News Archive

Cautiously optimistic Fed will spring no surprises

Tue Oct 29, 2013 7:39pm EDT

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Asian share markets should take heart from record highs in U.S. stocks on Wednesday as investors wager the Federal Reserve will rock no boats at its policy meeting and leave stimulus in place for the next few months at least.

Australia was the first market to dip its toe in the water, gaining 0.5 percent .AXJO, while MSCI’s index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS was a shade firmer.

A mixed bag of U.S. economic data caused few frowns since it merely reinforced expectations the central bank will maintain to the status quo when its two-day policy meeting ends on Wednesday.

Even the U.S. dollar got a lift as dealers gauged the prospect of easy money for longer had now been pretty much discounted following two months of losses.

Markets seem to be operating on the assumption that the Fed’s policy statement will not challenge the growing consensus that any tapering of its $85 billion of monthly asset purchases will not start until March at the earliest.

Such an outcome would be taken as justifying the rallies in stocks and bonds seen in recent weeks and might have only a limited impact on prices in the near term.

But it also means markets are vulnerable to a surprise.

“With expectations of taper firmly kicked into 2014 the risk that the FOMC could decide to move earlier looks asymmetrical,” said Patrick Perret-Greene, an analyst at Australia and New Zealand Bank.

“If the Fed does nothing tomorrow then nothing really happens but if they do something or even hint at moves in the not too distant future the effects could be dramatic.”

The Fed’s decision is due at 1800 GMT, though divining its true message may be tricky as no new economic forecasts are released and nor will Chairman Ben Bernanke be giving a news conference.


For now, markets are hoping the Fed will be boring.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI ended Tuesday 0.72 percent higher at an all-time closing peak of 15,680.35.

The SP 500 .SPX gained 0.56 percent aided further by a jump in heavyweight IBM (IBM.N) after the company’s board of directors approved another $15 billion for stock buy-backs.

Among the U.S. data, a measure of core retail sales showed surprising resilience in September, yet a grim survey of consumers highlighted the heavy toll the government shutdown had taken on the public mood.

MSCI’s world equity index .MIWD00000PUS rose 0.25 percent On Tuesday, but remained within last week’s trading range.

Having fallen steadily since the last Fed meeting, the U.S. dollar seems to have reached a bottom in the last few days.

The dollar index reached a one-week peak of 79.618.DXY, having climbed 0.5 percent on Tuesday. Just last Friday, it had plumbed a nine-month low at 78.998.

“Fed meetings have not been friendly to the USD this year, with the dollar weakening following every meeting in 2013 with the exception of June,” analysts at BNP Paribas wrote in a client note.

“However, with markets already having adjusted to a much more dovish view on the Fed outlook, we think the USD is likely to hold up better this time.”

The euro slipped to $1.3746, pulling further away from a 23-month peak of $1.3833 set just a few days ago.

Yields on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note were at 2.505 percent after dipping from a high of 2.5360 on Tuesday. The market has enjoyed a substantial rally in the past two months with yields falling all the way from 3 percent.

Spot gold edged back to $1,343.64 an ounce as the dollar gained, but is still up more than 7 percent from a three-month low hit mid-October. GOL/

U.S. crude oil was off 67 cents at $97.53 a barrel. O/R. Traders termed this a consolidation after a sharp gain on Monday when reports of a sharp drop in Libyan oil exports rekindled worries over global supply.

(Editing by Eric Meijer) To read Reuters Global Investing Blog click here; for the Macro Scope Blog click on; for Hedge Fund Blog Hub click on

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Ally settles U.S. regulators’ mortgage securities claims

Tue Oct 29, 2013 7:00pm EDT

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Ally Financial Inc, the former parent of bankrupt Residential Capital LLC, has agreed to settle lawsuits by two U.S. regulators over alleged misstatements about its residential mortgage-backed securities.

The automotive lender said on Tuesday it had reached a deal to resolve a lawsuit by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) over $6 billion in mortgage investments as well as separate claims from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Ally said it expects to record a charge of about $170 million.

“These settlements are key steps in Ally addressing its remaining legacy mortgage risks,” Michael Carpenter, the company’s chief executive, said in the statement.

