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Regulators probe fund-of-funds firms in sweep
Stock Market News | 2010/09/10 10:26

Securities regulators are probing "fund-of-funds" firms that channel investors' money into hedge funds, looking at supervision of client assets and potential conflicts of interest, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The probe is part of a sweep of about a dozen firms by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations, the source said, declining to be named because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

An SEC spokesman declined to comment.

The move is one of the SEC's broadest examinations yet of the fund-of-funds industry, which manages some $735 billion in assets, according to hedge fund data tracker InvestHedge.

Fund-of-funds firms typically collect fees of 1 to 2 percent and hand over investors' money to multiple hedge fund managers that they claim to carefully select. The industry has come under scrutiny in the past few years after several firms faced huge losses from investing with convicted Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff.

The SEC inquiry, first reported by The Wall Street Journal on Friday, will investigate whether the firms are properly supervising their clients' money and working to avoid potential conflicts of interest.

The newspaper said the SEC's initial inquiry involved mid-sized fund-of-funds firms overseeing $100 million to $15 billion in assets, and that it could be expanded to include alternative investment advisers focused on private equity and other registered advisers catering to pension funds. The Journal cited people familiar with the matter.

Stocks continue rally after drop in jobless claims
Stock Market News | 2010/09/09 05:31
Stocks were set to extend their September rally Thursday after another report indicated modest improvements in the job markets.

The Labor Department said the number of people requesting unemployment benefits for the first time fell to the lowest level in two months, adding to signs that employers aren't resorting to staff cuts as economic growth slows.

First-time claims fell to 451,000 last week from a revised 478,000 a week earlier. Economists had been expecting claims to fall to 470,000, according to Thomson Reuters.

Claims are still at levels that indicate the jobs market is weak and rapid hiring isn't likely anytime soon. But investors have taken solace in recent improvements in employment data that suggest the economy will continue to grow slowly during the rest of the year. Traders concerned about the potential for the economy falling back into recession drove stocks lower throughout August.

But stocks have rallied since the beginning of the month as economic indicators, including the Labor Department's monthly employment report, have been better than forecast.

Employment reports have become investors' primary focus recently because without robust hiring, the economy is likely to remain sluggish. People worried about their jobs have cut back on spending, which further slows the recovery. When the economy is growing rapidly and companies are hiring, weekly requests for unemployment benefits fall below 400,000.

Ahead of the opening bell, Dow Jones industrial average futures rose 54, or 0.5 percent, to 10,446. Standard & Poor's 500 index futures rose 7.20, or 0.7 percent, to 1,106.50, while Nasdaq 100 index futures rose 13.50, or 0.7 percent, to 1,891.00.

That Dow has gained 3.7 percent since the beginning of September. Stocks have climbed all but one day so far this month. Major indexes took a pause from the recent rally on Tuesday when worries about European government debt problems flared up early in the week.

After some European nations successfully auctioned new debt this week, those worries have dissipated. European markets got an additional lift after the U.S. jobs report. Britain's FTSE 100 rose 1.1 percent, Germany's DAX index gained 0.8 percent, and France's CAC-40 rose 1.2 percent.

There were concerns during the spring that mounting European debt would stunt a global recovery. Stocks fell sharply through much of the spring because of those worries.

Meanwhile, bond prices traded in a tight range. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, rose to 2.68 percent from 2.66 percent late Wednesday. Its yield is often used to help set interest rates on mortgages and other consumer loans.

Stocks fall on fresh European bank concerns
Stock Market News | 2010/09/07 06:53

Fresh worries Tuesday about the health of European banks sent stocks lower in the U.S.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell about 50 points in early morning trading to kick off the start of the holiday-shortened week. Broader markets also fell.

European markets all fell Tuesday after reports said the continent's major banks have more potentially risky government debt on their books than was disclosed during stress tests earlier this year. The banks could be forced to raise more money to protect against potential losses, while also facing more fees from regulators.

The dollar strengthened against the euro and investors bought U.S. Treasurys on the new European bank concerns.

Stocks worldwide dropped during the spring because of worries that mounting government debt in Europe would hurt banks' ability to lend and stunt an economic recovery on the continent. That, in turn, would drag down a global rebound.

Investors could be taking their cues from overseas because there are few domestic economic reports due out this week that could sway traders. A barrage of mostly better-than-anticipated economic data sent stocks sharply higher last week. The reports helped push major indexes to their first winning week in a month.

Could Phoenix rise from bursting college bubble?
Stock Market News | 2010/09/06 10:44

A vast wave of kids are headed for college right about now -- and a vast backwash of parents are trying to figure out how to pay for it. Is it worth it?

My instinct: no. I think college is the latest of the great bubbles. (Full disclosure: I've been saying the same about China for years. See Sept. 1, 2005, column.)

I just think people are going to get sick of the appalling cost, the questionable returns (how many Class of 2010 graduates have jobs?) and the increasingly bizarre admissions decisions. (Princeton economists Thomas Espenshade and Alexandria Radford recently showed that elite schools actually discriminate against ROTC and 4-H club members.)

So naturally, on the general theory that capitalism is more efficient that socialism, I've always been interested in Apollo Group Inc. /quotes/comstock/15*!apol/quotes/nls/apol (APOL 45.06, -0.32, -0.71%) , owner of the for-profit University of Phoenix.

Maybe that's also why Apollo has been under such fierce attack during the Obama administration. But, according to the Hulbert Financial Digest, the stock has two advisory supporters, both of which have respectable records.

Diamond to replace Varley as Barclays CEO in 2011
Stock Market News | 2010/09/06 06:50

Barclays PLC announced on Tuesday that executive Robert E. Diamond Jr. will replace John Varley as chief executive officer next year. The shake-up will take place on March 31, 2011.

However, a few changes will occur before next year, with Diamond serving as president and deputy group chief executive on Oct. 1, 2010.

During the transition, Varley will serve as senior advisor on regulatory issues to Diamond and the board, until September, 2011. He has been CEO of the company since September, 2004.

Diamond is currently the head of corporate and investment banking at Barclays, and also oversees the bank's Wealth division. He has been a member of the board since 2005, and has been working at the company since 1996.

As of Jan. 1, 2011, Diamond's salary will increase to $2.07 million and his annual bonus could be up to 250% of that amount.

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Securities fraud, also known as stock fraud and investment fraud, is a practice that induces investors to make purchase or sale decisions on the basis of false information, frequently resulting in losses, in violation of the securities laws. Securities Arbitration. Generally speaking, securities fraud consists of deceptive practices in the stock and commodity markets, and occurs when investors are enticed to part with their money based on untrue statements.

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