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Citadel Is Pleased To Announce It Is Now Officially An Executive Headhunter, And A Travel Agency To Boot

You know, just in case that whole investment banking, equity research, high frquency trading, hedge fund thing does not work out, Citadel always has a plan B - to become an executive headunter. From Ken Griffen's annual letter: "We actively follow the careers of countless individuals across the competitive landscape in the interest of finding people who will strengthen our team and enhance our performance. Our talent database contains over 150,000 resumes, of which approximately 25,000 were added in the past twelve months. When recruiting for a given position, we often construct our short list from a pool of more than 100 highly qualified candidates. The decision making process for new hires often extends beyond the traditional interviews."And in case that fails, the company will become a certified travel agent: "Consider these statistics: in 2011, the Global Equities team traveled more than 3,500 days, on more than 1,600 trips, conducting 9,000 meetings with 2,000 different companies." Impressive stuff, and just shows you what one has to do when "expert networks" are no longer part of the picture. Then again the "whole hedge fund thing" may work for just a little bit longer: "We are pleased to report that Citadel Wellington LLC (“Wellington”) and Citadel Kensington Global Strategies Fund Ltd. (“Kensington”) have generated net returns in excess of 20 percent for 2011." Which means that Citadel has passed its high water mark for the first time since after 2007 and can actually collect performance fees and pay bonuses for a terrific job well done: victory!



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10 Good And Bad Things About The Economy And Rosenberg On Whether This Isn't Still Just A Modern Day Depression

Two things of note in today's Rosie piece. On one hand he breaks out the 10 good and bad things that investors are factoring, and while focusing on the positive, and completely ignoring the negative, are pushing the market to its best start since 1997. As Rosie says: "The equity market has gotten off to its best start in a good 15 years and being led by the deep cyclicals (materials, homebuilders, semiconductors) and financials — last year's woeful laggards (the 50 worst performing stocks in 2011 are up over 10% so far this year; the 50 best are up a mere 2%). Bonds are off to their worst start since 2003 with the 10-year note yield back up to 2%. The S&P 500 is now up 20% from the early October low and just 3.5% away from the April 2011 recovery high (in fact, in euro terms, it has rallied 30% and at its best level since 2007)." Is there anything more to this than precisely the same short-covering spree we saw both in 2010 and 2011? Not really: "This still smacks of a classic short-covering rally as opposed to a broad asset- allocation shift, but there is no doubt that there is plenty of cash on the sidelines and if it gets put to use, this rally could be extended. This by no means suggests a shift in my fundamental views, and keep in mind that we went into 2011 with a similar level of euphoria and hope in place and the uptrend lasted through April before the trap door opened. Remember too that the acute problems in the housing and mortgage market began in early 2007 and yet the equity market did not really appreciate or understand the severity of the situation until we were into October of that year and even then the consensus was one of a 'soft landing'." Finally, Rosie steps back from the noise and focuses on the forest, asking the rhetorical question: "Isn't this still a "modern day depression?" - his answer, and ours - "sure it is."



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Contrarian Indicator 101: Biggs "Terrified He Is Too Small"

By his own admission in an interview today with Bloomberg TV, Barton Biggs is "elderly and not as sprite as he used to be" but for our purpose he is perfectly placed. As the almost-perfect contrarian call (bullish into August here and bearish in September here for example) notorious flip-flopper Biggs is now both "terrified he is not long enough" and yet "fears that an apocalyptic end to the Euro could occur within the next 3-6 months". According to Bloomberg, Biggs is net-long around 65% equities and noted he is "terrified I'm too long if the apocalypse is coming in Europe." Yet another canary in the seemingly 'ever-more-full-of-canaries' coal-mine (but now perhaps post OPEX and facing IMF/Greece/IIF reality we will see contrarianism at its best).



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Guest Post: Complacency Risk Is High

vix-vs-sp500-012312As I was writing this past weekend's newsletter "A Technical Review Of The Markets" it really dawned on me just how complacent investors have become on the economy, the markets and risk in general.  The mainstream media, and most of analysts, are looking at recent improvements in the economic data as a sign that the economy has begun to make a turn for the better.   This view is further supported by the rise of the stock market. With a couple of breadcrumbs, a sprinkle of "hope" and a cup of optimism - analysts, economists and investors have whipped up the perfect concoction by extrapolating recent upticks into long term future advances.  However, this is a game that we have seen play out repeatedly before. 



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Freudian Slip - Chicago Style

We knew things are worse than presented... But this much worse? And in Chicago of all places - the city of (aggressively enforced) spin?



