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Dec 15, 2010

NYT: Breaking News Alert : U.S. Tries to Build Case for Conspiracy by WikiLeaks Founder

Breaking News Alert
The New York Times
Wed, December 15, 2010
U.S. Tries to Build Case for Conspiracy by WikiLeaks Founder

Federal prosecutors, seeking to build a case against the
WikiLeaks leader Julian Assange for his role in a huge
dissemination of classified government documents, are looking
for evidence of any collusion in his early contacts with an
Army intelligence analyst suspected of leaking the

Justice Department officials are trying to find out whether
Mr. Assange encouraged or even helped the analyst, Pfc.
Bradley Manning, to extract classified military and State
Department files from a government computer system. If he did
so, they believe they could charge him as a conspirator in
the leak, not just as a passive recipient of the documents
who then published them.

Read More:

Twitter’s valuation soars with new funding:: MarketWatch - Special Financial Services

Twitter’s valuation soars with new funding
By John Letzing MarketWatch

Backers place a $3.7 billion valuation on micro-blogging service Twitter Inc., with a new, $200 million round of funding led by one of the highest-profile Internet investors in Silicon Valley.  

CNBC Evening Market Wrap: Negative Home Equity Is Worse Problem Than You Think.


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Behind the Counter: The Untold Story of Franchising
CNBC 360 The American Dream In A Box
Tonight, go inside the franchise biz…where little guys can make it big! Darren Rovell takes you “Behind the Counter: The Untold Story of Franchising.
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F & F I N | The Australian Business Briefing: Key wins on super but industry split

Key wins on super but industry split
Bill Shorten Geoffrey Newman, Wealth editor SUPERANNUATION funds and employers have won key concessions from the government in its response to the Cooper superannuation reforms.
Wall St wobbles on Spain debt warning
Australian dollar Donna Kardos Yesalavich US stocks fell slightly and the Australian dollar tumbled as investors fretted over the euro zone after a warning about Spain's debt ratings.
Booming economy to bring rate rises
pay packet Paul Cleary THE economy will emerge strongly next year from its recent slowdown, pushing unemployment well below 5 per cent.
EU pressured on Spain debt threat
Spain flag Sam Fleming PRESSURE for an increase in the size of the EU's bailout fund has intensified after Moody's warned it may downgrade Spain's debt rating.
Chinese jittery over red-hot prices
China food market Leo Lewis CHINESE households are more nervous about the rising cost of living than at any time over the past decade as consumer prices lurch higher.
Indians take over Griffin's coalmines
Griffin Coal sold to Indian giant Andrew Burrell ENERGY giant Lanco Infratech has made the biggest investment by an Indian company in Australia, spending $850 million to buy Griffin Coal.
ACCC open to exchange takeover
ASX Tracy Lee THE competition regulator's clearance of the $7.8 billion Australian Securities Exchange takeover has boosted the deal's probability of success.
Fletcher pins $740m bid on shareholders
Jonathan Ling Tracy Lee FLETCHER Building is hoping investors will put pressure on the Crane Group board to engage with it after they made a $740 million bid.
Financial Markets
Wall St wobbles on Spain debt warning
Australian dollar Donna Kardos Yesalavich US stocks fell slightly and the Australian dollar tumbled as investors fretted over the euro zone after a warning about Spain's debt ratings.
Gold falls on upbeat US economic data
EU pressured on Spain debt threat
Financial Markets Coverage
Mining & Energy
Gold falls on upbeat US economic data
gold pour Tatyana Shumsky INVESTORS shed safe-harbour purchases of gold as upbeat US economic data and soft US inflation stoked risk appetite.
Russian offers $1.6bn for Mantra Resources
All welcome as labour drought bites
More Mining & Energy Coverage

F & F I N | The Australian Capital Circle : They Had no Chance


Capital Circle Newsletter

They had no chance
With 41 people rescued, 28 confirmed dead and 12 unaccounted for, the tragedy off Christmas Island has shocked the island - and the nation.  

First off: As rescuers last night continued to scour the ocean for survivors after the worst known loss of asylum-seekers' lives at sea since the SIEV X tragedy in October 2001, sources told The Australian it appeared the boat's attempts to reach the island's only safe harbour in mountainous seas tragically helped them avoid detection. The first authorities knew of the wooden fishing boat was when it appeared out of the pre-dawn darkness. (more from Paul Maley and Brendan Nicholson)
Eyewitness: Traumatised residents watched the tragedy unfold from Christmas Island's lethal limestone cliffs. Their efforts to rescue children drowning below them were thwarted by roaring winds that threw back lifevests. ''I saw a person dying in front of me and there was nothing we could do to save them,'' said a Christmas Island councillor, Kamar Ismail. ''Babies, children, maybe three or four years old, they were hanging on to bits of timber, they were screaming 'help, help, help'. We were throwing lifejackets out to them but many of them couldn't swim a few metres to reach them.'' (Kirsty Needham, Andrew Stevenson and Tom Allard report)
Video of the incident here. Graphic here.
Inside story: CHRISTMAS Island dive shop operator Simon Prince first thought he heard people cheering. Prince then looked out over the mountainous seas on yet another grey dawn to see an old Indonesian fishing boat precariously close to the island's jagged cliffs. (more from Nicolas Perpitch, Debbie Guest and Tony Barrass).

NYT: Afternoon Business News : Anti-Austerity Protest in Greece Turns Violent


Anti-Austerity Protest in Greece Turns Violent

Thousands of Greeks took to the streets of Athens for a protest marred by violence as a general strike brought international travel and public services to a standstill.

Ireland Backs Bailout as Moody's Warns on Spain

The Irish Parliament gave its backing to an international aid package, as Spain was looking at a possible downgrade of its credit rating.

Obama Tries to Find Common Ground With Executives

The president urged a group of chief executives to begin hiring and investing again as he portrayed himself an eager partner in effort to get the economy going.

YouTube May Buy Video Production Company

YouTube is said to be in talks to buy Next New Networks, a Web video production company, in what would be its first major foray into producing original content.

New Estimates Revise Incidence of Food Poisoning

Scientists say the new numbers are a better guess on how many foodborne illnesses occur in the United States.

The Washington Post Afternoon Edition : Most Read Articles

Washington Post

1) No meat? No fish? No big deal, even for kids who go vegetarian.

Both of my sons have been voracious carnivores from the get-go, devouring baby beef and chicken purees with gusto before graduating to gnawing spare ribs clean, inhaling full pots of meatballs and downing two to three hot dogs in a sitting. Over the past several months, however, my 4-year-old has...

2) Washington area is wealthiest and most educated region in the nation, census data show

The Washington area's affluence and education levels make it the wealthiest and most educated region in the nation, according to census data released Tuesday that reflect five years of relative prosperity compared with the rest of the country.

3) Top Marine says repeal of gay ban could add casualties

The Marine Corps' top general suggested Tuesday that allowing gays to serve openly in the military could result in more casualties because their presence on the battlefield would pose "a distraction."

4) Forget Tea Party rhetoric - pork barrel politics is back

Freshman lawmakers, such as Kristi Noem, are acting in ways the Tea Party deplores.

5) Pork is back on the menu

Dear Tea Party voter: You've been had. When the good people of South Dakota voted last month to send Republican Kristi Noem to Congress, they probably believed that she would give no quarter to the lobbyists and special interest groups who enjoyed, as she put it, "throwing money at the feet of a ...

6) Senate spending bill contains thousands of earmarks

Weeks after swearing off earmarks, many senators stand to gain tens of millions of dollars for pet projects in a massive spending bill that could be their last chance at the money before a more conservative Congress begins next month.

7) NRA-led gun lobby wields powerful influence over ATF, U.S. politics

Behind the scenes, federal agents in charge of stopping gun trafficking to Mexico have quietly advanced a plan to help stem the smuggling of high-powered AK-47s and AR-15s to the bloody drug war south of the border.

8) Dear New York Times: We get it. Your restaurants are better than ours.

The New York Times gives D.C.'s dining scene another tongue lashing, pointing out Capitol Hill's affection for junk food. We'd love to argue the issue, perhaps over a New York slice and a Natham's Famous.

9) Md. representative on the estate tax giveaway

Democrats can stomach most tradeoffs made in the tax deal, but not this one.

10) Senate to vote on tax cut deal House Dems weigh amending estate tax

The Senate prepared Wednesday to push through a sweeping tax package negotiated by the White House and congressional Republicans, and House leaders - who were looking to amend the measure in a way that would satisfy liberals without unraveling the deal altogether - said a House vote could follow ...

Treasury International Capital System : Updated Information

U.S. Department of the Treasury Logo 

Treasury International Capital System (TIC) - Home Page

  1. Securities data:
    1. U.S. Transactions in long-term securities: (monthly data; covers U.S. and foreign securities).
    2. Special monthly data on U.S. securities: Table on Major Foreign Holders of Treasuries (mfh), Press release historical data, ABS repayments, Net purchases by sector, Other acquisitions); data on Foreign securities.
    3. Holdings of U.S. securities; Holdings of Foreign securities
      (annual data, long-term & short-term securities).
    4. Holdings (monthly) of short-term U.S. securities; Holdings of short-term foreign securities.
  2. Banking Data - monthly Liabilities to, and Claims on, foreign-residents. (includes short-term securities.)
  3. Derivatives Contracts - quarterly Holdings and Net Cash Settlements with foreign-residents.
  4. Nonbanking Data - quarterly Liabilities to, and Claims on, unaffiliated foreign-residents.
  5. Quarterly data on U.S. Gross External Debt.

Forms & Instructions for data providers

  1. TIC monthly & quarterly reports: B, C, D, S and SLT forms.
  2. TIC annual & benchmark reports: SHL/SHLA and SHC/SHCA.

  1. NEW (12-6-2010) NOTICE: The new website addresses have been changed significantly.
    -- Here is the new address for the TIC homepage. You can get to all TIC information from this page.
    -- Here is the new address for the Forms and Instructions page. You can get to the individual forms and instructions from this page.

  2. (10-29-2010). The Final Report PDF icon(PDF) on U.S. Portfolio Holdings of Foreign Securities at End-year 2009. The Press Release was dated October 29, 2010. The reports on previous surveys are on the securities(c) webpage.
  3. Press Release (monthly; with historical data).
    1. Quarterly Analysis & ChartsPDF icon (PDF) on TIC securities and banking data are released with monthly data in February, May, August and November.
    2. FAQs on lines in the press release data table.

  4. (5-13-2010) The Final ReportPDF icon(PDF) (4-30-2010; table 2 revised on 5-13-2010) on Foreign Portfolio Holdings of U.S. Securities at End-June 2009. The Press Release was dated April 30, 2010. The reports on previous surveys are on the securities(c) webpage.
    -- In addition, the table on Major Foreign Holders of U.S. Treasury Securities was revised on April 30 to include the relatively small changes from the preliminary survey data released on February 26.
    -- In addition, revised data were released on payments of ABS principal for the period July 2008-Feb 2010, based in part on the end-June 2009 survey data.
  5. (9-16-2009) New monthly data on transactions in long-term asset-backed securities (ABS) are available in section B of the webpage "Securities(a), U.S. Transactions with Foreigners in Long-Term Securities"

Stock Futures Seeing Weakness Amid Data Deluge - U.S. Commentary : RTTNews: Morning Market Briefing

Morning Market Briefing Wed Dec 15 2010


Dec 15, 2010 Stock Futures Seeing Weakness Amid Data Deluge - U.S. Commentary Stocks futures are showing modest weakness ahead of the opening bell on Wednesday, as the markets are digesting in-line consumer price data and a New York State manufacturing number that firmly topped expectations. The move also comes ahead of data on industrial production and homebuilder confidence. Full Article

Economic News

Dec 15, 2010 Spain Warned Of Possible Rating Cut Ratings agency Moody's placed Spain'a Aa1 credit rating on review for a possible cut on Wednesday, citing the country's deteriorating fiscal position. Full Article
Dec 15, 2010 Riksbank Raises Key Interest Rate To 1.25% The Swedish central bank on Wednesday decided to raise its key interest rate by a quarter percentage point to 1.25% at the end of its two-day monetary policy meeting. This is the fourth straight rate hike this year. Full Article
Dec 15, 2010 UK Nov Jobless Claims Fall Less Than Expected UK jobless claims decreased less than expected in November, official data showed Wednesday. Additionally, unemployment showed first rise in six months amid fears of more job losses in the public sector due to government's spending cuts. Full Article
Dec 15, 2010 BoJ Tankan: Large Manufacturing Starting To SlowThe Bank of Japan's quarterly Tankan survey showed on Wednesday that the large manufacturers' index came down from a two-year high in the fourth quarter of 2010, falling for the first time in seven quarters while posting a score of 5. Full Article
Dec 15, 2010 U.S. Consumer Prices See Modest Growth In November Consumer prices in the U.S. showed a modest increase in the month of November, according to a report released by the Labor Department on Wednesday, with the data indicating that higher producer prices are not being passed on to consumers. Full Article
Dec 15, 2010 Empire State Manufacturing Index Rises More Than Expected In December After reporting an unexpected deterioration in conditions for New York State manufacturers in November, the New York Federal Reserve released a report on Wednesday showing that regional manufacturing conditions improved in December. Full Article

