Hopefully the $155 million purchase of Picasso's "Le Reve" by Steve Cohen coupled with his splurge on a $60 million East Hamptons pad comes with a 30 full day money back guarantee, because very soon he may have more practical and immediate uses for the money. If the SAC head was hoping that the recent $602 million settlement his firm had reached with the SEC was enough to put all his troubles behind him, he may want to think twice. First, yesterday, New York District Judge Victor Marrero pulled a "Judge Rakoff", when he balked at the SEC’s use of the “neither admit nor deny” provision (the same argument used by Rakoff when he rejected an SEC settlement with Citigroup in 2011). Marrero also asked what would happen if Martoma, who has pleaded not guilty to related criminal charges, is convicted. “How would it look if in the settlement before it, the parties were allowed to say ‘We did nothing wrong?’” Marrero asked. “The ground is shaking, let’s admit that,” said Marrero. “This court is in the same position that Judge Rakoff was some months ago." But in the end we are sure that Marrero, just like Rakoff, will fold to pressure, and money. However, where things got interesting is that moments ago the Feds arrested long-time SAC suspect and PM Michael Steinberg, giving him a perp walk out of his Park Avenue apartment. This was the highest profile arrest so of any SAC employee and means that while the SEC may be trying to close the book on Cohen, the Feds are only now getting started.
One would think that certain truths are obvious by now. It should be obvious, for example, that there are consequences to living beyond your means. It should be obvious that there are consequences to a long history of spending unsustainably and accumulating mountains of debt. And it should be obvious that there are consequences to dealing with such problems by spending more and accumulating even more debt. It should be obvious. But it’s not. Hyperinflation always starts with a surge in asset prices. And as I see stock markets at new highs, property prices posting big increases, and bond yields of the greatest debtor nations in the world hover at just over ZERO, a sane person ought to consider these important lessons from history.
With the Cypriot government still 'undecided' about what to 'take' and the European leaders very much 'decided' about what to 'give', the fact of the matter is, as JPMorgan explains in this excellent summary of the state of affairs in Europe, that because ELA funding facility is limited by the availability of collateral (and the haircuts applied to those by the central bank), and cutting the Cypriot banking system completely from ELA access is equivalent to cutting it from the Eurosystem making an exit from the euro a matter of time. This makes it inevitable that capital controls and a capital freeze will be imposed, in their view, but it is not only bank deposits that are at risk. A broader retrenchment in funding markets is possible given the confusion and inconsistency last weekend's decision created for investors relative to previous policy decisions. Add to this the move by Spain, which announced this week a tax or bank levy (probably 0.2%) to be imposed on bank deposits, without details on which deposits will be affected or timing, and the chance of sparking much broader deposit outflows across the union are rising quickly.
Timing couldn’t be worse.
Meetings between public company managements and investors are the bedrock of the fundamental investment process. The reason for that, however, is often lost in translation. It is not, for example, because most investors or analysts are systematically better at reading “Body language” about the quarter or new products. Seriously – they aren’t. No – the reason that management meetings are useful is because, over time, managements let down their guards and act like regular people. And in those moments, truth – about character, about wisdom, about judgment – comes rolling out. Today we offer up a personal highlight reel of examples from +20 years of management meetings. Between the earnings forecast and the actual results sit only two things: time and management. Time is uniform; management quality is not.
New Jersey Casino Files For Bankruptcy Ten Months After Opening; No Taxpayer Funds Will Be Lost This TimeSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/19/2013 20:54 -0500
If it seems like it hasn't been even a year since the latest Atlantic City casino, this one with the surreal ads showcasing Revel Atlantic City, opened up, it is because that is exactly the case. Ten months to be precise. And just as quickly as it came, just as quickly did it file for bankruptcy. Moments ago, the company issued a press release that it would engage in a debt-for-equity prepack (with Moelis, K&E and A&M all advising) Chapter 11 which will be completed over the summer. The biggest losers here are not so much the original owners of Revel Entertainment Group, Morgan Stanley which three years ago decided to walk away from its entire $932 million sunk investment in the bankrupt hotel (instead of spending another billion to complete it), but the people of New Jersey, who just lost another investment opportunity as some $260 million in the tax incentives that were supposed to help the project along will never reach their intended target. The continuation of the abandoned investment was the brainchild, and pride and glory of one Chris Christie who then said "the $2.4 billion Revel is one of the most spectacular resorts he's ever seen and expects it will motivate other Atlantic City casinos to revitalize their properties. "I think that one of the things that Revel will be is a catalyst for additional modernization and investment by the other casinos to say, listen, if we grow more people here coming to the region and we're offering something that looks nice further down the boardwalk, maybe people will want to look there as well." As it now stands, the Revel will only be a catalyst for further bankruptcies as industry after industry finds out what a tapped out consumer with no access to $1.8 trillion in excess reserves truly means.
