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  Tuesday, 30 Nov 2010 | 2:17 PM ET

Bank of America May Be Wikileaks' Next Target

Posted By: John Carney

Bank of America may be the next target of a cache of Wikileaks documents.

Bank of America flag
Getty Images
Bank of America flag

Earlier this week, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange said that he planned to release tens of thousands of documents on one of the largest banks in the U.S. The documents would reveal unethical behavior at the bank that would likely prompt official investigations and reforms, Assange said.

Assange refused to reveal which bank was the source of the documents.

But in an interview last year , Assange said Wikileaks had acquired a huge cache of documents on Bank of America.

» Read More
  Tuesday, 30 Nov 2010 | 1:39 PM ET

The Cotton Crunch Tears Through the Fabric of Retail

Posted By: Lori Ann LaRocco

The Grinch may not have stolen the Black Friday momentum, but the coal in the retailer's stocking next year could the high price of cotton. "The fabric of our lives" is going to be more expensive come Spring and the prices you are seeing now will soon be a memory.

While the floods in Pakistan are being blamed as one of the reasons for the run up in the fluffy fiber, its good ole demand from China that's one of the driving forces.

"We are seeing strong demand from China," says Jason Roose, Vice President and commodities analyst a U.S. Commodities, "With the weak dollar they are buying commodities. For the first time in six years, China bought corn. They are getting good value (with cotton and corn). We are temporarily in a bubble."

With less acres of cotton being cultivated and being used instead for soybeans, the cotton crops aren't getting any larger.

So which retailers will be hurt most from this cotton crunch? Dana Telsey, CEO and Chief Research Officer of Telsey Advisory Group, says the impact of rising sourcing costs, including raw materials such as cotton, freight and labor will begin to have an impact most likely in the beginning of the second half of 2011 than the first of the year.

"Companies that have mentioned the upcoming pressures, include Jones, Volcom , and Carters. The magnitude of the increase is still in question and appears to vary; we are hearing everything from 3 percent to 5 percent to as much as 10 percent in terms of what the increases could be; although, there is no exact quantification," Telsey says.

One of best people to talk to when it comes to the overall health of the retail environment are the mall owners and operators. I decided to sit down and speak with Bill Taubman, Chief Operating Officer of Taubman Centers, on the headwinds retailers are facing when it comes to cotton as well as how this holiday shopping season is shaping up.

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  Tuesday, 30 Nov 2010 | 12:50 PM ET

Whiny Banks Call Fannie and Freddie Put Backs "Unfair"

Posted By: Ash Bennington

A new Bloomberg article out today on the topic of the mortgage repurchase fiasco is a treasure trove of insight into the current state of affairs between Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on the one hand and the big banks on the other. First, the big picture.

CNBC

Here's the upshot of the story: Banks are starting to push back against Fannie and Freddie on loan repurchases. According to the Bloomberg article, "Lenders say they are resisting buybacks because McLean, Virginia-based Freddie Mac and Washington- based Fannie Mae are unfairly second-guessing old appraisals, accusing originators of failing to verify income, or pinning failed loans on minor technical errors."

Perhaps I'm missing something.

Are the lenders asserting that the three points listed above are not relevant in evaluating the validity of a loan repurchase? Think about each in turn: 1\) the value of the underlying asset being purchased with the loan; 2\) the credit worthiness of the borrower; and 3\) the lender's ability to document and verify the information attested to in the loan documentation.

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  Tuesday, 30 Nov 2010 | 10:42 AM ET

Consultant to 'Vampire Squid of Expert Network Firms' Questioned by FBI

Posted By: Ash Bennington

We know that one of the principal focuses of the government in their investigation into insider trading in general—and into hedge funds in particular—are the so-called "expert-network" firms.

Digital Vision | Photodisc | Getty Images

The purpose of the expert network firms is to provide information and insight about companies that investors are interested in—and also, perhaps more crucially, to help manage the relationships between the investors and the managers of companies they seek to invest in. Think about the nature of that scenario: Investors and managers chatting together informally, outside the scope of more traditional venues like earnings calls and IR events. It seems a safe bet that, amid allegations of widespread insider trading, the government might be interested in exploring that channel to see if material nonpublic information might have changed hands.

Today, the news is that Gerson Lehrman Group, the largest of the expert network firms, had at least one of its consultants questioned by the FBI . For those not familiar with the hedge fund/expert network axis, the significance of this may not be immediately obvious.

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  Tuesday, 30 Nov 2010 | 10:06 AM ET

Ireland's Bailout Explained

Posted By: John Carney
Here's how Ireland's EU bailout went down. »Read more
  Tuesday, 30 Nov 2010 | 9:44 AM ET

Wikileaks Is Targeting a Major US Bank

Posted By: John Carney

While the leaked diplomatic cables published this week by Wikileaks have been roiling the global political scene, bank executives should be on guard. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange just announced that he has a trove of documents revealing unethical behavior at one of the largest banks in the US.

Paul Giamou | Aurora | Getty Images

In an interview with Forbes, Assange declined to name the bank. But he hinted at its identity. It is one of the biggest banks in the country. It still exists—ruling out Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch or Lehman Brothers.

That leaves us with a handful of candidates: Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, and Goldman Sachs.

Assange says he has tens of thousands of documents showing an "ecosystem of corruption." The publication will prompt investigations and reforms, according to Assange.

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  Tuesday, 30 Nov 2010 | 9:01 AM ET

'Spanish Flu' Contagion in Eurozone Debt Crisis?

Posted By: Ash Bennington
A roundup of the morning headlines. »Read more
  Monday, 29 Nov 2010 | 4:40 PM ET

Splits in Euro Zone Emerge Amid Debt Crisis

Posted By: Ash Bennington
A roundup of the day's headlines. »Read more
  Monday, 29 Nov 2010 | 4:34 PM ET

The Destabilizing Stabilization Mechanism?

Posted By: Ash Bennington

Is the new European Stability Mechanism behind the price plunge of Spanish sovereign debt?

Medioimages | Photodisc | Getty Images

The Financial Times blog Alphaville, which has been covering the mechanics of the European debt crisis in great detail has raised just that question . And they have provided a link to a very ugly looking curve that shows the yield of Spanish sovereign debt spiking.

Alphaville cites Harvinder Singh of Royal Bank of Scotland:

"We expected a relief rally—even if the only relatively safe place was seen as the short end of rescued countries such as Ireland—but in the event the market has moved very quickly to the title of the research note: European periphery crisis: no turning point in sight yet. The spread widening after the initial tightening should frighten policymakers. Make no mistake this is a crisis of EMU."

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  Monday, 29 Nov 2010 | 4:22 PM ET

Uh-Oh: Put-Back Exposure Estimates are Rising

Posted By: John Carney

One important estimate of what mortgage put-backs will cost banks just leaped by more than 20 percent.

Tom Grill | Photographer's Choice RF | Getty Images

Paul Miller of FBR Capital now estimates that banks will face between $54 billion and $106 billion . That’s up from his September estimate of $44 billion to $91 billion.

The banks that have the greatest loss exposure, according to Miller, are Bank of America, Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo.

» Read More

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  • Jeff Cox is finance editor for CNBC.com.

  • Lawrence Develingne

    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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