Exact terms of the deal were not revealed.

Alfred Pollard, general counsel for FHFA, said in a statement that details will be released after the end of the current fiscal quarter, as both sides continue to hash out final terms.

David Barr, a spokesman for the FDIC, said that agency’s settlement was worth $55.3 million, and resolves four lawsuits against Ally related to mortgage-backed securities.

Ally’s former mortgage unit, ResCap, is under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in New York, with a hearing slated for November 19 on its bankruptcy exit plan.

The plan is premised on a global settlement that, among other things, released ResCap and Ally from most third-party claims. The FHFA and FDIC claims were excepted from the releases.

Separately on Tuesday, ResCap revealed it has reached a settlement with the National Credit Union Administration, also over alleged misstatements regarding mortgage-backed securities.

The NCUA had asserted more than $290 million in claims, but received an allowed claim of $78 million in the bankruptcy, according to court papers.

A spokesman for the NCUA had no immediate comment on Tuesday.


Ally was one of 18 financial institutions sued by the FHFA in 2011 as part of the fallout from the global financial crisis. The agency said the banks made false or misleading statements relating to some $200 billion in RMBS bought by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, for which the FHFA is conservator.

With respect to Ally, the agency sought to recoup losses on the sale of more than $6 billion of securities to Freddie Mac between September 2005 and May 2007.

The settlement would mark the latest in the FHFA’s recent string of deals related to its RMBS litigation. On Friday, it announced a $5.1 billion deal with JPMorgan Chase Co, $4 billion of which resolves the federal lawsuit pending against it in New York.

The FHFA announced an $885 million settlement with UBS AG in July, and also reached deals earlier this year with Citigroup Inc and General Electric Co, terms of which are confidential.

The settlement followed a ruling in August by U.S. District Judge Denise Cote in Manhattan allowing the FHFA to pursue its case against Ally even though Residential Capital was in bankruptcy.

The Ally case is Residential Capital LLC et al v. Federal Housing Finance Agency, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 12-05116.

(Reporting by Nick Brown; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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U.S. Steel to partially shut Ontario mill

Tue Oct 29, 2013 6:58pm EDT

TORONTO (Reuters) – United States Steel Corp said on Tuesday it will permanently shut down iron and steelmaking operations at its Hamilton, Ontario, mill at the end of this year.

The integrated mill was idled in 2010, but the steelmaker had not ruled out restarting production if the market improved. Coke-making and steel finishing operations in Hamilton are not affected, said U.S. Steel spokeswoman Courtney Boone.

The decision is a blow to Hamilton, long the center of Canada’s steel industry, which has been hit hard by plant closures over the last decade.

“It is disappointing, very disappointing for both our workers and the community in Hamilton that has a long history of making good steel,” said United Steelworkers spokesman Tony DePaulo.

U.S. Steel’s mills in Hamilton and Nanticoke, Ontario, were the subject of a legal dispute with the Canadian government over job-protection promises made when the company bought Canadian steelmaker Stelco in 2007.

When the conflict was settled in 2011, a Canadian minister said U.S. Steel had agreed to operate both plants until 2015.

“We are in compliance with our agreement with the Government of Canada,” said Boone, who declined to comment further.

A spokeswoman for Minister of Industry James Moore said the shutdown is a business decision.

“The government does not get involved in the day-to-day decisions of companies,” said spokeswoman Jessica Fletcher, in an emailed statement. “The government’s settlement with U.S. Steel contains commitments which provide economic benefit for Canada.”

A slowdown in China, the world’s biggest consumer and producer of steel, combined with massive excess capacity, has weighed on steelmakers’ profits around the world.

At the same time, a fairly strong Canadian dollar has raised costs for U.S.-based manufacturers operating in Canada.

When it was operating, the Hamilton works had an annual raw steelmaking capacity of 2.3 million short tons.


Chief Executive Mario Longhi said the Hamilton closure, part of an initiative dubbed “Project Carnegie” after steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, would reduce costs by about $50 million a year.

The change will also allow it to shut down two aging coke batteries at Gary Works in Indiana. The company will let some iron ore supply contracts expire in 2013 and 2014.

