Bloomberg News

American Soccer’s Lesson From That Ronald Guy: Opening Line

June 23, 2014

Portuguese Soccer Player Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal warms up prior to the FIFA World Cup Group G match between the United States and Portugal at Arena Amazonia in Manaus, Brazil, on June 22, 2014. Photographer: Elsa/Getty Images

You might have figured out by now that we haven’t exactly caught the soccer thing yet, but we know sports a little bit.

The U.S. had the ball in Portugal’s end with stoppage time (we don’t know how that works) ticking down, and we saw one of the U.S. guys dithering around with the ball down in the corner, as if he was trying to run out the clock and, what -- not to run up the score? Can you be accused of running up a score that was 2-1 against a team with perhaps (we hear) the best player in the world with that Ronald guy?

The U.S. guy was just sort of dribbling aimlessly and putting himself between the ball and the other players, like hockey players do in the corner when they’re battling for possession and want to compliment their opponents on their relatives.

What are you doing?, we’re saying to ourselves. What are you doing?! You’re taking your foot off their throat. Don’t let up.

Less than 30 seconds later the entire U.S. soccer-watching population was holding their heads in their hands after that Ron guy just came right up the field, found his man in perfect position, and sent a laser pass that the other guy knocked in with his head (which has to hurt).

2-2. Game over one second later.

WHAT WERE YOU DOING.

You were learning a very costly lesson.

What happens now? (And what’s with that circle around the midfield line?)

In the day’s other games, Belgium beat Russia 1-0 and Algeria beat South Korea 4-2.

***

Economic indicators in the U.S. today include the Chicago Fed National Activity Index at 8:30 a.m. EDT, Markit PMI at 9:45 a.m. and existing-home sales at 10 a.m.

On the corporate calendar, Micron Technology and Hertz report earnings, and Weyerhaeuser, CarMax, Keryx Bio and TRI Pointe Homes will hold annual meetings. Applied Materials (AMAT:US) holds a special shareholders’ meeting to approve its acquisition of Tokyo Electron.

In China overnight, the preliminary HSBC/Markit PMI for June rose to a seven-month high. In France, Markit’s PMI for services and manufacturing contracted for a second month in June, while manufacturing expanded and services slowed in Germany. In the broader euro area, both services and manufacturing slowed more more than forecast in June.

***

+ BNP Paribas is ready to deal, nearing an agreement on a guilty plea to violating U.S. sanctions and a fine of $8 billion to $9 billion, according to a person familiar with the negotiations. + Israel’s military launched airstrikes on nine targets in Syria, including a military headquarters. + More tapes from Wprost, the Polish magazine that leaked a recording purporting to reveal illegal cooperation between the central bank and the government of Prime Minister Donald Tusk, were released today. + Kerry is in Iraq, where cities on the Jordanian and Syrian borders fell to ISIL over the weekend + More than 700,000 people in Hong Kong voted in what amounts to a symbolic plebiscite on democracy, more than twice the organizers’ turnout estimate. + Pope Francis the Coraggioso took a trip down to the toe of Italy’s boot and right into the Mafia’s turf to tell them they were scum and cut off from the church. + Presbyterian leadership in the U.S. voted 310-303 to divest the church’s interest in three U.S. companies that sell products and technology used in the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories: Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola. The Presbyterians and the Jews have always been pretty tight, so this is something. + IRS Commissioner John Koskinen testifies before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee at 7 p.m. over the loss of Lois Lerner’s e-mails. + A U.S. interceptor missile successfully hit its target during a test yesterday over the Pacific Ocean. + MF Global will begin the process of making a “sizeable interim distribution” to creditors with general unsecured claims this fall, trustee James Giddens says. + Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks’ best player, is on his way out the door, continuing Phil Jackson’s great start as the team’s president. + Nigella Lawson, the British celebrity chef, was given permission to enter the U.S. after supposedly being banned for admitting to cocaine use. Is Obama in the country? + Nick Faldo will be a guest on Bloomberg TV today at 4:40 p.m. EDT. + Heard of the Chickungunya virus? You will. + Seminal 1970s costume rockers Kiss and equally seminal 1980s metal bank Def Leppard begin their tour of North America, where it’s 2014.

***

Rumbling around since the end of last week is the start of a turf war breaking out between two of the three branches of the U.S. federal government -- with a good chance it will drift into the third -- involving you guys. No one seems to be making much of it yet, but it’s got promise.

Both the SEC and the Justice Department have issued subpoenas seeking records and other information regarding their suspicions that someone on or connected to the House Ways and Means Committee last year tipped a lobbyist, who then tipped an analyst, that the government was about to increase payments to health insurers.

As Patricia Hurtado explained over the weekend, minutes before the government announced the change, an analyst at Height Securities released a report divulging the news. Health-insurance stocks surged.

This being Congress, the committee, led by Michigan’s Dave Camp, told the SEC to pound sand, dismissing the demand as “repugnant to public policy,” Hurtado reports. The SEC filed a lawsuit, and late Friday afternoon U.S. District Court Judge Paul Gardephe in New York ordered the committee and one of its aides, Brian Sutter, to explain why they shouldn’t have to turn over those records.

Too busy with the IRS, probably.

If nothing questionable happened, why would Justice and the SEC be on the hunt? And why would the committee be stiff-arming them? Justice has subpoenaed Sutter separately, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times report. No word yet on how that one was received.

The next question is whether the information, alleged by the SEC to have been provided by Sutter to a lobbyist at Greenberg Traurig, was the kind of nonpublic, market-sensitive information Congress and its staff were specifically prohibited from revealing in a 2012 law passed by, well, Congress.

