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Who's on Top at Goldman Sachs?

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Portuguese Debt Auction Clears Below Important 7 Percent Threshold [Financial Times] The FT reports a mixed bag on Lisbon's latest auction: "Portugal successfully issued debt on Wednesday in the first bond sale of the year from a 'peripheral' eurozone economy, taking away some of the pressure for a bail-out of the indebted country. But investors warned the country was still likely to follow Greece and Ireland in seeking emergency rescue loans because of its stagnating economy. The most closely watched government bond auction of the year to date saw Lisbon sell €1.25bn of four-year and 10-year bonds. It was the maximum amount that debt managers were looking to sell and demand was strong. Critically, Lisbon paid yields of 6.71 per cent for the 10-year bonds, below the 7 per cent threshold that the government has acknowledged is unsustainable and in the eyes of most investors is likely to force the country to seek bail-out loans."

Who's on Top at Goldman Sachs? [Wall Street Journal] Investment bankers aim for primacy at Goldman: "In the pecking order at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., traders trounced investment bankers for most of the past decade. Now, the Wall Street firm's army of investment bankers is making a comeback. The 63-page internal report released by the New York company on Tuesday showed how Goldman is trying to reassert the traditional primacy of deal making while playing down the firm's recent reliance on trading. One of the biggest reasons why: Trading caused most of the turmoil, suspicion and reputational damage suffered by Goldman since the financial crisis erupted."

Europe Hashing Out Bond Plan [Bloomberg] "European governments are considering aid for Portugal, debt buybacks, lower interest rates on rescue loans and guarantees against excessive debt as part of a package to quell the financial crisis, according to two people with direct knowledge of the talks. The plan, which may include a loan to Portugal of about 60 billion euros ($78 billion) and purchases of outstanding Greek debt, would mark an attempt to contain a crisis that has frustrated unprecedented efforts by policy makers to calm markets and raised questions about the health of the 17-nation euro economy."

MySpace is Dying (Did You Need the NYT to Tell You That?) [DealBook —New York Times] "As Facebook was negotiating a half-billion-dollar investment from Goldman Sachs recently, MySpace, once the dominant Web site for social networking, was preparing to fire nearly half its staff. The layoffs, which cut nearly 500 employees from a payroll of close to 1,100, were announced Tuesday. The downsizing is the most draconian yet for the beleaguered company, and could be a precursor to a sale of the site by the News Corporation, which bought MySpace in 2005 for $580 million after a bidding war with Viacom."

Mortgage Rates Drop, Applications Rise [CNBC via Reuters] "Applications for U.S. home mortgages increased last week as lending rates eased from recent highs, an industry group said on Wednesday. The Mortgage Bankers Association said its seasonally adjusted index of mortgage application activity rose 2.2 percent in the week ended Jan. 7 to its highest level in about a month. It had dropped on the back of refinancing activity as influential U.S. Treasury yields soared in late 2010."

Jaime Dimon is Bearish on Muni Bankruptcy Outlook [Bloomberg] "JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon said he expects more U.S. municipalities to declare bankruptcy and urged caution when investing in the $2.9 trillion public-debt market. 'There have been six or seven municipal bankruptcies already,' Dimon, 54, said yesterday at his company’s annual health-care conference in San Francisco. 'I think unfortunately you will see more.'"

Renminbi Goes Global [Wall Street Journal] "China has launched trading in its currency in the U.S. for the first time, an explicit endorsement by Beijing of the fast-growing market in the yuan and a significant step in the country's plan to foster global trading in its currency. The state-controlled Bank of China Ltd. is allowing customers to trade the yuan, also known as the renminbi, in the U.S., expanding the nascent offshore market for the currency which began last year in Hong Kong."

"EU wants more government budget cuts" [Associated Press]Good luck with that: "European Union governments must make further cuts to their budgets, overhaul their pension systems, and make sure their banks are less volatile, the European Union said Wednesday as it set out the priorities for states' budgets for 2012."

"In Giffords’s District, a Long History of Tension" [New York Times] The New York Times excellent, well balanced analysis of the Tucson tragedy: "Representative Gabrielle Giffords was distressed when the glass front door of her district office here was shattered by a kick or a pellet gun last March, an act of vandalism that took place hours after she joined Democrats in passing President Obama’s health care bill. “Things have really gotten spun up,” she told a television interviewer the next day."

"Verizon iPhone: 5 reasons to buy, 5 not to" [Christian Science Monitor] There are solid arguments on both sides: "Almost exactly four years from the date Apple announced the original iPhone, the long-rumored Verizon iPhone has become a reality. Now Verizon customers are wondering if they should get it, and AT&T customers are wondering if they should make the switch.

So, here are five reasons you should buy the Verizon iPhone and five reasons you shouldn't"

Madoff Victims Haven't Gotten Much Relief [BusinessWeek via Bloomberg] "It's 4 a.m. and Stephanie Halio, a once-retired 67-year-old, is driving a van up and down the highways of South Florida. Why? Blame Bernie Madoff."

Obama's Polls Numbers Rise with the Economy [Reuters] "President Barack Obama is getting a bump in his approval ratings from an improving U.S. economy but Americans want him to focus on reducing U.S. debt and spending, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed on Wednesday."

NYC Snowicaine Fears: Snoverblown [New York Post] "New York City's public school system will remain open despite the snow, but schools were shut elsewhere, including parts of Massachusetts and Connecticut, where the storm was windier and snow was heavier than expected. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said crews would work even harder after criticism of how the city handled a storm just after Christmas, when hundreds of streets went unplowed, subway riders were stranded and medical calls unanswered because ambulances were unable to navigate snowy streets."