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  Tuesday, 21 Dec 2010 | 4:11 PM ET

Investors Pretty Much Ignore Credit Ratings in MuniLand

Posted By: Ash Bennington

It looks like municipal bond investors have just stopped trusting credit ratings agencies.

Pennsylvania and Nevada both get a credit rating of Aa1-negative from Moody's . But while Pennsylvania pays just 0.2 percentage points above the broader muni market rate, Nevada is paying 0.8 above the average.

So Nevada is paying a 300 percent higher borrowing spread than Pennsylvania.

It would seem that investors now believe that ratings have become totally unglued from reality.

Namely, ratings don't reflect — in any rational way — the marketplace on a price/yield basis.

When ratings agencies — which are intended to monitor these issuers on an ongoing basis — are summarily ignored by the markets, it should be a warning sign to the agencies that their models are breaking down.

If credit rating agencies don't find a way to address the current disconnects, we can expect to see even greater gaps grow between similarly rated products. Interestingly, this could create arbitrage opportunities for regulated entities—like mutual funds and insurance companies—to seek out extra-yield while still buying highly rated debt.

»Read more
  Tuesday, 21 Dec 2010 | 3:27 PM ET

Survey Finds 56% 0f Wall Streeters Say They Deserve Bigger Bonuses

Posted By: John Carney

A survey of Wall Streeters taken last week discovered that the majority of those who got bonuses believe they are underpaid.

»Read more
  Tuesday, 21 Dec 2010 | 2:19 PM ET

JPMorgan Tops Investment Banking League Tables—Again!

Posted By: John Carney

Jamie Dimon is still the king of Wall Street.

Just in time for Christmas, Dealogic has released its annual investment banking league tables. And JPMorgan, which took the top spot last year, has won again.

Despite taking the top place again, JPMorgan's revenues were down 6% overall.

So here's where the banks stand. (Figures include both debt and equity underwriting, advisory and lending.)

Domestic Banks

• JPMorgan leads the pack in investment banking revenue for the second year in a row. JPM took in $5.2 billion in fees.

• Bank of America was second at $4.6 billion in revenue from similar services.

• Goldman Sachs came in third, with an even $4 billion in revenue from investment banking.

• Morgan Stanley was fourth, at $3.8 billion in revenue from banking services.

• Wells Fargo revenue from investment banking fees declined 13 percent.

» Read More
  Tuesday, 21 Dec 2010 | 12:42 PM ET

Dream Wish List — A Postmodern Deconstruction

Posted By: Ash Bennington

The latest Internet meme circulating around New York — and elsewhere — is a Christmas list .

Getty Images

It is a — self titled — "Dream Wish List."

Here is a sampling of items:

•"Gold or Silver or Sparkly Christian Louboutins"

[A handwritten margin note indicates a cost of $795.]

• "A necklace like this:"

[Like all items on the list, a URL link is helpfully included. A handwritten note indicates a cost of $2400.]

• "Hermes Avalon Blanket — Orange — $1125"

And so on.

» Read More
  Tuesday, 21 Dec 2010 | 11:56 AM ET

The Distinguished Intellectual Pedigree of the Case Against Insider Trading Laws

Posted By: John Carney
UCLA law Professor Stephen Bainbridge nicely explains that my position on insider trading—that the regulatory ban on insider trading is bad policy—is not really as radical as it seems. In fact, it’s got a long and distinguished academic track record. » Read More
  Tuesday, 21 Dec 2010 | 11:16 AM ET

Basel III and its Discontents

Posted By: Ash Bennington

If you follow the story of the Basel Capital Accords, you know it's rather tricky business.

The current incarnation, Basel III, is being workshopped even as you read this post.

Regulatory proposals usually begin with the high minded intention of improving market stability, efficiency, transparency and so on.

But they usually fail to achieve any of those goals.

The reasons for failure are manifold: Markets are dynamic and difficult to handicap, every trade has two sides, risk is difficult to quantify. And so on.

In fact, there may be nearly as many reasons for regulatory failures as there are failed regulatory regimes. (Ok: Not quite as many — but you get the point.)