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Guest Post: I Was Wrong About Everything

Time for a mea maxima culpa: I've been wrong about everything: the stock market, the economy, globalization, energy, everything. Heck, I've even been wrong about the American diet and poor fitness; it's now clear that ice cream sundaes are health food that have been shown to extend life dramatically. Fast food is nutritious and cheap, a great combination, and there is basically nothing in the mind-body that can't be fixed in a jiffy with a handful of pills, all of which are almost free once you qualify for government healthcare programs. The economy has not just dodged recession, it's in full-blown recovery. The only two indicators that are going down are the VIX volatility index, which might just fall to near-zero as investors realize there's no longer any downside in the market and therefore no need to buy hedges, and the unemployment rate, which is steadily declining. 2012 is like 1956, 1964, 1984 and 1996: the economy is booming, and a sitting president has wisely overseen the application of brilliant policies by the Pentagon, State and Treasury departments and the Federal Reserve. The policies were simple: when "more of the same" didn't work, do even more of the same. That did the trick in everything from waging war to finding new energy sources to stabilizing the financial and housing markets.  This quote from President Calvin Coolidge neatly sums up 2012: If you see ten troubles coming down the road, you can be sure that nine will run into the ditch before they reach you.



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CIA Agent Charged With Leaking Classified Information To Journalists Including Photos From Guantanamo

The US Justice government reminds us that it still does exist. One wonders with the passage of the NDAA just what comparable lawsuits will look like when applied to regular US citizens charged with such crimes as talking to journalists and leaking photos from Guantanamo. Now we can all wait with bated breath as the DOJ i) finds where the MF Global money went, and ii) who is actually accountable. Or maybe not. From the DOJ: " A former CIA officer, John Kiriakou, was charged today with repeatedly disclosing classified information to journalists, including the name of a covert CIA officer and information revealing the role of another CIA employee in classified activities, Justice Department officials announced."



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Charting The US (Un)Recovery

How does the current recovery compare to those of the past? The following charts from the Council on Foreign Relations puts the current (un)recovery in context and despite some apparently bright news recently, the pictures underline the economy's weakness since the NBER's recovery began in June 2009.



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EURUSD Sliding On Anti-Rumor From Europe - Headlines "No More Money To Greece From Eurozone, IMF"

This is not the rumor that the central planning doctor ordered. This time from Dow Jones:

  • No Intention By Euro Zone, IMF To Give More Money To Greece, Say Dow Jones Sources -DJ
  • Major Greece creditors made clear EUR130 bn bailout loan "won't be increased by a single euro" - DJ

It remains to be clear if Greece will even get the €130 billion loan still, but that is a different story. EURUSD, and stocks, not happy.



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The ESM/EFSF Bluff

Both EFSF and ESM rely primarily on guarantees which we know Most European politician think is as valuable as toilet paper, so why not provide more?  The ESM does have some paid in capital, but the plan is for minimal paid in capital and maximum usage of guarantees. It is a distraction from their failure to leverage EFSF or to get new (non European bank) funding from the IMF.  It's not a solution, barely even feasible. In the end there are only a couple of guarantors that matter and the rest is circular.



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The Machines Are Back On As Randolph And Mortimer Stage Epic Comeback - OJ Trading At All Time High

As of today, Orange Juice has just hit an all time high price of $223.25 (this time on talk of an import ban in Brazil but who really cares), and has returned a jaw-dropping 32.4% YTD, or 7,032% annualized. This is the biggest 4 day surge since October 2006, and for all intents and purposes, essentially the biggest ever. Needless to say, Randolph and Mortimer Capital LLC is back up and running, and has been forced to limit investor inflows due to unprecedented interest in this asset class, which, yes, you can eat (a little freeze drying may be required in advance). At this rate, bottle service of Dom P at 1Oak will cost less than a small container of Tropicana.



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Over Two Thirds Of All Hedge Funds Are Under Their High Water Mark

For an update on the sad state of the hedge fund industry, we go to the FT which confirms what we had been reporting every week in 2011 courtesy of the periodic HSBC hedge fund industry report, namely that less than one third of all hedge funds in 2011 paid material bonuses to their employees (or if they did, they better have done it without the knowledge of their LPs), because "more than two-thirds of hedge funds are below their high water mark., the point at which they are able to charge investors performance fees." And since performance fees, or the 20 in the "2 and 20 part", is where the discretionary component of analyst, trader and PM compensation comes from, it is safe to say that the bulk of hedgies did not have a good year in 2011. And, in fact, for many the anger goes far back: "It can be a long way back. Credit Suisse calculates that 13 per cent of hedge funds have not earned any incentive fees since at least 2007. Most of these are small funds with assets of less than $100m, which struggle to retain staff without the income available from performance fees." One such fund was of course Citadel which after its abysmal performance in 2008 only managed to climb above its high water mark in the past week for the first time since 2007. And while this is not really news, what is far more curious is that according to Credit Suisse hedge funds have resumed levering once again.



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