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  • President Obama is reportedly likely to choose former U.S. attorney Mary Jo White as his nomination for head of the SEC. If White is confirmed, she would be the first prosecutor to head the agency, perhaps giving it a tougher edge. White has won convictions against Ramzi Ahmed Yousef for bombing the World Trade Center and mafia boss John Gotti, although she's not known for expertise in securities law. [View news story]
    Dear Ed: you're wrong in your last assertion. Her practice over the past 10 years has involved defending people in SEC investigations. Another perfect revolving-door/Wall-st... insider candidate. For more information see her biography at the Practicing Law Institute:
    Jan 20 07:37 AM | 3 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Proposed money market industry reforms are a "perverse mis-prioritization," say the independent trustees for Fidelity's funds ($432B in MM assets). Supposedly opaque money market holdings are a "beacon of light" compared to bank balance sheets, they say. Trying to stay ahead of regulators, several of Fidelity's competitors switched yesterday to daily reporting of NAVs. [View news story]
    In the long list of things that are wrong with the financial industry and Wall Street, not knowing whether my money market fund is worth 0.999997 or 0.999995 is way down the list. Perhaps 106th. I'm not sure I would know what to do with that information. Besides which, I've never had any reason to doubt that Fidelity or other major firms would support the NAV of their money market firms at a buck.
    Jan 10 04:33 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Among Doug Kass' 15 surprises for 2013 will be new Senator Elizabeth Warren spearheading the introduction of a financial transaction tax. Combined with weak capital markets, reduced M&A activity, and narrow net interest margins, its makes the XLF and GS sells. [View news story]
    Agree on the "agitprop" comment. Even if it did pass the full Senate (not a sure thing), it would never pass the House. Harebrained legislative proposals are a dime a dozen [transaction tax legislation gets reintroduced every other year] and don't merit being included as a 2013 surprise.
    Jan 9 08:51 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • The Secret Of Warren Buffett's Alpha [View article]
    Good point about "being well connected." Buffett's insight into companies and the bigger picture is no doubt helped by his consorting with the CEOs and owners of other companies, something he does a lot of.
    Jan 7 11:12 AM | 3 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • More on Nonfarm Payrolls: The 155K gain comes entirely from the private sector, which added 168K jobs. Government continues to shed positions, -13K for the month, bringing Q4's total government job losses to 89K. [View news story]
    Let's not forget that the government outsources a lot of work; some of the payroll checks for those new jobs in the "private" sector may ultimately be written by Uncle Sam.
    Jan 4 09:16 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • 2012 was a year that saw Tim Cook put his mark on Apple, Facebook go through growing pains, Microsoft unveil perhaps the biggest product refresh in its history (though the jury's still out on its success), and the "post-PC era" turn into a reality, notes The Verge in its recap of the year's top tech stories. Looking ahead to 2013, it sees Apple overhauling iOS following a bumpy 2012, Google battling with Samsung over Android's future, and Microsoft, Sony, and perhaps Valve trying to invigorate a slumping console gaming industry. [View news story]
    An era that can only define itself by what it replaces, e.g., "post-PC" really isn't much of an era. From my own, limited, perspective, having been surrounded over the holidays by a lot of these devices, I can see why. Drawing games for kids, TV shows, et. al. were the most common use of these "post-PC" devices. Not exactly a revolution.
    Dec 31 05:32 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • The rebound in companies paying dividends could be the beginning of a long-term change in the way they treat cash and their shareholders - one that would make investors much better off, Jason Zweig argues. Companies like Diamond Offshore (DO) view dividends as rewarding loyal shareholders, harkening back to the 19th century when most of the returns on U.S. stocks came from dividend income. [View news story]
    Presumably it depends on the growth prospects for the company and industry, but is getting cash payments that are taxed at least once and perhaps twice the way to "make investors much better off"?
    Dec 29 08:49 AM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • CEF Dividend Increases And Decreases: 38% Of Municipal Bond Funds Cut Distributions By 6% On Average [View article]
    John - Good article. FYI, the link to englarge the first chart isn't working.