Earnings News

Dec 15, 2010 Honeywell backs FY10 outlookHoneywell International Inc.(HON), a provider of aerospace solutions and control technologies, Wednesday reaffirmed its full year 2010 outlook, while issuing its initial guidance for fiscal 201l. Full Article
Dec 15, 2010 Praxair says charges expected in Q4 but reaffirms adj. EPS guidancePraxair Inc. (PX) expects to incur some charges in the fourth quarter, mainly related to the settlement of Spanish income tax disputes. Though these charges are expected to impact reported earnings by about $290 million or $0.93 per share, the company reaffirmed its adjusted earnings guidance for the quarter. Full Article
Dec 15, 2010 Joy Global Q4 results beat estimatesMining solutions provider Joy Global Inc. (JOYG) posted better-than-expected fourth-quarter profit, thanks to strong aftermarket sales across its divisions. Revenues were also higher than Street view. The company issued fiscal 2011 outlook above analysts' estimates. Full Article
Dec 15, 2010 First Solar guides FY11 above Street viewSolar module maker First Solar Inc. (FSLR) Tuesday issued fiscal 2011 guidance above analysts' estimates. Full Article
Dec 15, 2010 ITW reaffirms Q4, FY10 earnings ViewIllinois Tool Works Inc. (ITW), an industrial products and equipment manufacturer, Wednesday reaffirmed its earnings per share outlook for the fourth quarter and full year 2010. The company also said its revenues rose 11% year-over-year for the three-months ending November 30, with acquisitions bringing in 3%. Full Article

Corporate News

Dec 15, 2010 Dynegy Board okays $665 billion acquisition by Icahn EnterprisesDynegy Inc. (DYN), electric energy producer and supplier, Wednesday said its board approved Icahn Enterprises LP's (IEP) all-cash acquisition offer of $665 billion or $5.50 per share. The price is at a 10% premium to Dynegy's thirty-day average closing price. Full Article
Dec 15, 2010 Agrium's Commodity Management Unit AWB to be acquired by CargillAgrium Inc. (AGU, AGU.TO), an agricultural products supplier, Wednesday said it is selling its commodity management unit AWB Ltd (AWBZF.PK, AWB.AX) to privately-held international food producer and marketer Cargill Inc. The cash consideration will equal the net asset value on date of purchase completion with a premium. Cargill will also assume AWB's debts. Full Article
Dec 15, 2010 Simon proposes 425p/shr offer price for Capital Shopping CentersSimon Property Group Inc. (SPG), a real estate investment trust, proposed an offer price of 425 pence a share in a letter Wednesday to Capital Shopping Centers Group plc, or CSC (CSCG.L). The price is at a 26% premium to the closing price of CSC shares prior to the offer period that began on November 24. CSC said it will consider its response to the latest proposal today. Full Article
Dec 15, 2010 HP chosen for 5-yr, $1.4 bln technology services contract by E.ONHewlett-Packard GmBH, the European arm of technology company Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ), Wednesday said it signed a five-year, $1.4 billion agreement to supply European Utilities provider E.ON with data center operations and workplace support. Full Article
Dec 15, 2010 Novartis to buy remaining shares of Alcon at $168/shrNovartis AG (NVS), a healthcare company, agreed to buy the remaining 23% stake in vision care products manufacturer Alcon Inc. (ACL), for $12.9 billion or $168 per share. Full Article

Broker Ratings Changes

Dec 15, 2010 KeyBanc Capital Markets Initiates Goodrich Petroleum Corp. (GDP) At Hold

