Darks Pools of a Different Sort Await Americans: Opening Line

Looks like Mike Regan -- author of the crackling Market Line column, stalwart stocks editor, loving husband and father, and honorary mayor of Metuchen -- is onto something.

Never mind that the structure of equities markets is so convoluted, dark and scary these days that even Jeffrey Sprecher has had enough. Trading in online brokerage accounts is at an all-time high, Regan finds. Retail investors -- the little guys, as he calls them -- are churning away anyway.

Clearly this is an indication that the amateur, in his or her spare time between working all day, shuttling kids around, putting out domestic fires and sleeping, has fully reviewed the purported risks of co-location, dark pools, in-house trading desks that even Bank of America wants to avoid, and Bill O’Brien, and has arrived at a sense of security.

This might explain why nothing the NSA does or Comcast wants has stopped anyone from using the Internet, why people continue to buy GM’s cars, why Alabamans are OK with water in their basements, and why Americans continue to have faith in the democratic process.

Americans do their homework and will change their habits in a heartbeat if they learn something’s not right, but don’t bother us with nettlesome details. We have TV to watch.

So, Happy Memorial Day, America, especially to the men and women who put their lives on the line. We’ll see you again Tuesday.

***

Just one U.S. economic indicator of note, with new-home sales being reported at 10 a.m. EDT. But also of note is Mexico’s first-quarter GDP, which comes at the same time. Economists are looking for a rebound after Latin America’s second-biggest economy posted is slowest annual growth last year since 2009.

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+ General Electric agreed to delay the deadline for its attempted acquisition of Alstom’s energy units for three weeks at the request of the French government, which is seeking better terms.

+ Reynolds American has been circling Lorillard for several months and been thwarted so far by the complexity of the deal, David Welch and Jeffrey McCracken reported late yesterday, probably having to do with the on again/off again involvement of British American Tobacco.

+ Pfizer has until Monday to strike a deal with AstraZeneca before U.K. law closes the window on an enhanced offer for six months. This is probably why AstraZeneca’s biggest shareholder, BlackRock, is getting antsy.

+ Hewlett-Packard is cutting its workforce by an additional 11,000 to 16,000 jobs as sales continue to shrink.

+ The St. Petersburg International Economic Forum will be addressed by Putin at 6 a.m. EDT today.

+ The IRS is delaying implementation of new rules covering the tax-exempt status of nonprofit groups while it figures out how to please everyone on the left and the right who want to use the agency as their political tool.

+ Barclays has been fined 26 million pounds ($43.8 million) by the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority for failings related to the London gold fix from 2004 to 2013.

+ BNP Paribas broke no rules in France or Europe in connection with the transactions that has the French bank in serious trouble with U.S. authorities, Bank of France Governor Christian Noyer has said, the Wall Street Journal reports.

***

Ukrainians, whoever they are, go to the polls Sunday to vote for a president. To get everyone in the mood, pro-Russia insurgents launched an attack yesterday that killed at least 16 Ukrainian troops amid a campaign of terror against the ballot, shocking everyone at how close Ukraine is to Afghanistan.

In Slovyansk, the heart of the insurgency, their tactics -- including overrunning electoral offices, abducting election officials and issuing death threats -- appear likely to have an effect.

“You can be killed for showing a position that’s different from them,” says a man named Andriy, who asked Daria Marchak and Daryna Krasnolutska to use only his first name. “People have been killed here just because they brought some food to Ukrainian soldiers.”

Will this be another Bloody Sunday?

***

Things appear relatively calm in Thailand following yesterday’s coup, the 12th in eight decades, but don’t expect that to last. Supporters loyal to Thaksin Shinawatra who got pushed around during the last coup, in 2008, are better organized and spoiling for a fight this time around.

“This time the looming confrontation and clashes are going to be severe and violent,” Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, tells Chris Blake and Anuchit Nguyen.

***

MARK CUBAN says he thinks we’re all bigots, starting with himself: “If I see a black kid in a hoodie and it’s late at night, I’m walking to the other side of the street. And if on that side of the street, there’s a guy that has tattoos all over his face -- white guy, bald head, tattoos everywhere -- I’m walking back to the other side of the street,” he said Wednesday at an Inc. magazine event in Nashville, Tennessee. He wouldn’t say how, as owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, he plans to vote next month on Commissioner Adam Silver’s plan to force fellow owner Donald Sterling to sell the Los Angeles Clippers. But he said he’s worried most about being a hypocrite. It would be just like this guy to swim against the tide.

PAUL MCCARTNEY is expected to be fine following hospitalization earlier this week in Tokyo from the effects of a viral infection. That cottage on the Isle of Wight is sounding better every year, Sir Paul.

POPE FRANCIS visits Israel on Sunday and Monday, May 25-26, and tourism officials there are hoping his trip provides a draw to a region that has the perception of war zone. It’s easy to see why.

***

Speaking of the Holy Father, a secret society of women in relationships with priests is petitioning him to lift the vow of celibacy priests have taken for almost 1,000 years, the Vatican Insider reported earlier this week.

The Daily Beast, obviously with someone on staff who can read Italian, says the story relates to the plight of 26 of the women, who have written to Francis urging him to change the rules.

The Daily Beast writes: “According to Vatican Insider, the letter noted, ‘a lot has been said by those who are in favour of optional celibacy but very little is known about the devastating suffering of a woman who is deeply in love with a priest.’”

This is true.

***

It’s a long weekend for most of us, and if you’ve planned it right -- that is, not too densely -- you should be able to work in some nap time or a late-morning rise. Which is why you ought to take advantage of a brand new field of meteors that’s expected to shower us spectacularly on Friday night into Saturday morning.

The Washington Post reports that the shower could even be a meteor storm if the conditions are right, and that for once, North America is the place to be. All you need is a blanket and a chunk of wide-open sky.

Through a quirk of gravitational pulls and stuff (science), it’s the first time Earth has intersected with the trail of the comet that left this astrodust behind. Moreover, the speed of the meteors is going to be slower than usual, making them easier to see and longer to enjoy.

Geoff Chester, astronomer at the U.S. Naval Observatory, told the Post he’s planning to be out watching, and if a meteor shower can lure a pro, it has to be good.

***

A little while ago, we told you prices for golf courses were on the rise. Things were supposed to be looking up for the sport. If there are any property sales out there that aren’t final, maybe a second look is in order.

Because whoever said “Golf is a good walk spoiled” (they’re pretty sure it wasn’t Mark Twain), may have been speaking for the upcoming generation of potential golfers, if not the current one.

Today, Lindsey Rupp and Lauren Coleman-Lochner find the sport in demise, its descent written in the sales of equipment retailers. Sales at Adidas’s TaylorMade brand plunged 34 percent in the first quarter. Revenue in Dick’s Sporting Goods’ golf business fell $34 million short. The retailer is selling drivers priced at about $300 less than two years ago for about $100.

About 400,000 players left the sport last year, according to the National Golf Foundation. It’s a pursuit that requires discretionary income, and that’s not in supply like it used to be. Deals aren’t done on the links like they once were. And the kids these days would rather play Angry Birds.

The good news is that if you head out to the links this weekend, you’ll probably have them to yourself. Well, not this weekend. Next weekend, though.

***

Any of you guys expecting delivery of this in time for the holiday weekend?

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With Memorial Day weekend comes the start to the summer blockbuster movie season, but before we go to Hollywood, let’s head over to the south of France, where the Cannes Film Festival concludes Sunday.

A 25-year-old from Montreal has knocked the festival off its chairs with his film “Mommy,” which is gathering buzz as the possible winner of the Palme d’Or. It’s a story of a widow struggling to handle her emotionally troubled 15-year-old son, with an intensity in their battles that could strip paint, according to most of the reviews.

This film is getting boffo reviews and has critics mentioning the kid director’s name (which is Xavier Dolan), in the same breath as Orson Welles and Steven Soderbergh, who, at age 26, became the youngest filmmaker to win the top prize with “sex, lies and videotape” in 1989.

***

Now, on to the junk food.

Predicted to win the box office this weekend is another X-Men sequel, this one given the ersatz literary title “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” as if that was going to draw old hippies thinking it’s tied into the Moody Blues somehow.

Looks like Wolverine gets sent back to the past to try to change events before they lead to the disastrous events currently taking place, because evidently six (6) movies isn’t enough to clean up whatever their mess is wherever they are. Akron or someplace.

Also new to theaters this weekend is the rom-com “Blended,” which reunites Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, and the notion of a blind date, after 10 years. Although they needed 50 of them in their first pairing, they only need one this time to realize they’re not right for each other. Perhaps because Barrymore has all her faculties this time.

But fate has different plans. Playing single parents, Sandler and Barrymore find themselves accidentally thrust together anyway after the bad date, trapped in an exotic locale that evidently only has flights once a week, where the tension builds as they fumble their way through the discovery of each other’s charms and overcome cynicism to find true love.

Also, Shaq is in it.

***

He might have lost a step over the years as we all have, but Rafael Nadal is still the man to beat on the clay courts of Roland-Garros. Also, he’s only 27.

Is that right? He’s only 27?

As tennis’s French Open begins this Sunday, the world’s No. 1 ranked man is having his worst season since he was 17, Danielle Rossingh reports, winning one tournament. He’s still the 6-to-5 favorite at U.K. bookmaker William Hill, followed by Novak Djokovic, who just beat him in final in Rome last week, at 6 to 4.

But those ATP World Tour matches are three-set affairs, and the French Open and other majors are five sets. You might be able to take two of three. And you might only be able to take two of five.

***

OK, it’s not going to be a sweep. Montreal has halved its deficit in the NHL Eastern Conference final after slipping past the New York Rangers last night in overtime by a score of 3-2.

This is mostly because Dustin Tokarski looked way better in goal for the Canadiens than he did in Game 2, when he was forced into service because No. 1 goalie Carey Price got Kreidered.

Game 4 is Sunday in New York with the Rangers up 2-1, and if they don’t win that game, they’ll surrender the home-ice advantage they seized by winning both games in Montreal.

***

Sunday is the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500, which used to be so huge and now, well we almost forgot about it. Guess it’s all about Nascar now.

(A previous version of this story was corrected for the spelling of Welles.)

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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