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Last Call: The Donkey and the Cliff

Colin Anderson | Photographer's Choice | Getty Images

A man bought a donkey from a preacher. The preacher told the man that this donkey had been trained in a very unique way. The only way to make the donkey go, was to say, "Hallelujah!" The only way to make the donkey stop, was to say, "Amen!" With a "Hallelujah," the man rode off on his new purchase.

He traveled for a long time through some mountains. Soon he was heading toward a cliff. He could not remember the word to make the donkey stop. "Stop, Halt!" he cried. The donkey just kept going. "Oh, no... Bible!.... Church!... Please Stop!!" shouted the man. He was getting closer and closer to the cliff edge. Finally, in desperation, the man said a prayer. "Please make this donkey stop before I go off the end of this mountain, Amen."

The donkey came to an abrupt stop just one step from the edge of the cliff. "HALLELUJAH!", shouted the man.

- Below – a GOP counter-offer as we continue towards the fiscal cliff.

Market Musings With CNBC Market Guru Robert Hum

  • Recap: Dow -59.98 (-0.46%) at 12965.60, S&P -6.72 (-0.47%) at 1409.46, Nasdaq -8.04 (-0.27%) at 3002.20
  • December starts out with a whimper as poor November ISM data hurts stocks early
  • Stocks close right near lows of day, Dow & S&P 500 fall for first time in 4 days
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  • Crude oil pares gains, settles just above $89, after crossing above $90 earlier in the morning for first time since October 22

The World on the Street Tonight

House GOP Makes Budget Counteroffer/WSJ – Janet Hook: "House Republicans Monday made a new deficit proposal to the White House that calls for $800 billion in increased tax revenue, half of what President Barack Obama proposed and an amount Republicans say could be achieved without increasing tax rates. The tax proposal, part of a new, broader Republican plan to resolve the fiscal-cliff standoff, is based on a 2011 effort by Erskine Bowles to come up with a deficit-cutting deal. It would cut about $4.6 trillion from the deficit over 10 years, including $600 billion in savings in Medicare and other health programs—up from $350 billion the president proposed—and change the way cost-of-living increases are calculated in Social Security and other inflation-adjusted programs."

Bowles reaction to Boehner proposal on his Moment of Truth Project website: While I'm flattered the Speaker would call something "the Bowles plan," the approach outlined in the letter Speaker Boehner sent to the President does not represent the Simpson-Bowles plan, nor is it the Bowles plan. In my testimony before the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, I simply took the mid-point of the public offers put forward during the negotiations to demonstrate where I thought a deal could be reached at that time.

Sen. Reid Rebuffs Latest GOP Fiscal Offer; Tells GOP to Get Serious/WSJ – Sean Hughes: "enate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D, Nev.) said that Republicans need to "get serious" about negotiating a deficit-reduction package, complaining that House Speaker John Boehner's (R, Ohio) Monday offer would force middle-class families to pay higher taxes. "Raising taxes on the middle class is bad policy and flunks the test of balance," Mr. Reid said in a statement. "To protect the middle class while reducing the deficit, simple math dictates that tax rates must rise on the top two percent of taxpayers next year. The sooner Republicans grasp that reality, the sooner we can avoid the fiscal cliff."

White House: GOP offer 'does not meet the test of balance'/Politico – Byron Tau: "The White House rejected the House Republican counter offer on solving the fiscal cliff — leaving both sides in stalemate over tax rates. "The Republican letter released today does not meet the test of balance. In fact, it actually promises to lower rates for the wealthy and sticks the middle class with the bill," White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer. … UPDATE: "Republicans have once again offered a responsible, balanced plan to avoid the fiscal cliff, and the White House has once again demonstrated how unreasonable it has become. If the President is rejecting this middle ground offer, it is now his obligation to present a plan that can pass both chambers of Congress," House Speaker John Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said in a statement."

On Twitter, Obama puts question mark over mortgage deduction/Reuters: "Taking to Twitter to press his case in "fiscal cliff" talks with Congress, President Barack Obama said on Monday that tax breaks benefiting middle class families such as the mortgage interest deduction could be at risk if rates for top earners do not rise. … The president answered questions on Twitter for about an hour on Monday as part of his campaign to pressure Republicans in Congress to accept an increase in taxes for the wealthiest Americans as part of a deficit-cutting package."