Todays WS Events

Dec 15, 2010 Honeywell Updates Conference Call At 9:00 AM ET Honeywell International Inc. (HON) will host a Updates conference call at 9:00 AM ET on December 15, 2010, to discuss its 2011 Outlook with investors. To access the webcast, log on at To participate in the call, dial (719) 325-2426. A replay of the call by dialing (719) 457-0820 or access code is 4135997.
Dec 15, 2010 AutoZone Stockholders' Meeting At 9:30 AM ET AutoZone, Inc. (AZO) will host its Annual Meeting of Stockholders on December 15, 2010. The event is scheduled to begin at 9:30 AM ET. To access the webcast, log on to
Dec 15, 2010 Amgen To Present At Deutsche Bank's 2010 BioFEST; Webcast At 10:00 AM ET Amgen Inc. (AMGN) will participate in Deutsche Bank's 2010 BioFEST in the Four Seasons, Boston. The event is scheduled to begin at 10:00 AM ET, December 15, 2010. To access the live audio webcast, log on to
Dec 15, 2010 Praxair To Present At Bank Of America Conference; Webcast At 11:25 AM ET Praxair Inc. (PX) will present at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Conference in New York. The event is scheduled to begin at 11:25 AM ET, December 15, 2010. To access the live audio webcast, log on at

Fiscal And Economic Concerns May Stifle Risk Appetite : RTTNews Daily Market Analysis

Daily Market Analysis Wed Dec 15 09:06 2010

Dec 15, 2010 Fiscal And Economic Concerns May Stifle Risk Appetite The major U.S. index futures are pointing to a lower opening on Wednesday, as a warning of a possible downgrade of Spain's rating and some soft data is driving traders from risky bets. The strengthening of the dollar following the waning of risk appetite has exerted downward pressure on commodity prices. The consumer price inflation report released earlier in the day showed a smaller than expected increase in headline inflation, in line with the subdued pricing environment. Full Article

US prices Rose 0.1% In November | MarketWatch Bulletin

Bulletin:U.S. consumer prices rise 0.1% in November
12/15/2010 08:31:21 AM

F & F I N | Reuters - Before The Bell : Wall Street futures point to mixed open .

Wall Street futures point to mixed open
LONDON (Reuters) - Futures for the Dow Jones industrial average falls 0.2 percent, the S&P 500 gains 0.1 percent and the Nasdaq 100 rises 0.2 percent, pointing to a mixed open on Wall Street on Wednesday. | Full Article

Time names Mark Zuckerberg 2010 Person of the Year
December 15, 2010 07:55 AM ET
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Time magazine named Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg as its 2010 Person of the Year on Wednesday. | Full Article
Spain put on debt watch ahead of EU summit
December 15, 2010 07:45 AM ET
MADRID/BERLIN (Reuters) - Ratings agency Moody's warned Spain on Wednesday that its debt rating could be downgraded, pushing Spain back into the euro zone debt spotlight ahead of an EU leaders' summit starting on Thursday. | Full Article
Irish opposition warns on senior bank debt
December 15, 2010 07:19 AM ET
DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland's main opposition party wants to renegotiate the country's EU/IMF bailout to make holders of senior bank debt not covered by a government guarantee share the cost of bailing out the sector. | Full Article
Novartis sweetens deal to win full Alcon ownership
December 15, 2010 05:08 AM ET
ZURICH (Reuters) - Novartis AG has wrapped up its long-awaited buyout of the remainder of U.S.-listed Alcon Inc | Full Article
Tax cuts head for Senate approval
December 14, 2010 10:59 PM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's sweeping plan to extend expiring tax cuts for millions of Americans headed for overwhelming passage in the Senate on Wednesday as it moved through Congress. | Full Article
WikiLeaks' Assange bail appeal to be heard Thursday
December 15, 2010 07:12 AM ET
LONDON (Reuters) - A British court will decide on Thursday whether to free WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has become the scourge of the U.S. establishment, on 200,000 pound ($317,000) bail over accusations of sex crimes in Sweden. | Full Article
U.S. at risk of rare earths supply disruptions
December 15, 2010 06:23 AM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States risks major supply disruptions of rare earth metals used in clean energy products unless it diversifies its sources of the minerals, the Energy Department warns in a report due to be released later on Wednesday. | Full Article
Intelligence reports offer dim views of Afghan war: report
December 15, 2010 01:37 AM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two new classified intelligence reports on the war in Afghanistan say there is a limited chance of success unless Pakistan hunts down insurgents operating from havens on its Afghan border, The New York Times reported on Tuesday. | Full Article
North Korea digging tunnel for spring nuclear test: report
December 15, 2010 03:18 AM ET
SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea appears to be readying for a possible third nuclear test as early as next March, a newspaper reported on Wednesday, as a U.S. politician travelled to Pyongyang with a message for the North to "calm down." | Full Article
Special report: The cost of a malaria-free world
Justice Department set to appeal healthcare ruling
Poverty equals obesity? Study bucks common wisdom
EPA says saccharin not a threat after all

Overall Analyts See A Positve 2011 For Gold | Goldmineweb

(GOLDMINEWEB) : Gold moved up and then down yesterday and is little changed overall as dealers start to wind down activity ahead of the year end    Wednesday , 15 Dec 2010 .

