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from Anatole Kaletsky:

Behind Wall Street’s anxiety

The recent economic news has been about as investor-friendly as anyone could imagine.

It started with last week’s strong U.S. employment figures; continued through Tuesday’s reassuring International Monetary Fund forecasts, which put the probability of avoiding a global recession this year to 99.9 percent, and culminated in dovish Federal Reserve minutes, which soothed concerns about an earlier than expected  increase in U.S. interest rates.

Considering all this good news, investors could justifiably feel surprised -- even shocked -- by Wall Street’s sharp falls this week. By Thursday afternoon, the Standard & Poor’s 500 had given back its entire gain for the year, and the Nasdaq 100 gauge of leading technology stocks had suffered its biggest setback since 2011. Many market analysts interpreted the negative reaction to good news as a classic sign of a market top, warning that the uninterrupted rise in share prices that began more than five years ago is overdue for a sharp reversal.

But looking at the economic and financial data, it was hard to see justification for such anxiety. Last week’s rebound in U.S. employment growth -- the crucial monthly statistic that tends to set the tone for asset markets around the world -- could only be interpreted as good news. Especially after the shockingly weak December payrolls that triggered the global equity correction at the start of the year.

from Breakingviews:

Jamie Dimon hits final stage of grief: acceptance

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By Rob Cox
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

In coping with the tragedy of the financial crisis, no Wall Street executive has exhibited the five stages of grief like Jamie Dimon. The JPMorgan chief executive has passed through phases of denial, anger, bargaining and depression. His latest annual letter to shareholders finally shows a desire to accept what’s happened and move on.

from The Human Impact:

Did you know that supporting gay rights is good for business?

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People often approach the issue of gay rights (if one can even call it an issue) from the “doing the right thing” perspective, meaning that supporting the rights of homosexuals, bisexuals and transgender people is the right thing to do because everyone should be free to be who they are without facing discrimination of any kind.

This argument is, of course, extremely valid, but perhaps not the most effective when seeking the support of big businesses and financial institutions.

from Breakingviews:

Citi’s Mexico fraud besmirches industry further

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By Antony Currie
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Not for the first time, Citigroup has stepped into a mess – and by extension besmirched the financial industry. Not that Citi committed a crime, or colluded to set foreign exchange rates or Libor prices, say. Rather the bank is the victim of fraud in Mexico that could cost it much as $400 million. The problem is that the lender has been cheated out of the cash in one of the most basic businesses in banking. That should worry Citi’s rivals, too.

from Breakingviews:

Rudloff’s retirement is bad timing for Barclays

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By Dominic Elliott
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Hans-Joerg Rudloff’s retirement at 73 comes at an unhelpful time for Barclays. The UK lender’s chairman of investment banking is stepping down after a distinguished career that spanned five decades – long enough for any banker. Rudloff’s achievements are myriad. A doyen of the eurobond market, which he helped create in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, Rudloff also saw the potential in Russia and central Europe in the 1990s, long before emerging markets became fashionable.

from Bethany McLean:

How Ralph Nader learned to love Fannie and Freddie

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Corrects story issued February 18 in third-to-last paragraph regarding efforts to contact Ralph  Nader.

“It is time for [government-sponsored enterprises] to give up ties to the federal government that have made them poster children for corporate welfare. Most of all, Congress needs to look more to the protection of the taxpayers and less to the hyperbole of the GSE lobbyists. –Ralph Nader, testimony before the House Committee on Banking and Financial Services, June 15, 2000

from MacroScope:

Pinning down the January effect on U.S. jobs figures

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With Wall Street grappling to hold on to its record highs, a lot is riding on good news from the U.S. economy, no matter how high the Federal Reserve has set the bar for backing off its clear plan to end its monetary stimulus program this year.

After two huge upsets in a row on the important U.S. economic data releases since Christmas -- December non-farm payrolls and the January ISM manufacturing report, forecasters are lining up again for an improvement in hiring.

from Bethany McLean:

Is Steve Cohen the real target in this trial?

The fate of Mathew Martoma, the former SAC Capital portfolio manager charged with the biggest insider trade in history -- more than $275 million in profits and avoided losses, says the government -- is now in the hands of a 12-person jury, which began deliberations in a Manhattan courthouse Tuesday afternoon.

But whatever the verdict for Martoma, the trial has been bad news for someone else: Martoma’s former boss, SAC head Steve Cohen. Given the slow, but relentless, nature of the government’s actions against Cohen, it might be worth remembering the old adage: It ain’t over til it’s over.

from Breakingviews:

Lazard puts M&A feet firmly in big boys’ camp

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By Antony Currie

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

Lazard has put its feet firmly in the big boys’ camp. The advisory and asset management firm didn’t just make progress on financial targets that Chief Executive Ken Jacobs set two years ago. Its bankers also goosed revenue in the second half of the year. That makes Lazard look more like Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan than smaller rivals Evercore and Greenhill.

from The Great Debate:

Populism: The Democrats’ great divide

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One day after President Barack Obama called for moving forward on trade authority in his State of the Union address, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) declared, “I am against fast track,” and said he had no intention of bringing it to a vote in the Senate.

Reid’s announcement came after 550 organizations, representing virtually the entire organized base of the Democratic Party outside of Wall Street, called on Congress to oppose fast track. Though obscured by the Democrats’ remarkable unity in drawing contrasts with the Tea Party-dominated Republicans in Congress, the debate between an emerging populist wing of the Democratic Party and its still-dominant Wall Street wing is boiling.

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