Institutional Investors

Asset Managers Or Asset Gatherers?

There’s a fairly easy way to tell if a firm is a marketing firm or an investment firm. Do you see its advertising on buses, cabs and posters? Do they have a practically limitless range of funds? This is not to denigrate marketing firms entirely. But as the financial markets lurch between unprecedented bouts of bad policy, and achieve valuations that we strongly suspect are unlikely to persist, it may be worthwhile to consider the motives of the people charged with managing your money. Are they asset managers, or asset gatherers?

The End Of Guitar Center (And An Irrational Addiction To Growth & The Scourge Of Unregulated Structured Finance)

The fact is, the die is cast. In a couple of weeks, Guitar Center will need to report its Christmas performance to its bondholders. If things do not look good, its bonds will be ripped apart like RadioShack’s. Here’s what this really means: it’s the end of big box retail, an irrational addiction to growth, and the scourge of unregulated structured finance. For a few years, unwise urban planning and unregulated banks created a new bubble in the American suburbs. The objective truth is that the growth of the last decade was financed by banking fraud, and that financial trickery of this sort only fools people in the short-term. Eventually, you must have a product people demand, sold by competent people who care about the business, financed in a way that makes sense.

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Syriza?

Rather than be a problem, Syriza may well be a solution, if it plays its cards right, but that still leaves politicians and investors denominating Tsipras et al as a problem, if not a menace. The world’s major banks got rich off the back of the Greek population at large, and when their wagers got so absurd they collapsed, the banks saw to it that their losses were transferred to European -and American – taxpayers. And those taxpayers are now told to vent their anger at 'those cheating, lazy Greeks'. The Troika, the EU, the IMF, and the banks whose sock puppets they have chosen to be, are a predatory force that has come a long way towards wiping Greece off the map. And that’s what Syriza has set out to remediate. And for that, they deserve, and probably will need, our unmitigated support.

Occupied By Wall Street – The Latest TARP Taxpayer Screw-Job Is Revealed

The Treasury-created market has benefited a few savvy investors, while saddling taxpayers with a loss. The Treasury, which has held 185 auctions to date, said it has raised about $3 billion on TARP investments that were originally valued at $3.8 billion, for a loss of $800 million at the auctions. The Treasury “set up this market where investors could come in quickly and flip and profit,” said Christy Romero, TARP’s special inspector general, in an interview. Three private funds have won almost half the shares available at auction, often netting either a profit on paper or on the resale, according to SIGTARP.  “As a banker I was happy, but as a taxpayer I was not at all happy,” said Chief Financial Officer Donald Boyer. “The discount came out of taxpayers’ pockets.” 

The Visual Story Of The Biggest Fraud In Gold Mining History

This infographic documents the rise and fall of Bre-X.

From initial private offerings at 30 cents a share, Bre-X stock climbed to more than $250 on the open market. Near the peak of Bre-X share prices, major banks and media were on board:

Frontrunning: January 20

  • Obama to focus on middle class in State of Union address (Reuters) - all 4 of them?
  • European Stocks Buoyed by ECB Hopes (WSJ)
  • China's 2014 economic growth misses target, hits 24-year low (Reuters)
  • Federer on Swiss Franc Shock: "Does It Mean I've Got to Win Now?" (BBG)
  • First-time buyers help Christie’s reach record sales (FT)
  • So it was the NSA? U.S. Spies Tapped North Korean Computers Prior to Sony Hack (BBG)
  • Why Chinese Developer Kaisa's Default Risk Has Money Managers Spooked (BBG)
  • Morgan Stanley Misses Estimates on Drop in Bond-Trading Revenue (BBG)

About That "Strong" Dollar

At the moment, the US dollar is choice. This isn’t necessarily a vote of confidence for the dollar. It’s more like a vote against all the others. If big institutional investors must choose between bankrupt America and bankrupt Europe, right now they choose America. But this is a decision that can and will be changed in an instant. Just look at the Swiss franc...