To read Full Article :

Gold trade light but overall analysts see another positive year ahead

GATA : THE GATA DISPATCH: Reformer from NY Fed gets reformed himself ... by Goldman Sachs

Reformer from NY Fed gets reformed himself ... by Goldman Sachs

New York Fed Derivatives Reformer Lubke Joining Goldman Sachs, Memo Shows
By Matthew Leising and Shannon D. Harrington
Bloomberg News
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
NEW YORK -- Theo Lubke, who served for 15 years at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and headed its efforts to reform the private derivatives market, joined Goldman Sachs Group Inc., according to a memo obtained by Bloomberg News.
Lubke, 44, started this month as chief regulatory reform officer in Goldman Sachs' securities division, the memo said. The newly-created role will allow Lubke to "work closely with divisional and firm-wide leadership to implement regulatory reform legislation," according to the memo. Michael DuVally, a spokesman for Goldman Sachs in New York, confirmed the document.
The most profitable securities firm in Wall Street history is hiring Lubke five months after Congress mandated the regulation of the $583 trillion over-the-counter derivatives market after swaps complicated efforts to resolve the financial crisis. The reforms threaten to cut the profit at dealers such as Goldman Sachs because they will make swaps prices known to the public.

In 2007 Lubke was appointed to his former role by Timothy Geithner, now treasury secretary, who was then president of the New York Fed. The central bank has pushed for changes in the credit-default swap market since 2005, when Geithner became concerned that an explosion of trading was threatening the ability of banks and regulators to manage and monitor risks that posed a threat to the financial system.
He was reassigned as a senior vice president at the New York Fed in September to begin looking for a job outside the bank, a person familiar with the matter said at the time.
"The Federal Reserve and New York Fed have strict conflict of interest policies for their staff, including departing employees," Jeffrey Smith, a spokesman for the New York Fed, said in an e-mailed statement. "In this instance, as in all cases, these policies were strictly followed."
Senior Fed officials are prohibited for six months from attending any meetings with the central bank or from any contact with it on matters related to the area in which the official worked, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Last year Lubke criticized Wall Street's control over the OTC derivatives market, where credit-default, interest-rate and other swaps are traded privately between banks and their customers.
"It is simply unacceptable in today's environment that the design and structure of the OTC derivatives market can be controlled by a handful of large dealers," Lubke said at an International Swaps and Derivatives Association conference in Beijing in April 2009.
The Dodd-Frank Act, which became law in July, requires most swaps to be guaranteed by clearinghouse and traded on exchanges or similar systems. Public prices may lead to compressed differences between what buyers and sellers want to pay for the contracts, known as the bid-offer spread, Howard Chen, a Credit Suisse Group AG analyst in New York, wrote in a Dec. 7 note to clients.
That could be combated by increases in the rate of swaps trading and greater market efficiency that come from the new regulations, Chen said in the note.

The Washington Post | Wonkbook

If you're a deficit hawk, today's Wonkbook won't be easy reading for you. We lead with the tax vote, of course. The $858 billion package does more damage to the deficit than anything other piece of legislation passed during the Obama presidency. It's also expected to receive the largest bipartisan majority of any major piece of legislation the Senate has considered in the last two years.
The lame-duck Congress is also likely to pass an omnibus spending bill that's chockfull of earmarks -- and plenty of them are going to Republican senators like Mitch McConnell, who've now come out against the practice, and many of them were requested by Democratic senators even after the White House begged them to give up on the earmarks this year. It's not exactly a great sign if you were hoping an earmark moratorium would stick. And nor is it a great sign if you're looking for divided government to be more fiscally responsible. The only thing Democrats and Republicans really seem able to agree on is spending money.
Top Stories