- G20 struggles over forex, at odds over debts (Reuters)
- Alwaleed Sells Airbus A380 to Invest in Middle East Firms (BBG)
- GOP Stalls Vote on Pick for Pentagon (WSJ)
- ECB officials rebuff currency targeting as G20 meets (Reuters)
- Not good for the reflation effort: Muto leads as Japan PM close to choosing nominee for Bank of Japan chief (Reuters)
- M&A Surges as Confidence Spurs Deals in Computers to Consumer (BBG)
- JPMorgan’s head of equity prop trading Gulati to launch own fund (FT)
- Tiffany & Co. sues Costco over engagement rings labeled ‘Tiffany' (WaPo)
- JPMorgan Said to Fire Traders, Realign Pay Amid Slump (BBG)
- Broker draws Tullett into Libor scandal (FT)
- Airbus drops Lithium-Ion batteries for A350 (Reuters)
Big round numbers always encourage reflection. Turning 40 or 50, for example, or making (or losing) a million dollars. Or a billion. And so it is with “Dow 14,000.” ConvergEx's Nick Colas has three critical observations as we traverse this particular “Big round number.” First, it is clear that equity prices (and volatility, for that matter) are much more a direct tool of central bank policy than in prior economic cycles. Second, the rally off the bottom in March 2009 has left the investing world with very few money managers who can legitimately claim the title of “Smart money.” Lastly, you have to consider the way forward. The roadmap from Dow 6600 (March 2009) to Dow 14,000 was – in retrospect – clearly marked by signs labeled “Follow the central bank yellow brick road.” Good enough signage to get us here, clearly. But, as Nick notes, fundamentals – corporate earnings, interest rates, and economic growth – those are the metrics which will have to guide us as central banks inevitably reduce their liquidity programs. As he considers the way forward for U.S. stocks, he reflects on Spring 1994 - U.S. stock investors thought they had it all figured out as they exited 1993, just as they do now...
The equity markets, despite a verey modest drop so far today, continue to hang in despite slowing profits growth. David Rosenberg notes that while many tout the +6% YoY earnings growth, once adjusted for special factors, the growth rate in earnings is a meager 40bps! So, he notes, it appears not to be about earnings but about what investors are willing to pay for the earnings stream and lays out four reasons for the market's 'comfort'. However, while Mr. Market is catching on to the Fed's overt attempt to reflate the economy by reflating asset values, he warns, we have seen in the past how these cycles turn out - and whether you are a trend-follower or contrarian, take note of the overwhelming consensus across almost every asset class right now. Dow Theory advocates have been doing high-fives all year long as the S&P Industrials and Dow Transports make new highs, reinforcing the notion (mirage is more like it) of economic escape velocity, but Rosenberg has more than a few (EIGHT) 'anomalies' that show things are actually stagnating (or contracting) and don't pass his smell test.
Back in 2007, at the peak of the credit and housing bubble, Wall Street knew very well the securitization (and every other) party was ending, which is why the internal names used for most of the Collateralized Debt Obligations - securitized products designed to provide a last dash trace of yield in a market in which all the upside had already been taken out - sold to less sophisticated, primarily European, investors were as follows: "Subprime Meltdown," "Hitman," "Nuclear Holocaust," "Mike Tyson's Punchout," and, naturally, "Shitbag." Yet even in the last days of the bubble, Wall Street had a certain integrity - it sold securitized products collateralized by houses, which as S&P, and certainly Moody's, will attest were expected to never drop in price again. But one thing that was hardly ever sold even in the peak days of the 2007 credit bubble were securitizations based on personal-loans, the reason being even back then everyone's memory was still fresh with the recollection that it was precisely personal-loan securitization that was at the core of the previous, and in some ways worse, credit bubble - that of the late 1990s, which resulted with the bankruptcy of Conseco Finance. Well, in a few short days, those stalwarts of suicidal financial innovation Fortress and AIG, are about to unleash on the market (or at least those who invest other people's money in the absolutely worst possible trash to preserve their Wall Street careers while chasing a few basis points of yield) the second coming of the very worst of the last two credit bubbles.
We urge readers to do a word search for "Moody's" in the official department of justice release below. Here are the highlights:
DOJ COMPLAINT ALLEGES S&P LIED ABOUT ITS OBJECTIVITY - when it downgraded the US?