Oracle to Pay Three Dividends in December/WSJ – Benjamin Pimentel: "Oracle Corp. said it will pay three quarters worth of dividends in December, joining other companies in accelerating dividend payments ahead of likely increases in taxes in 2013. The business software company Monday said its board has approved an "accelerated" dividend totaling 18 cents a share for its fiscal 2013 second, third and fourth quarters. racle Chief Executive Larry Ellison, who is also the company's largest shareholder, did not take part in the discussions or the vote on the issue, the company said. Mr. Ellison owns 1.1 billion shares of Oracle and stands to receive about $198.9 million from the accelerated dividend."

Top U.S. Firms Are Cash-Rich Abroad, Cash-Poor at Home/WSJ – Kate Linebaugh: "…At a time when American companies hold near record amounts of cash, many are surprisingly cash poor at home. That doesn't mean they could suddenly run out of money to pay their bills. But it does mean there could be unseen limits on their ability to pay dividends and buy back shares. With billions of dollars overseas that may never come back, the Securities and Exchange Commission is concerned that companies haven't been presenting investors with an honest appraisal of their liquidity. As a result, regulators are pressing companies to more clearly lay out how much of their cash is in the U.S. and how much is overseas and potentially encumbered by U.S. taxes. Those disclosures are rolling in, and they are revealing the extent to which U.S. tax policies—along with corporations' efforts to get around them—have distorted American companies' balance sheets."

Automakers Report Strong November Sales/NY Times – Bill Vlasic: "Automakers said Monday that new vehicle sales in the United States rose 15 percent in November, as the replacement of cars and trucks damaged in Hurricane Sandy contributed to the industry's best monthly sales rate since 2008. The strong performance of most car companies indicated that total sales for this year will exceed most forecasts, and suggested the industry's revival will continue into 2013."

CHEESECAKE FACTORY CEO: Obamacare Will Be 'Very Costly'/Business Insider – Kim Bhasin: "Cheesecake Factory CEO David Overton isn't worried about Obamacare quite yet, but he says that he might be once he finds out the numbers. His company has been lauded as a model for the health care industry because it's so good at maintaining consistency and efficiency throughout its restaurants. Right now, Cheesecake Factory already covers everyone who works over 25 hours, so it's already paying quite a bit for healthcare. … But Overton is concerned for other businesses that aren't already spending lots of money on healthcare. "For those businesses that don't cover their employees, they'll be in for a very expensive situation," he said."

Wal-Mart: Huffington Post story 'riddled with inaccuracies,' 'one-sided rhetoric'/Politico – Dylan Byers & Kyle Cheney: "Wal-Mart says it is cutting off communications with The Huffington Post -- again -- after the website reported that the retail chain plans to halt health insurance benefits for newly hired part-time workers. In an email to POLITICO, Wal-Mart spokesperson Randy Hargrove said HuffPo's story was "riddled with inaccuracies" and "reinforces our company's decision to no longer participate in the Huffington Post's one-sided rhetoric."

Cerberus May Join Virtu's Bid for Knight Capital/WSJ – Jenny Strasburg & Sharon Terlep: "Cerberus Capital Management LP is in talks to join Virtu Financial's bid for U.S. brokerage Knight Capital Group Inc., according to people familiar with the discussions. Silver Lake Partners and banks such as Credit Suisse AG are already in discussions to finance Virtu's all-cash takeover offer for Knight. The details of the financing, and the extent of Cerberus's potential role in the group, are still under discussion, the people added."

Sprint unlikely to make counter MetroPCS offer: sources/Reuters: "Sprint Nextel Corp is unlikely to make a counteroffer for MetroPCS Communications Inc, as it focuses on closing its $20.1 billion deal with Japan's Softbank Corp), three people familiar with the matter said on Monday. Sprint, the third-largest U.S. wireless service provider, and Softbank, a mobile operator, announced in mid-October that the Japanese company would buy up to a 70 percent stake in Sprint. Sprint thinks that making a bid for MetroPCS, which agreed to a takeover by Deutsche Telekom AG's T-Mobile U.S.A., would complicate the ongoing regulatory review of its deal with Softbank, the people said. Sprint, however, remains interested in U.S. consolidation and may revisit a potential deal after it secures approval for the proposed investment by Softbank, the people said. The people asked not to be named because the matter is not public."

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Michael Woodford, Olympus Former CEO (645a)

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