Institutional Investors

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Frontrunning: April 8

  • Russia's Gazprom says Ukraine did not pay for gas on time (Reuters)
  • Ukraine Moves to Keep Control in East (BBG)
  • Banks Set to Report Lower Earnings as Debt Trading Slumps (BBG)
  • More DeGeners and Obama selfies needed: Samsung's lower first-quarter estimate highlights smartphone challenges (Reuters)
  • Citi Is Bracing to Miss a Profit Target (WSJ)
  • Another slam from GM? Safety group calls for U.S. probe of Chevy Impala air bags (Reuters)
  • Japan drugmaker Takeda to fight $6 billion damages imposed by U.S. jury (Reuters)
  • EU court rules against requirement to keep data of telecom users (Reuters)
  • White House may ban selfies with president after Ortiz-Obama photo promotes Samsung (Syracuse)
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High Frequency Trading: All You Need To Know

In the aftermath of Michael Lewis' book "Flash Boys" there has been a renewed surge in interest in High Frequency Trading. Alas, much of it is conflicted, biased, overly technical or simply wrong. And since we can't assume that all those interested have been followed our 5 year of coverage of a topic that finally has earned its day in the public spotlight, below is a simple summary for everyone.


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Frontrunning: April 4

  • Nato chief defends eastern advance (FT)
  • Russia looks east as it seeks to rebalance trade interests (FT)
  • Plane from Guinea briefly quarantined in Paris after Ebola scare (AFP)
  • US attacks Japan’s stance on Trans-Pacific Partnership (FT)
  • Thank you IMF: Ukraine PM says will stick to austerity despite Moscow pressure (Reuters)
  • U.S. Army seeks motive for Fort Hood shooting rampage (Reuters)
  • China Slowdown Adds to Emerging-Market Growth Hurdles, IMF Says (BBG)
  • Top investors press Allianz to step up oversight of Pimco (Reuters)
  • U.S. to Evaluate Role in Mideast Peace Process, John Kerry Says (WSJ)
  • Scientists dismiss claims that Yellowstone volcano about to erupt (Reuters)
  • Ukraine detains 12 riot police on suspicion of 'mass murder' (Reuters) - on CIA orders?
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The Housing Bubble Is Still Raging In These 20 "Buy-To-Rent" Cities, And Burst In These 20 Others

As the following table also by RealtyTrace confirms, the US still has an abundance of "own-to-rent" cities, where one can generate a return as high as 30% in one year, if one is willing to drive through the downtown area at 65 mph. Places like bankrupt Detroit, where the median sales price is $45K, and somehow the average market rent is $1.1K, meaning one can recoup their investment in just over 3 years! (how Detroit's residents can afford $1K on rent is another of those great mysteries of life). In other words, the housing bubble will still be raging in these 20 cities, at least until such time as the yield drops sufficiently due to soaring prices that the Blackstones of the world are forced to dump other people's money in such undervalued places as Ulan Bator and Almaty.

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Here Come The Feds: FBI Probing HFT

It is perhaps little wonder that Virtu was in such a hurry to use the cover of the JOBS Act to IPO itself before the whole HFT 'game' was exposed. Just 5 years after we first drew the world's attention to the potential damage that HFT could do; and mere minutes after we posted our article on how HFT is being set up to be the scapegoat for all that is broken with the market and conveniently distracting from the Fed, and god, or perhaps his agent on earth Goldman Sachs, 'completely unexpectedly' sends in the FBI:

  • *FBI Working With SEC, CFTC in High-Speed Investigation
  • *FBI Investigating Whether High-Speed Firms Trade on Nonpublic Information

Now, the question is: how many HFTs will stop trading for fear that any further trading on 'non-public information' will be deemed criminal from this point... or keep trading and lobby/hope that "a reasonable man" will believe their liquidity-providing lies.

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The Top 10 Surprises Of The First Quarter

U.S. stocks are like a duck, floating on a quiet pond – calm above the surface, but lots of furious churning invisible to the naked eye.  The S&P 500 looks like it will end the first quarter within a hair of the 1848 level where it started the year, but that doesn’t mean everything else is all stasis and light.  Today we offer up a quick ‘Top 10’ list of surprises from the last 90 days.  Gold, for example, is back from the grave, up 7.3%.  So is an imperial Russia, with the biggest land grab since the building of the Berlin Wall.  Mutual fund flows are ahead of exchange traded funds by a factor of 5:1.  And most of those ETF inflows are into bond funds, not the “Great Rotation” we all expected into stocks.  The 10-year U.S. Treasury yields all of 2.67%, and bonds have bested U.S. stocks consistently in 2014.  First quarter 2014 may not have been a long trip, but it certainly has been strange.