Senate Democrats have delayed their vote on the tax deal till this afternoon, reports Lori Montgomery: "Senate leaders...postponed a vote on the $858 billion package until Wednesday afternoon. Despite the delay, the measure was expected to sail through the Senate with even stronger support than it received in a test vote this week, when 83 senators voted to advance the package in the strongest bipartisan vote on a major initiative since President Obama took office."
But House Democrats want to change the estate tax portion of the deal before passing it. "After meeting for two hours with rank-and-file lawmakers late Tuesday, senior Democrats said the House is likely to stage votes to change the terms of a revived estate tax that many Democrats view as overly generous to the wealthy. Outraged by the agreement to exempt individual estates worth as much as $5 million from taxation, senior Democrats said they would press to lower the threshold to $3.5 million. They also want to impose a stiffer tax on larger estates, by setting the rate at 45 percent rather than the 35 percent demanded by Republicans and agreed to by Obama. Those are the same terms that were in effect in 2009."
House leadership member Rep. Chris van Hollen makes the case against the deal's estate tax provisions: "The Kyl estate tax provision will not help economic growth or jobs, and it was not even necessary to the core deal. It was added in exchange for extending certain tax credits that were included in the 2009 Recovery and Reinvestment Act, but it was fundamentally not a fair trade. The cost of the tax credits and the cost of what would have been the common-sense estate tax compromise are essentially the same - a fair and equal trade. But instead of striking that deal, the administration acceded to Kyl's long-standing quest to give a huge break to the top three-tenths of 1 percent of the nation's wealthiest estates."
A Congressional watchdog is condemning the administration's mortgage modification plan, reports Brady Dennis: "The Treasury Department's primary foreclosure-prevention program has failed to live up to expectations and has suffered from a lack of 'meaningful goals,' according to a report from a congressional watchdog panel due out Tuesday. The government's Home Affordable Modification Program, or HAMP, is on pace to prevent 700,000 to 800,000 foreclosures - a significant figure, but far fewer than the 3 million to 4 million struggling homeowners Treasury officials originally hoped to help, according to the bipartisan Congressional Oversight Panel."
Got tips, additions, or comments? E-mail me.
Swedish pop interlude: jj's "Voi Parlate, Io Gioco".
Still to come: The Fed is staying the course on quantitative easing; the Obama administration is appealing a district court's ruling against health care reform; judicial nominations are being blocked at a historic rate; renewable energy is losing a lot of federal support; and a mashup of movies from 2010.

The Fed is staying the course on quantitative easing, reports Neil Irwin: "Interest rates are marching upward, making it more expensive to take out a mortgage or get a loan to expand a business, and diluting efforts by Congress and the Federal Reserve to strengthen the economy. The rise is partly because of good news: The outlook for growth has improved, putting less pressure on investors to keep their money in ultra-safe bonds. When there's less demand for bonds, their interest rates - or yield - go up to attract more investors...The climb in interest rates is confounding the Fed's efforts as it tries to bring down rates by buying $600 billion in Treasury bonds. The central bank affirmed that it would stay on course with those plans Tuesday after a policy meeting."
Obama will caucus with CEOs today:
The Senate's omnibus spending bill contains millions in earmarks, report Philip Rucker and Paul Kane: "The $1.2 trillion bill, released on Tuesday, includes more than 6,000 earmarks totaling $8 billion, an amount that many lawmakers decried as an irresponsible binge following a midterm election in which many voters demanded that the government cut spending...Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) epitomizes the conflicted nature of the debate. Formerly a member of the committee that doles out earmarks, McConnell reluctantly embraced a moratorium on the practice last month to send a signal that Republicans are serious about curbing spending. Yet the legislation includes provisions requested this year by McConnell, including $650,000 for a genetic technology center at the University of Kentucky."
The SEC is in a budget battle with Congress, report Jean Eaglesham and Victoria McGrane: "The Securities and Exchange Commission is slowing the pace of some investigations and routine inspections as part of a belt-tightening caused by the budget impasse in Congress. Agency officials recently postponed gathering testimony from witnesses in a number of probes into potential wrongdoing, according to people familiar with the situation. And some previously scheduled audits of financial firms outside Washington have been put on hold because the SEC won't pay travel costs for investigators until an agreement is reached on the agency's funding for the current fiscal year...Republican gains in both houses of Congress have increased speculation that the 12% budget increase proposed for the SEC by President Barack Obama won't be approved."
Gene Sperling, Robert Altman, and Yale president Richard Levin are in the running to replace Larry Summers:
The financial industry is fueling inequality, writes Tyler Cowen: "Steven N. Kaplan and Joshua Rauh have recently provided a detailed estimation of particular American incomes.6 Their data do not comprise the entire U.S. population, but from partial financial records they find a very strong role for the financial sector in driving the trend toward income concentration at the top. For instance, for 2004, nonfinancial executives of publicly traded companies accounted for less than 6 percent of the top 0.01 percent income bracket. In that same year, the top 25 hedge fund managers combined appear to have earned more than all of the CEOs from the entire S&P 500... In normal years the financial sector is flush with cash and high earnings. In implosion years a lot of the losses are borne by other sectors of society."
Economic inequality didn't cause the financial crisis, writes Edward Glaeser:
Inheritance is a form of income and should be taxed as such, writes Ray Madoff: "Americans seem little inclined to resist wealth concentration. Efforts to impose taxes geared to the wealthy are lambasted as promoting class warfare...Missing from the debate has been any discussion of what level of tax is appropriate for heirs. Few Americans may realize that money received by gift, inheritance or life insurance is entirely free from income taxes. Of course, this made sense when there was a strong estate tax. But there is no other reason inherited wealth should not be taxed the same as wages, lottery winnings and all other forms of income."
Stupid college student tricks interlude: Emerson College students lipdub Lady Gaga.
Health Care