“Until recently, it had been unclear how such restrictions applied to government officials,” the Journal reported last week. “But a 2012 congressional stock-trading law stipulated that public officials have a legal duty to keep confidential any nonpublic information about government actions that could affect stock prices.” The Journal says the subpoenas are “the first formal requests for information to Congress involving a federal insider-trading investigation in nearly a decade.”

The NYT is less certain, writing that “politicians and staff members regularly share information with outsiders. Lobbyists who learn of a coming policy change will, depending on their views, take credit for it or scramble to kill it. Outside experts will look for potential flaws. Political surrogates will get their talking points ready for the television cameras. The issue for investigators is that if all of that is legal, is it illegal to buy a stock based on the information?”

Is this just a case of the SEC and Justice with a new law and itchy trigger fingers, or is it all really this bad?

***

All this over the see-through pants? Lululemon (LULU:US) goofed with those too-sheer yoga pants a little more than a year ago, and it’s been downhill ever since. We’d link to a photo but, eh, you can use your imagination.

The company is trying to hold off founder and former Chairman Dennis Wilson, who the Wall Street Journal says hired Goldman Sachs to “shake up” the board, sell his stake or work with private-equity firms on a buyout.

The company said yesterday it’s “focused on further strengthening the company’s product engine and relentlessly innovating to drive global expansion and create value for Lululemon shareholders.”

Isn’t that what they’re supposed to be doing all the time?

The company’s in play, from the sounds of Lindsey Rupp’s story today, with names like Adidas and Nike, VF Corp. and others listed as likely to be interested if the stock continues to sink (LULU:US) like a downward facing dog.

***

We won’t go into too much detail about how standardized tests in high schools can often paint a conflicting portrait of a kid, who might a terrific student who’s bad at them or a lousy student who has a special talent for them. We’ll just say today’s story on New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s attempt to alter the calculation of how a student qualifies for one of the city’s eight best high schools hits home.

De Blasio, continuing his Robin Hood policies, is trying to end the 43-year-old policy of admission based solely on one test. Lawmakers in Albany didn’t pass the related legislation this year, but it will be back on the agenda at the start of the next session, and the initiative has the backing of the United Federation of Teachers, Henry Goldman reports.

Of the more than 3,000 students at lower Manhattan’s Stuyvesant High School this year, 73 percent were Asian, 22 percent were white, 2 percent were Hispanic and 1 percent were black. Among the city’s 1.1 million public-school students, 40 percent are Hispanic, 28 are percent black, 15 percent are Asian and 15 percent are white.

***

For another hidden bellwether of the U.S. economy, try makers of office furniture.

Herman Miller (MLHR:US), HNI Corp. (HNI:US), Steelcase (SCS:US) and others in the business are rising because sales are predicted to grow this year. Given that spending on office renovations is one of the last things companies do until they’re certain conditions merit the investment, this is being viewed as directional, Anna-Louise Jackson and Anthony Feld report in today’s EcoPulse column.

Not everyone’s convinced. Job growth after the Great Recession has been choppy and shows in these companies’ results, says Malcolm Polley, chief investment officer at Indiana, Pennsylvania-based Stewart Capital Advisors, which manages $1.2 billion, according to the story.

Wait, what? There’s an investment firm in Indiana, Pennsylvania? And it oversees $1.2 billion? No way. Have you ever been to Indiana, Pennsylvania?

You could buy the entire town, the college there and the Jimmy Stewart Museum commemorating the actor’s boyhood home for $1.2 billion. Maybe it’s better there now. But in the early 1980s, oof. Grim.

***

One day you’re holding a winning lottery ticket, the next it’s gone.

Going into the weekend, Isaiah Austin, the 7’1’’ center from Baylor, was a projected first-round pick in this year’s NBA draft. Today he’s a just another kid with the genetic disorder Marfan syndrome, discovered during routine predraft medical testing and dashing his hopes of a professional basketball career.

The kid had already overcome one setback, playing with vision in one eye (left) after the retina in his right eye detached at 16. Marfan syndrome disrupts the body’s production of proteins, resulting in a failure of connective tissues to hold it all together.

For Austin, that means his heart could burst.

“The draft is four days away, and I had a dream that my name was going to be called,” he told ESPN.

Mr. Austin, speaking to you as we are from the birthplace of Hank Gathers, we have to say you’re a lucky man today.

***

We’re taking full credit for Michelle Wie’s win at the USGA’s U.S. Women’s Open. Yeah, yeah, we were talking smack about her last week, but that’s the thing -- clearly she reads Opening Line, and why not? This thing is taking off. Even Tom Keene reads it.

After seeing last Thursday’s edition of OL, she must have thought to herself, “Damn, C. is right. I’ve got three (3) tour wins in my entire nine-year pro career.”

She tried to cough it up, handing back a four-stroke lead and falling into a tie after the third round. But the sting of withering assessment was too powerful, and now she has four wins and her first major.

So, yeah, we called it. Congrats, Big Wiesy.

***

Speaking of late bloomers, Scotsman Andy Murray will begin defending his Wimbledon crown today after becoming the first U.K. champion of the tournament in 77 years in 2013.

People who say the pressure’s off, like John McEnroe, should brush up on their Shakespeare.

“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown,” Henry IV says while rumbling around his castle in his pajamas.

Murray has now gone from hunter to hunted.

To contact the reporter on this story: C. Thompson in Wilmington at cthompson1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Marty Schenker at mschenker@bloomberg.net


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Companies Mentioned

  • AMAT
    (Applied Materials Inc)
    • $22.52 USD
    • -0.39
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  • LULU
    (Lululemon Athletica Inc)
    • $37.53 USD
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