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Frontrunning: March 19

  • How Putin Parried Obama's Overtures on Crimea (WSJ)
  • West Readies Tighter Sanctions After Russia Seals Crimea Claim (Bloomberg)
  • Putin says U.S. guided by 'the rule of the gun' in foreign policy (Reuters)
  • JPMorgan Said to Agree on Commodities Unit Sale to Mercuria (BBG)
  • Short Sellers Target Chinese Developers as Rout Deepens (BBG)
  • HFT finally under the spotlight: High-Speed Trading Firms Face New U.S. Scrutiny (WSJ)
  • Chinese Dollar Bond Investors Demand Higher Yields After Default (BBG)
  • According to Joe LaVorgna it's the snow's fault: Deutsche Bank Said to Plan Job Cuts at Investment Bank (BBG)
  • Israeli airstrikes kill 1 Syrian soldier, wound 7 (AP)
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Bond Trading Grinds To A Halt: Goldman Set To Report Weakest Q1 Since 2005; Revenues Down As Much As 25% Elsewhere

Since Wall Street has been explicitly fighting the Fed (remember: the main reason there is no volume is because nobody is selling) Wall Street has once again lost, and despite its appeals, the time to pay the piper has come. Said payment will be taken out of bank Q1 earnings which as everyone knows, will continue the declining trend seen in recent years (so much for that whole Net Interest Margin fable), but to learn just how bad, we go to the FT which reports that fixed income groups across Wall Street "are set for their worst start to the year since before the financial crisis, with revenue declines of up to 25%." The punchline: "Analysts now expect Goldman Sachs to record its weakest first quarter since 2005 and JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America are forecast to see their lowest revenues since they bought Bear Stearns and Merrill Lynch, respectively, in 2008."

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Frontrunning: March 11

  • Malaysia Says Stolen Passport User Had No Links to Terror Groups (BBG)
  • Malaysia military tracked missing plane to west coast (Reuters)
  • Freescale loss in Malaysia tragedy leads to travel policy questions (Reuters)
  • Top German body calls for QE blitz to avert deflation trap in Europe (Telegraph)
  • Firms Suffer 23% Drop in Asia Fees Amid Search for Cash (BBG)
  • Putin Dismisses U.S. Proposal on Ukraine (WSJ)
  • Lenovo says China strike an IBM matter, but it won't cut wages (Reuters)
  • Congress to Investigate GM Recall (WSJ)
  • New hedge funds face life or death battle for funding (FT)
  • Muni Bond Costs Hit Investors in Wallet (WSJ)
  • BOJ keeps stimulus in place, cuts view on exports in warning sign (Reuters)
  • ECB Homes In on Risky Assets as Inspectors Fan Out Across Europe  (BBG)
  • Snowden: "The Constitution was violated" (Reuters)
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Futures Fail To Rally On Lack Of Yen Carry Levitation

Stocks in Europe failed to hold onto early gains and gradually moved into negative territory, albeit minor, as concerns over money markets in China gathered attention yet again after benchmark rates fell to lowest since May 2012. Nevertheless, basic materials outperformed on the sector breakdown, as energy and metal prices rebounded following yesterday’s weaker than expected Chinese data inspired sell off. At the same time, Bunds remained supported by the cautious sentiment, while EUR/USD came under pressure following comments by ECB's Constancio who said that financial markets misinterpreted us a little, can still cut rates and implement QE or buy assets. Going forward, market participants will get to digest the release of the weekly API report after the closing bell on Wall Street and the US Treasury will kick off this week’s issuance with a sale of USD 30bln in 3y notes.

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Long Crude Oil Speculative Bets Rise To All Time High

Whether or not institutional investors, read large speculators, decided to invest alongside Putin in the one trade that is most critical to the future prosperity and positive cash flow balance of Russia, namely keeping the price of Crude high, and rising, is unknown, however, as the following chart the net position in crude oil futures as of the week of March 4, just hit an all time high of $44.0 billion up from $42.4 billion the week prior, surpassing all prior peaks, and certainly any set during the summer of 2008 when oil was threatening to make a run on $150, and was set to hit $200 if one believes Goldman (which nobody does).

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The "Institutional Investor" Housing Bubble Just Burst

Just like the rental bubble whose bursting we chronicled here just last week, so the institutional bubble has just popped, which we know courtesy of RealtyTrac data reporting that institutional investors — defined as entities purchasing at least 10 properties in a calendar year — accounted for 5.2 percent of all U.S. residential property sales in January, down from 7.9 percent in December and down from 8.2 percent in January 2013. This was the biggest one month plunge in history. It gets worse: the January share of institutional investor purchases represented the lowest monthly level since March 2012 — a 22-month low.

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Hedge Funds Most Short Into Latest All Time High Ramp Since September 2012

As we have repeatedly pointed out, the one surest way to generate profits in these manipulated, broken markets is to take advantage of the one legacy trade that makes zero sense in a world in which the global central banks are the ultimate providers of downside risk protection: i.e., going long the most shorted names. We did just this most recently past Friday, when we listed the latest hedge fund long hotel, as well as the names most shorted by the "sophisticated" investors, saying "anyone going long these names is virtually assured to outperform the market over the next year." One day later and this "strategy" is already generating outsized alpha, with the most shorted names solidly outperforming the market. And as the case may, this latest bout of "most shorted" outperformance is set to continue for one main reason. As the CFTC reported last friday, institutional investors using Standard & Poor’s 500 Index futures turned bearish this month for the first time since September 2012.

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