crumbling, his promise of subways in tatters, a defiant Rob Ford, Mayor of Toronto, has turned his sights to the next election campaign, raising questions about how the city will be governed for the more than two years left in his mandate.

Reports in the business section:

- Unionized ground crew at Air Canada walked off the job in a wildcat protest Thursday night at Toronto's Pearson International Airport, says a spokesman for the Greater Toronto Airports Authority.

- Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp has signaled it will dramatically curtail its growth in the mortgage market in the coming years in an effort to cool Canada's sizzling housing sector.

Documents released by the Crown corporation this week show CMHC expects to increase mortgage insurance over the next few years at only a fraction of the pace seen recently.


- Federal politics is getting as wonky as the weather. A new poll has the leaderless NDP sitting in first place, while this week's by-election in Toronto-Danforth had the Liberals, under interim leader Bob Rae, experiencing a mini-revival.

The Environics poll had the Conservatives and NDP tied on 30 percent, with the Liberals back on 20 percent support.

- A landmark report suggesting Quebec legalize doctor-assisted euthanasia could rekindle the national debate on the controversial issue.

The report introduced at the provincial legislature Thursday recommended the Quebec government make it legal for doctors to help the terminally ill die, if they want to, under "exceptional circumstances."

Reports in the business section:

- Broadcast regulators held expedited hearings Thursday to resolve a spat between the TV division of media and telecom giant BCE Inc and a group of television providers, including Telus Corp.

The group is petitioning the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to step in and arbitrate a way through an impasse between the parties, which have failed to reach new agreements on the distribution of Bell Media's 29 specialty channels, including Discovery and TSN.

- BCE Inc faces paying hundreds of millions of dollars in additional regulatory fees as part of getting a $3.38-billion bid for specialty-channel powerhouse Astral Media Inc approved.

Termed a "tangible benefits" package, the country's largest telecommunications company will feel a material pinch from a financial commitment as high as $280 million that must be coughed up on top of the bid price.

- Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd filed a proxy circular on Thursday, and nominated activist investor William Ackman for election to its board of directors.

Canada's No. 2 railway is locked in a proxy battle with Ackman's Pershing Square Capital Management, which wants to replace Chief Executive Fred Green with former Canadian National Railway CEO Hunter Harrison.

European Economic Highlights:

  • UK Nationwide Consumer Confidence 44 – lower than expected. Consensus 47.  Previous 47.
  • UK BBA Loans for House Purchase  33103 – lower than expected. Consensus 37250. Previous 38092. Revised 37977.
  • Spain Producer Prices 0.6% m/m 3.4% y/y – lower than expected. Consensus 0.7% m/m 3.4% y/y. Previous 0.8% m/m 3.6% y/y. Revised 0.9% m/m 3.7% y/y.
  • Italy Retails Sales 0.7% s.a. m/m -0.8% y/y – higher than expected. Consensus -0.1% s.a. m/m -3.4% y/y. Previous -1.1% s.a. m/m -3.7%y/y. Revised -0.8% s.a. m/m.
  • France Wages 0.3% q/q. Previous 0.3% q/q.
  • France Own-Company Production Outlook 6. Previous -2. Revised -1.
  • France Production Outlook Indicator -15 – higher than expected. Consensus -28. Previous -27.
  • France Business Confidence Indicator 96 – higher than expected. Consensus 93. Previous 92. Revised 93.
  • Russia Money Supply Narrow Def. RUB 6.84T. Previous 6.86T.


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