Joseph Cotterill, at The Financial Times Alphaville, wrote a recent piece hashing through some potential points of failure for Basel III.

The primary problem is that banks can still carry highly rated sovereign debt as zero risk weighted assets on their books. In light of the deterioration of credit quality of many European sovereigns, this is obviously risk-weighting divorced from reality.

» Read More
  Tuesday, 21 Dec 2010 | 10:37 AM ET

Julian Assange Predicts Resignations At Big US Bank

Posted By: John Carney

In an interview with the British newspaper The Times, Julian Assange has confirmed that WikiLeaks is holding a vast cache of documents from a major US bank.

»Read more
  Tuesday, 21 Dec 2010 | 10:30 AM ET

Blackburn: 'Net Neutrality' — Nationalization of the Internet

Posted By: Lori Ann LaRocco

Today the Federal Communications Commission is expected to vote in favor of "net neutrality" which will prohibit broadband providers from being the ultimate deciders of their Internet traffic.

This battle has been going on for about five years and even after its expected passage, the Republican-led House next year is anticipated to take up this issue again.

Companies like Amazon.com , Skype and Netflix have voiced their opposition on the new rules. Proponents say the rules would prohibit phone and cable companies from playing favorites or discriminate when it comes to opening or closing their virtual doors if you will, to web traffic.

But as with any regulation there are two sides to it.

One of the leading "net neutrality" skeptics is Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn \(R-T,\) member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Federal Communications Commission. In the Republican led House next year, Blackburn will be the Vice Chairman of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade. I decided to sit down with the Representative to get her concerns on what this regulation could mean for business.

» Read More
  Tuesday, 21 Dec 2010 | 9:03 AM ET

How Jonathan Chait Misunderstands Regulatory Capture

Posted By: John Carney
CNBC.com

The move of Peter Orszag from the Office of Management and Budget to Citigroup has sparked a renewed debate about the tight knit fabric that wraps Wall Street and Washington, DC. together.

This is a debate that is always worth renewing.

Will Wilkinson started the debate off by pointing to the seemingly inevitable capture of well-intentioned government programs by special interests.

» Read More
  Tuesday, 21 Dec 2010 | 8:51 AM ET

Bomb Found on Subway Car in Rome

Posted By: Ash Bennington

Moody's Warns on Portuguese Debt (NY Times via Reuters) "Moody's Investor Service warned on Tuesday it may downgrade debt-ridden Portugal's A1 rating by one or two notches after a review that will take up to three months, citing weak growth prospects and high borrowing costs. Portugal has moved into the eye of the storm in Europe's debt crisis, with markets worried it will be next to take a bailout after Ireland and Greece, although Moody's said its solvency was not in question. The cost of insuring Portuguese sovereign debt against default rose in response and the euro slipped a touch."

TD-Bank Agrees to Buy Chrysler Financial for $6.3 Billion (CNBC via Reuters) "Toronto-Dominion Bank has agreed to buy Chrysler Financial from private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management for $6.3 billion, making Canada's No. 2 bank one of North America's top five bank-owned auto lenders. TD said Tuesday the purchase consists of net assets of $5.9 billion and about $400 million in goodwill. The bank does not intend to issue common equity in connection with the deal. Under the terms of the agreement, TD's U.S. unit — TD Bank — will acquire Chrysler Financial in the United States, and TD will acquire Chrysler Financial in Canada."

Controversial 'Net Neutrality' Rules About to Pass FCC \(Wall Street Journal\) "The top communications regulator won support to pass contentious new rules for Internet traffic, a move likely to face legal challenges and create uncertainty about Internet regulation. The Federal Communications Commission is set to approve on Tuesday Chairman Julius Genachowski's proposed rules governing net neutrality—a concept aimed at preventing Internet providers from interfering with web traffic. The rules are expected to bar providers from discriminating against legal Internet traffic and require more transparency. They also would let broadband providers for the first time charge more to companies that want faster service for delivery of games, videos or other services."

» Read More

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    Lawrence Delevingne is the ‘Big Money’ enterprise reporter for CNBC.com and NetNet.

  • Stephanie Landsman is one of the producers of "Fast Money."

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