The US will appeal the anti-health care reform court ruling, reports Jess Bravin: "The Justice Department said it would appeal a decision invalidating a core provision of the federal health-care overhaul, the next skirmish in a constitutional struggle likely to reach the Supreme Court before the 2012 presidential election. On Monday, a federal district judge in Richmond, Va., ruled that Congress lacked authority to compel individuals to carry health coverage. If ultimately upheld, the decision would undercut a core feature of the national insurance market envisioned by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The Obama administration is bracing for another possible setback in Pensacola, Fla."
GRAPHIC - The status of all 24 legal challenges to health care reform:
Conservatives always cast increased government protection as a threat to freedom, writes David Leonhardt: "The federal income tax, a senator from New York said a century ago, might mean the end of 'our distinctively American experiment of individual freedom.' Social Security was actually a plan 'to Sovietize America,' a previous head of the Chamber of Commerce said in 1935. The minimum wage and mandated overtime pay were steps 'in the direction of Communism, Bolshevism, fascism and Nazism,' the National Association of Manufacturers charged in 1938...This year’s health care overhaul has now joined the list."
40 percent of those eligible for Medicaid do not sign up. Here's why:
Domestic Policy

Obama's judges are being blocked at a historic rate, reports Ryan Grim: "The Senate has overseen the slowest pace of judicial staffing in at least a generation, with a paltry 39.8 percent of Obama's judges having been confirmed, according to numbers compiled by Senate Democrats. Of the 103 district and circuit court nominees, only 41 have been confirmed. By this time in George W. Bush's presidency, the Senate had confirmed 76 percent of his nominees. President Clinton was working at a rate of 89 percent at this point in his tenure. While the confirmation process is slower now (a function of a packed legislative calendar and Republican obstruction), Obama's nominating pace also lags behind his predecessors."
High speed rail is viable, writes Ryan Avent:
Google is behaving monopolistically, writes Steven Pearlstein: "Since Google generally has little existing presence in the market segments of the companies it buys, regulators fear that they will be unable to prove to skeptical judges that any one transaction will substantially lessen competition. One at a time, these deals might appear to be relatively benign. But taken together, they allow Google to increase the scale and scope of its activities and to further enhance its controlling position across a range of sectors. Moreover, by swooping in and buying these promising firms, Google forecloses on the possibility that they might be purchased by companies such as Microsoft or Facebook, which could use them to mount a serious challenge to Google's dominant position."
Supercut interlude: 2010 in film, in mashup form.

Federal money for renewable energy is drying up, reports Heidi Moore: "Congress seems to have dispensed with one major program that has been a boon to solar and wind companies: a grant program that provides 30 percent of the cost of developing alternative energy projects through tax breaks. That has disappeared from the Congressional agenda twice, including in the tax-cut bill that Congress is working on. The end of the tax breaks are likely to result in the loss of about 15,000 jobs, according to industry estimates...The tax bill also does not provide any more money for an advanced manufacturing tax credit -- a $2.3 billion program that gave tax breaks to companies that manufacture solar energies."
Closing credits: Wonkbook is compiled and produced with help from Dylan Matthews, Mike Shepard, and Michelle Williams.