In Hamilton, 47 nonunionized employees will be affected, Boone said, but the move does not affect any unionized workers. At Gary Works, 120 employees will be reassigned.

U.S. Steel will take a noncash charge of about $225 million in the fourth quarter because of the closure, Longhi said.

The company reported its third quarter results on Monday, taking a $1.8 billion impairment charge linked to the weak market.

Shares jumped on the news, closing up 8.8 percent at $25.47 on the New York Stock Exchange.

(Corrects headline to clarify that coking, finishing operations are not affected.)

(Additional reporting by Euan Rocha in Toronto, Nicole Mordant in Vancouver and David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Janet Guttsman, Matthew Lewis and Bob Burgdorfer)

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U.S. House passes bill to delay fiduciary rules at SEC, Labor Dept

Tue Oct 29, 2013 6:33pm EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives passed a controversial bill on Tuesday that would delay two government regulators from adopting rules requiring stock brokers and retirement account financial advisers to put their customers’ interests ahead of their own.

The bill, which was approved in a 254-166 vote, has virtually no chance of becoming law, after the White House late Monday threatened to veto the measure.

Its passage, however, marks yet another symbolic effort by Republicans to express their discontent over the sweeping new regulations that stem from the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law.

The bill is one of two measures before the House this week that would amend the Dodd-Frank law.

On Wednesday, the House is also expected to pass a bill with some bipartisan support that would loosen a requirement for banks to spin off their risky derivative trading desks into separate legal entities.

Although the White House has cautioned against passage of the derivatives bill, it stopped short of a veto threat.


The fiduciary bill, sponsored by freshman Republican Representative Ann Wagner of Missouri, targets rulemaking efforts at both the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Labor that would impose a fiduciary duty on certain kinds of financial advisers.

The bill calls for the SEC to undertake additional study before writing any new rules to harmonize standards between investment advisers and stock brokers to determine whether regulatory changes would help or hurt retail investors.

It would also force the Labor Department to delay adopting any rules targeting retirement advisers until the SEC completed its own regulations first.

In voting to pass it, 30 Democrats joined ranks with Republicans in support of the measure.

“The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Labor…are headed towards proposing two massive and inconsistent rulemakings that are going to hurt the ability of retail investors to get financial advice,” said House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling.

Maxine Waters, the ranking Democrat on the committee, voted against the measure, saying it “just goes too far…

“The bill holds the Labor Department hostage while throwing up road blocks for the SEC,” she said.

The Dodd-Frank law required the SEC to study whether it should harmonize two different standards of care for stock brokers and investment advisers.

It also authorized, but did not require, the SEC the develop new standards.

Investment advisers are already held to a fiduciary duty, meaning they must put their investors’ best interests first.

Brokerages, however, are only required to offer advice about investments that are “suitable” – a less stringent standard that some say leads to conflicts of interest because brokerages may be more likely to recommend products that generate higher compensation.

The SEC released a study on the issue in 2011 that called for imposing a harmonized fiduciary standard for advisers and brokerages.

Meanwhile, the Department of Labor has separately been pursuing its own proposal that would impose fiduciary responsibilities on advisers to workplace retirement plans and individual accounts.

To date, however, the SEC has not yet issued a proposal and the Labor Department in 2010 withdrew an earlier version amid heavy criticism from the brokerage industry.

The SEC solicited more data from the industry in a March 2013 request, in an effort to help inform whether it will proceed with writing the new rules.

Earlier this month, SEC Chair Mary Jo White told reporters the fiduciary rule was still a “major focus” and the SEC was working to resolve “where we’re going on it.”

The Labor Department has also been working toward issuing a revised proposal, but has yet to do so amid a strong push by Wall Street to delay the measure.

The Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, the leading trade group for the brokerage industry, has opposed to the DOL’s efforts.

“The DOL should not act in this area until the SEC. Dodd-Frank made it very clear that it was the SEC’s responsibility,” SIFMA Chief Executive Judd Gregg told Reuters on the sidelines of a recent conference.