    Dec 13 10:27 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • The NYT's Adam Davidson takes a train ride from New York to Washington. Inside, "it's all tidy and digital, everybody absorbed in laptops and iPhones," but outside, "traveling south is like moving through a curated exhibit of urban and industrial decay." For much of the line's existence, "New York and DC were subordinate to the roaring engines of productivity in between," but that model has been flipped. [View news story]
    Haven't read the article but the premise, as stated in this item, is dubious. Railroad tracks were laid near industrial centers and yes, some of them have declined but that's been true for decades [some of those factory buildings probably were built in the late 1890's]. Further, right of ways for tracks were more easily and cheaply obtained near areas of blight than through nice neighborhoods. I've taken Amtrak from DC to NY and back many times over the past four decades; it hasn't changed much during that time. It sounds as if Mr. Davidson has only recently gotten out to see the world, and is surprised.
    Nov 4 03:36 PM | 2 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Are e-readers the modern equivalent of the harpsichord? Sales have plunged as consumers decide reading e-books on a tablet is an acceptable alternative: a Pew survey found less than 1/4 of Americans under 30 who read e-books do so using an e-reader, and IHS iSuppli recently cut its 2014 shipment forecast by 2/3. Amazon (AMZN) and Barnes & Noble (BKS) are counting on front-lit devices such as the Kindle Paperwhite and Nook Glowlight to prop up demand - the Paperwhite is off to a good start[View news story]
    Do people under 30 read? ;-)
    Oct 29 03:19 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • With Hurricane Sandy making its way to the Eastern Seaboard, insurers such as Allstate (ALL) are preparing to send their rapid-response teams of claims specialists to assess the damage once the storm passes. The cost to insurers is likely to be less than it would have been in the past, as they've been raising home-insurance rates, tightening underwriting standards, and scaling back sales of policies in hurricane-prone areas. [View news story]
    I wonder if the biggest source of claims will be falling trees; I haven't heard of insurers denying coverage based on that.
    Oct 29 06:38 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • More on Comcast's Q3 (CMCSA): NBCUniversal revenue up 31.2% Y/Y to $6.82B, led by a large jump in revenue from broadcast TV. Filmed Entertainment revenue shot up 23.6% to $1.4B with Ted and the Bourne Legacy pacing the gain. Customers increased by 28.1% to 294K with a net add of 287K High-Speed Internet customers making up for a drop off in video customers. Shares +1.8% premarket. (PR[View news story]
    Dear Ed: " Customers increased by 28.1% to 294K with a net add of 287K High-Speed Internet customers " That doesn't look right.
    Oct 26 07:59 AM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Harvard's Alvin Roth and UCLA's Lloyd Shapley win the Nobel Prize for economics for their separate work on the "the theory of stable allocations and the practice of market design," which goes to the crux of a major economic problem: how to match agents as efficiently as possible - e.g., students with schools, and organ donors with transplant patients. (PR[View news story]
    As we know, there is no Nobel Price for economics.
    Oct 15 08:24 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Coinstar (CSTR +1.5%) will jump into the coffee game with the its machines nearly set to dispense Seattle's Best Brand drinks. The company plans to test twelve different drinks with an ultimate aim to settle on seven. Priced at $1 to $2 a cup, Coinstar will have McDonald's and Dunkin' Brands beat on price - but will need to win over consumers on whether or not coffee dispensed from a DVD machine can be high on quality. [View news story]
    I drink coffee from one of those machines about once a week; it's not too bad...
    Oct 4 08:56 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • The British Bankers' Association is reportedly close to giving up the responsibility for setting the London Interbank Offered Rate after the group's council cleared the path. The decision by the BBA comes in front of Friday's release of a government-commissioned study of the unregulated trade group. If the move is officially cleared, British or international regulators could be in charge of overseeing the closely-watched rate. [View news story]
    Of course, bank regulators have never shown any desire to manipulate interest rates, have they Ben ;-)
    Sep 26 07:56 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment