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from Breakingviews:

Take hedge fund exuberance with grain of SALT

By Jeff Goldfarb
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

A wave of hedge fund exuberance should be taken with a grain of SALT. At SkyBridge Capital’s so-named Las Vegas confab this week, a near-unanimous confidence emerged amid moans about conference fatigue. Long-anticipated opportunities in M&A, bargains in Europe and collapsing correlations have finally arrived all at once, if some of the world’s richest investors are to be believed. The consensus itself may, however, give reason for pause.

The “accidental conference” spearheaded by Anthony Scaramucci – the indefatigable founder of SkyBridge, a $10 billion hedge fund of funds – filled a post-crisis void left by chastened Wall Street prime brokers and is now in its sixth year. “The Mooch,” as the ringmaster is known, introduced most of the marquee names as his “friends” and used the event as an opportunity to announce plans to raise his profile further by reviving the once-beloved public television program “Wall Street Week” with him in the host seat once occupied by Louis Rukeyser.

Yet as around 1,800 delegates mixed with NBA legend Magic Johnson, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett at the opulent Bellagio, some privately grumbled about wanting to see more financial superstars like Appaloosa Management’s David Tepper on stage. And following the World Economic Forum in Davos, Michael Milken’s Beverly Hills jamboree, and the Ira Sohn and ISI gatherings in New York, SkyBridge may need to fight to keep justifying its slot in the rotation.

from Breakingviews:

Hedge fund customers’ yachts washing further away

By Martin Hutchinson
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Hedge fund customers’ yachts are washing further away. The flood of money – now $2.7 trillion – in hedge funds has squashed returns below public stock markets. Private equity doesn’t seem to be doing much better. Investors beware.

from India Insight:

Rumours trigger panic-buying of salt in northeast India

Rumours of an impending salt shortage led to panic-buying in India’s north-eastern states and parts of West Bengal state on Friday, officials and media reports said, with a kilo of salt being sold for as much as 200 rupees ($3) compared to average retail selling prices of about 20 rupees (around 35 cents).

Witnesses reported people queuing up at grocery stores to stockpile salt packets, with several shops running out of the usually cheap and plentiful product a day after similar rumours surfaced in Bihar state.

from The Great Debate:

Obama’s key nuclear deal with Russia

President Barack Obama recently unveiled in Berlin a new proposal to have the United States and Russia reduce their long-range deployed nuclear weapons by roughly one-third, relative to levels under the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START).

Arms control skeptics swiftly attacked his plan. They asserted that reducing deployed U.S and Russian strategic warheads to about 1,000 each would risk U.S. and allied security -- especially when other countries are now modernizing their nuclear forces. They also claim that Russia will not take up the offer.

from Full Focus:

Ethiopia’s ancient salt trails

Photographer Siegfried Modola traveled to document Ethiopia’s ancient salt trade in the Danakil Depression, one of the hottest and harshest environments on earth, with an average annual temperature of 94 degrees Fahrenheit (34.4 Celsius). For centuries, merchants have traveled there with caravans of camels to collect salt from the surface of the vast desert basin. The mineral is extracted and shaped into slabs, then loaded onto the animals before being transported back across the desert so that it can be sold around the country. Read Siegfried's personal account here.

from Fan Fare:

What do spies do on their day off?

The cast of the new AMC drama series "Rubicon"

The cast of the new AMC drama series "Rubicon"

What do international spies do on their day off? Go on a "spy tour," says former CIA chief of operations Jack Devine.

While stationed in London as head of CIA operations in Britain, Devine -- a 32-year CIA veteran -- said he decided to go on one of the city's walking tours that tells tourists tales of espionage.

from Shop Talk:

Check Out Line: Clink, clink! Wine consumption to rise

wine1Check out all the wine drinking going on.

Two-thirds (67 percent) of Americans surveyed said they partake in wine on holidays and special occasions while at home, while another 58 percent drink wine at home with dinner on an ordinary night, according to consumer trend tracker Mintel.

The wine market has grown 20 percent from 2004 through 2009 despite the recession, but at the peak of the slowdown in 2008 it declined 3.2 percent, Mintel said. With consumers slowly feeling better about the economy, the firm expects the wine market to increase by 2.1 percent this year.

from Environment Forum:

Energy from — molten salt?

In these green times energy producers are leaving no stone unturned in the hunt for new sources of energy.

The Los Angeles Times reports that rocket-builder RocketDyne and a Santa Monica-based renewable energy company, SolarReserve, are planning to build a plant that they say could eventually power 100,000 homes by using solar power and molten salt.

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