Blast From The (Recent) Past: Jim Grant Nails The SNB Decision

"we venture that the SNB will sooner or later be forced to permit the franc to appreciate and thus to enrich the holders of low-priced, three-year call options on the Swiss/euro exchange rate. It's a long shot, to be sure--the options are cheap for a reason--but we judge that the prospective reward is worth the obvious risk." - Jim Grant, Sept 14th, 2014

Wednesday Humor: Maxine Waters Takes On HFT Rigging And Broken Markets

Yesterday was a bad day for the HFT lobby, after not one but two incidents which exposed the high frequency parasites doing what they do best, and perhaps only: rigging markets.  And since it would be laughable if its wan't tragic, we decided to make it even more laughable, by noting that none other than intellectual titan in the House of Representatives, Maxine Waters, had a few choice words to say about the latest HFT rigging busts. That's right: Maxine Waters now opines on market microstructure issues.


When Even Bloomberg Makes Fun Of China's Stock Bubble

"I'm not sure how long this rally will last," warns one Chinese securities analyst, but adds, Chinese investors "tend to ignore important fundamentals" anyway. When even mainstream media is reporting on the epic farce that is the explosion of retail interest in Chinese stocks (and the concomittant surge in stock prices), perhaps it is time for the 'greater fool' to pull back a little. Perhaps the 'exuberance' is best summed up by the following from a security guard for Beijing's subway system, "low-priced stocks are less risky - big drops won’t result in huge losses for me - I don’t know much about investing, but the stocks my friends recommended have been soaring." Trade accordingly...

Do You Pay Rent To Blackstone: This Is Where Wall Street Is America's Landlord

The short answer is in parts of Seattle, Charlotte, Phoenix, Atlanta, Tampa, Cincinnati, Raleigh, N.C., Houston, Denver, Columbus, Ohio, Sarasota-Bradenton, Fla., Raleigh, N.C., Chicago, and Winston-Salem, N.C. Among the 2,490 zip codes nationwide with at least one single family purchase by the top four institutional investors between January 2012 and October 2014, the top 50 zip codes with the highest percentage of purchases by the four largest institutional investors were in those metro areas. “The institutional investors kick-started the housing recovery by buying homes in bulk at the lowest point and holding them as rentals,” said Chris Pollinger, senior vice president of sales at First Team Real Estate, covering the Southern California market. Los Angeles County was among the top 10 for most purchases by institutional investors over the past three years, with 6,152. “As the market continues to climb, we expect these investors to start to sell off their inventory to capture the gains made in the past couple of years.”

10 Key Events That Preceded The Last Financial Crisis Are Happening Again

History literally appears to be repeating. The mainstream media and our politicians are promising Americans that everything is going to be okay somehow, and that seems to be good enough for most people. But the signs that another massive financial crisis is on the horizon are everywhere.

As We Enter 2015, Charts "Bulls" Should Consider

While the media continues to pound the table with all of the bullish arguments that should continue to drive the current advance in the markets, it is only prudent to at least attempt an understanding of the counter arguments. The "risk" to investors is not a continued rise in the financial markets, but the eventual reversion that will occur. Like Wyle E. Coyote, since most individuals only consider the "bull case," as it creates a confirmation bias to support their "greed factor", they never see the "cliff" until it is far to late. Hopefully, these charts will give you some food for thought.  Remember, every professional poker player knows how to spot a "pigeon at the table."  Make sure it isn't you.

How To Invest When The Pursuit Of Certainty Is Absurd

The practice of sensible investment becomes difficult when our secondary information sources (“fundamentals”) are inherently subjective. We are coming to appreciate the counsel of a friend who suggested that the merit of gold lies not in its price so much as in its ownership. What matters is that you own it.

Futures Up In Light Volume On Renewed ECB QE Hopes As Crude Slides Again

While the last trading day of 2014 will be important if only to see if Dow 18,000 can be recaptured on what is sure to be the lowest volume in years, don't expect much help from Brent which continues to slide and was down nearly 3% at $56.20 or WTI which is also flirting with the $53 level, down almost 2% overnight both set to cap the worst year for the commodity since 2008. Not much should be expected from Treasuries either, set to return over 6% in 2014 - the best performance since 2011 - crushing the latest hoard of bond shorts all of which got the Treasury move in 2014 epically wrong, which will close early at 2 pm. Which means that the HFT algos will once again be driven off the illiquid USDJPY correlation, where low volume will mean 5-10 pip moves today should be the norm, as well as European stocks, whose Stoxx Europe 600 Index rose 0.3% earlier on the latest round of jawboning by an ECB member, this time Dutchman Peter Praet, who said in an interview with German newspaper Boersen-Zeitung that lower oil prices increasingly risk de-anchoring inflation expectations, indicating that quantitative easing is becoming more likely.