HOLDER SAYS S&P'S ACTIONS CAUSED `BILLIONS' IN LOSSES - did Moody's actions, profiled previously here, which happens to be a major holding of one Warren Buffett, cause billions in profits?
HOLDER SAYS `NO CONNECTION' BETWEEN S&P SUIT, U.S. DOWNGRADE - just brilliant
Pure pathetic political posturing, because it was the rating agencies, whose complicity and conflicts of interest everyone knew about, who were responsible for the financial crisis. Not Alan Greenspan, not Ben Bernanke, and certainly not Wall Street which made tens of billions in profits selling CDOs to idiots in Europe and Asia. Of course, the US consumer who had a gun held against their head when they were buying McMansions with no money down and no future cash flow is not even mentioned.
This week's Barron's cover looks like a pretty strong warning sign for stocks (not only the cover, but also what's inside). However, there may be an even more stunning capitulation datum out there, in this case a survey that we have frequently mentioned in the past, the NAAIM survey of fund managers. This survey has reached an all time high in net bullishness last week, with managers on average 104% long. The nonsense people will talk – people who really should know better - is sometimes truly breathtaking. Recently a number of strategists from large institutions, i.e., people who get paid big bucks for coming up with this stuff, have assured us that “equities are underowned”, that “money will flow from bonds to equities”, and that “money sitting on the sidelines” will be drawn into the market. These fallacies are destroyed below. And finally, while, theoretically, the “inflation” backdrop is a kind of sweet spot for stock, even to those who insist that stocks will protect one against the ravages of sharply rising prices of goods and services, As Kyle Bass recently explained, the devaluation of money in the wider sense was even more pronounced than the increase in stock prices. Stocks did not protect anyone in the sense of fully preserving one's purchasing power. The only things that actually preserved purchasing power were gold, foreign exchange and assorted hard assets for which a liquid market exists.
It is funny what one finds when one actually looks at the data behind the headlines, such as in this case the trumpeted amazing return of investors to the US stock market. Because what one does find is that after that one blistering week after the new year, in which wealthy individuals dumped cash they had put aside (for lack of knowledge of what the dividend tax would be in 2013), we now have, for the second week in a row, seen a material outflow from US equity funds as tracked by Lipper, bringing the total two week outflow from the domestic equity sector to some $5.8 billion. Oh, and the great non-rotation out bonds continues with some $8.5 billion pumped into taxable bond funds and $2.3 billion into municipal bonds in the past two weeks.
"Return = Cash + Beta + Alpha": An Inside Look At The World's Biggest And Most Successful "Beta" Hedge FundSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/23/2013 21:31 -0500
Some time ago when we looked at the the performance of the world's largest and best returning hedge fund, Ray Dalio's Bridgewater, it had some $138 billion in assets. This number subsequently rose by $4 billion to $142 billion a week ago, however one thing remained the same: on a dollar for dollar basis, it is still the best performing and largest hedge fund of the past 20 years, and one which also has a remarkably low standard deviation of returns to boast. This is known to most people. What is less known, however, is that the two funds that comprise the entity known as "Bridgewater" serve two distinct purposes: while the Pure Alpha fund is, as its name implies, a chaser of alpha, or the 'tactical', active return component of an investment, the All Weather fund has a simple "beta isolate and capture" premise, and seeks to generate a modestly better return than the market using a mixture of equity and bonds investments and leverage. Ironically, as we foretold back in 2009, in the age of ZIRP, virtually every "actively managed" hedge fund would soon become not more than a massively levered beta chaser however charging an "alpha" fund's 2 and 20 fee structure. At least Ray Dalio is honest about where the return comes from without hiding behind meaningless concepts and lugubrious econospeak drollery. Courtesy of "The All Weather Story: How Bridgewater created the All Weather investment strategy, the foundation of the "risk parity" movement" everyone else can learn that answer too.
The Chairman of China Securities Regulatory Commission (similar to the US SEC) said that China can increase by 10-fold the size of the two main channels by which foreign investors buy mainland financial assets. It can, Guo Shuqing said, increase quotas under the Qualified Foreign Institutional Investors and the Renminbi Qualified Foreign Institutional Investors. The latter would make it easier for the yuan in Hong Kong (CNH) to be used to purchase Chinese securities. This hint helped lift China shares by over 3%, their largest gain in a month. The Shanghai Composite's 3% rise brings the gain to 19% off the multi-year low near 1949 (the year of China's Revolution) in early December.