Proponents of strong fiduciary duty rules, however, have been out in force urging lawmakers to oppose the bill.

The bill is a “back door attempt to undermine investor protection provisions in Dodd-Frank,” the Financial Planning Coalition argued in a letter to Congress issued on Monday.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; additional reporting by Suzanne Barlyn in New York.; Editing by Phil Berlowitz and Leslie Gevirtz)

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Adobe data breach more extensive than previously disclosed

Tue Oct 29, 2013 6:32pm EDT

BOSTON (Reuters) – Adobe Systems Inc said on Tuesday that the scope of a cyber-security breach disclosed nearly a month ago was far bigger than initially reported, with attackers obtaining data on more than 38 million customer accounts.

The software maker also said that hackers had stolen part of the source code to Photoshop editing software that is widely used by professional photographers.

The company disclosed the breach on October 3, saying attackers took credit card information and other data from nearly 3 million customers’ accounts.

Adobe also said that the hackers accessed an undisclosed number of Adobe IDs and encrypted passwords that were stored in a separate database. On Tuesday, it revealed that about 38 million records from that database were stolen.

On October 3, the company also reported that the attackers stole source code to three other products: Acrobat, ColdFusion and ColdFusion Builder.

Adobe spokeswoman Heather Edell said the software maker believes the attackers also obtained access to “many invalid Adobe IDs, inactive Adobe IDs, Adobe IDs with invalid encrypted passwords and test account data.”

She said the company is still investigating to determine how much invalid account information was breached and is in the process of notifying affected users.

Even though the company believes the stolen passwords were encrypted, the attackers may have been able to access them in plain text by one of several methods, including breaking the algorithm that Adobe used to scramble them, said Marcus Carey, a security researcher and expert on cyber attacks, who formerly worked as an investigator with the National Security Agency.

They could likely use those passwords to break into other accounts because many people use the same passwords for multiple accounts, he said.

“This is a treasure trove for future attacks,” Carey said.

Adobe spokeswoman Heather Edell said that the company was not aware of any unauthorized activity on Adobe accounts as a result of the attack.

Yet Edell said she could not say whether stolen credit cards or passwords had been used to launch follow-on attacks against Adobe customers or conduct other types of cyber crimes.

“Our investigation is still ongoing,” she said. “We anticipate the full investigation will take some time to complete.”

(Reporting by Jim Finkle; Editing by Jan Paschal)

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Dow, S&P 500 end at highs on stimulus hopes, IBM

Tue Oct 29, 2013 5:38pm EDT

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The Dow and SP 500 ended at record highs on Tuesday after economic data supported views that the Federal Reserve would keep its stimulus intact for several months and IBM (IBM.N) rallied after the company announced a stock buyback.

IBM gave the biggest boost to the Dow, which led the day’s gains. The stock, which also helped drive the SP 500’s advance, jumped 2.7 percent to $182.12 after the company’s board of directors approved another $15 billion for stock buybacks.

In the latest economic data, a gauge of U.S. consumer spending rose in September, but another report showed consumer confidence fell sharply in October because of worries about the impact of the partial government shutdown.

The data added to evidence of sluggish economic growth just as the Fed began a two-day policy meeting. Expectations are high that officials are unlikely to shift monetary policy this week as they wait for more evidence of how badly Washington’s budget battle has hurt the U.S. economy.

“The ghosts of tapering are not coming this Halloween,” said Omar Aguilar, chief investment officer for equities at Charles Schwab Corp. “The government shutdown pushed the tapering discussion further out.”

That’s likely to keep a floor under stocks for the near term at least, though longer term, slow growth in earnings and especially in revenue may be a concern, he said.

Limiting some of the day’s gains in both the Nasdaq and the SP 500, Apple (AAPL.O) shares dropped 2.5 percent to $516.68 a day after the iPad and iPhone maker delivered disappointing results.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI gained 111.42 points, or 0.72 percent, to end at 15,680.35, a record close. The Standard Poor’s 500 Index .SPX rose 9.84 points, or 0.56 percent, to finish at 1,771.95, also a record closing high. The SP 500 hit another intraday record high at 1,772.09.

The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC advanced 12.21 points, or 0.31 percent, to close at 3,952.34.

Tuesday’s rally brings the SP 500’s gain for the year to date to 24.2 percent.

In the latest technical issue to befall the Nasdaq exchange, the Nasdaq OMX Group (NDAQ.O) said human error left the exchange unable to transmit index values for nearly 45 minutes, leading to a temporary halt in options trading on some stock indexes.

After the bell, shares of LinkedIn (LNKD.N) dropped 3.1 percent to $239.45 after the social networking company for recruiters and job seekers gave a conservative revenue forecast for the fourth quarter and fiscal 2013. LinkedIn shares ended the regular session at $247.14, up 1.7percent. Shares of video game publisher Electronic Arts Inc (EA.O) rose 2.8 percent to $24.80 in extended-hours trading after the company reported a higher quarterly profit. In regular trading, Electronic Arts shares fell 2.8 percent to close at $24.13.

During the regular session, the Dow also got a boost from Pfizer Inc (PFE.N), which rose 1.7 percent to $31.25 after the largest U.S. drugmaker reported better-than-expected third-quarter earnings.

As has been the case in recent quarters, more companies have been beating analysts’ earnings expectations than revenue expectations. With results in from 281 of the SP 500 companies, 68.7 percent have topped profit expectations, above the long-term average of 63 percent, while just 52.5 percent have beaten revenue estimates, below the 61 percent rate since 2002, based on Thomson Reuters data.

Cummins Inc (CMI.N) slumped 5.2 percent to $127.90. It was the SP 500’s worst performer after the U.S. maker of engines and other vehicle components reported lower-than-expected quarterly profit on Tuesday and cut its full-year outlook.

Another decliner was JPMorgan Chase (JPM.N), down 0.1 percent at $52.73 after a person familiar with the situation said the preliminary $13 billion deal set by the bank’s CEO and the U.S. attorney general has hit a stumbling block.

(Editing by Nick Zieminski and Jan Paschal)

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Goldman loses co-head of commodity trade Shenouda: memo

Tue Oct 29, 2013 5:02pm EDT

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Goldman Sachs (GS.N) global commodities co-head Magid Shenouda is leaving after 14 years at the bank, according to an internal memo seen by Reuters, the Wall Street firm’s second senior-level departure in as many weeks.

London-based Shenouda, who has run the commodities business for the past two years alongside New York-based Greg Agran, had been credited with helping build out Goldman’s physical energy trading franchise – a part of the bank that is under intense political and regulatory scrutiny in the United States.

Shenouda’s departure came just a week after the reported retirement of Peter O’Hagan, who was global head of commodities sales. The bank named two people to replace him, with Colleen Foster heading sales in the Americas and Martin Wiwen-Nilsson running operations in Europe and Asia, website SparkSpread reported earlier.

Goldman’s storied J Aron commodity division, a century-old enterprise that the bank has said is “core” to its business, long has been considered one of the most coveted employers in the commodities business, with vast global operations.

Goldman President Gary Cohn ran J Aron for a period in the 1990s, and Isabelle Ealet – who is now co-head of the securities division – was in charge for much of the 2000s. It has about 250 employees.

But it now faces unprecedented regulatory pressure amid allegations that its metals warehousing business may have inflated aluminum prices. The Federal Reserve is considering ways to pull back Wall Street’s deep involvement in raw material markets, including the ownership of assets.

At the same time, revenues at Goldman and other banks have been shrinking. Overall commodities revenues fell in 2012 to $600 million from a record $4.5 billion in 2009, according to its SEC filings. Goldman said the numbers do not fully reflect the way it runs its business.

Shenouda joined Goldman in 1999 from privately held Swiss-based commodity trading house Trafigura, where he traded fuel oil. He went on to run Goldman’s European crude oil and products trading business, as well as European power and gas. He was made partner at the bank in 2008, the memo said.

“He has been responsible for driving several key acquisitions, as well as the expansion of our business activities into new regions and products, including the build-out of our Energy, Coal, Freight and Emissions franchise,” the co-heads of the securities division, Ealet and Pablo Salame.

Shenouda’s plans were not immediately known. The departure was first reported by SparkSpread.

(Reporting by Jonathan Leff; Editing by Gary Hill and Richard Chang)

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Rio Tinto’s former boss says miners were ‘too slow’ to react

Tue Oct 29, 2013 5:00pm EDT

LONDON (Reuters) – Mining companies were too slow to respond to changing investor demands from mid-2011 as sentiment deteriorated, failing to spot the wave of change which eventually swept out a generation of executives, the former boss of miner Rio Tinto said on Tuesday.

“We didn’t react fast enough,” said Tom Albanese, chief executive of Rio Tinto (RIO.L) (RIO.AX) until he was ousted in January – one of a string of executives toppled by writedowns at the world’s largest mining firms, as boom-year deals soured.

Recalling Rio’s half-year earnings, released in August 2011, Albanese told an industry gathering that the company had felt at the time that it was announcing positive numbers. Indeed, it reported record cash flow and record profits.

Investors, though, were watching screens “filled with red”, he said, and the mining group’s shares fell. Instead of demanding more growth, investors had begun to feel nervous.

“It felt like panic was setting in… We said this is not us, this is not our problem. We should have said this is us, this is our problem,” the U.S.-born mining veteran said, in one of his first public appearances since his departure from Rio.

“At that point the sentiment changed very quickly – a matter of three weeks – and it never turned. It probably took us 18 months to get that.”

Albanese left Rio in January 2013, ending his six-year tenure at the top after the world’s third-largest mining company announced a $14 billion writedown almost entirely on the value of his two most significant acquisitions, the Alcan aluminum group and Mozambican coal.

The deal to buy Mozambique-focused coal miner Riversdale – pursued as Rio came under pressure to move into what was seen as the next coking coal frontier – completed in June 2011, just months before the turning point Albanese identified.

“Even if we had had that clairvoyance in August 2011, it would have been very hard to turn back,” he said of projects approved before that turning point, arguing investors were pushing for growth only months before.


Since the spring of 2011, five of the world’s six largest diversified mining companies have changed their chief executive. Most of these former bosses of major listed firms have since chosen to eschew public markets, preferring private ventures.

Albanese is the only one of the big names to have stayed in the industry with a full-time job at a listed company, albeit a smaller one. He announced last month he had taken a senior advisory role at Indian mining firm Vedanta (VED.L).

But he said on Tuesday there would be opportunities for rivals who, like Xstrata’s Mick Davis or Vale’s (VALE5.SA) Roger Agnelli, have chosen private firms to pursue deals at a time he said would prove fruitful as some firms struggle – ahead of an improvement in the sector from 2015.

Davis, ejected from Xstrata after the takeover by Glencore (GLEN.L) earlier this year, has gone on to set up X-2 Resources, which last month announced it had received $500 million each in backing from trading house Noble (NOBG.SI) and private equity group TPG. Agnelli set up BA Mineracao last year.

“The market is going to be weak this year and for a period of time,” he said. “I look at that, from a mining perspective, as the time to go for consolidation, to build the foundation for the next few years … to strengthen your position for what should be a pretty good run.”

(Reporting by Clara Ferreira-Marques; editing by David Evans)

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SAC Capital plea deal may come early next week: WSJ

Tue Oct 29, 2013 4:55pm EDT

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The settlement U.S. prosecutors are hammering out with SAC Capital Advisors, Steven A. Cohen’s multibillion-dollar hedge fund, over criminal charges related to insider trading could be announced early next week, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.

Reuters had previously reported that the deal, which will likely involve some admission of guilt along with a penalty of more than $1 billion, was likely to be announced within days.

Negotiations have been underway for several weeks. Any settlement would be a blow to Cohen and his reputation as one of the greatest stock traders of his generation. But people familiar with the billionaire trader told Reuters he has been telling people he is looking to put the nearly seven-year long investigation of his firm behind him.

The payment to the government would be structured as both penalty and forfeiture of trading profits allegedly derived from improper trading by Cohen’s hedge fund, the person familiar with the matter said.

A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara declined to comment. A spokesman for SAC Capital also declined to comment.

(Reporting By Emily Flitter; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

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