Medallion

Frontrunning: November 21

  • Dollar dips, stocks fall as Trumpflation trade pauses (Reuters)
  • A profile of RenTec's Medallion fund: Inside a Moneymaking Machine Like No Other (BBG)
  • Mattis, Christie, Giuliani in contention for top posts (Reuters)
  • Paulson’s Big Long: A Bet on Trump Yields Power and Profit (BBG)
  • Ex-PM Fillon is favorite to win French conservative presidential ticket (Reuters)
  • In weekend of deliberation, Mattis favored for Trump Pentagon chief (Reuters)

Lady Gaga Channels Hitler in Chilling Speech At Hillary Clinton Rally

Lady Gaga made waves on social media Monday night when she took the stage at Hillary Clinton’s final rally, sporting an outfit eerily resembling a Nazi uniform. The pop star pounded the podium and pointed at the crowd, ironically mimicking the powerful speaking style made famous by Adolf Hitler himself. At one point, Gaga declared “Hillary Clinton is made of steel. Hillary Clinton is unstoppable." Despite a social media backlash, numerous mainstream media sites rushed to her defense.

The Top 100 Hedge Funds Of 2016 According To Barron's

Here is the table of the Top 100 best performing hedge funds of 2016 ranked by their 3-year compound return, with an average return of 16.98% (ranging from 30% to 12%), outperforming the S&P's 3 year return of 15.13%.

The Enabler & The Lifeline: Diamond Resorts & Quorum FCU

Diamond has a good thing going with Quorum: they get access to ample credit, especially for those applicants with weaker credit profiles. From a Diamond investor's perspective, it would be a shame if anything changed. The post credit-crisis strategy of focusing on esoteric lending opportunities like VOI (as well as taxi medallions, hearing aids and fertility treatments) to generate revenues and membership has run into both a broader slowdown in the consumer credit cycle as well as more specific problems, like an increasingly worried regulator.

The Collapse Of The NY Taxi Cartel

It is interesting that the free market has actually found a way to undermine a cartel that up until recently appeared to be completely safe. In some cities, Uber is being fought tooth and nail to protect the sinecures of the established taxi industry. It is a microcosm of the cronyism that is the rule almost everywhere these days. Just think about how greatly our lives would improve if all the regulations that have been designed for no other reason than to protect established businesses against competition from upstarts were rescinded.

California Labor Commission Pops The Uber Bubble, Says Workers Are Employees

Without its drivers, Uber wouldn't have a business. The drivers are the backbone of the enterprise. Uber, with its "God view" monitoring system and volatile, sky-high surge pricing, definitely controls pricing and how the work is performed. Once Uber starts acting like a real business and faces normal business costs, we'll see how profitable they actually are. Until then, they are just a millennial sweatshop.

Drivers For $40-Billion-Uber Face Death Threats In Greece

Having raised money at a mind-numbingly bubblicious $40 billion valuation this week (which as a reminder is triple the value of the entire NYC tax medallion business), we thought the pushback from the world's tax-driving unions was at least worth noting as they resist 'disruption'. Nowhere is that pushback more evident than in Greece, where as KeepTalkingGreece reports, the President of Attica Taxi Association (SATA) said that taxi drivers cooperating with Uber “should be hanged at Syntagma Square” for being traitors.

The Yellow Cab Bubble Pops: Taxi Medallion Prices Tumble 17% From Last Year's Record Highs

A little over a year ago, we presented a "Yellow" asset, which was "the best performer of the past year." It wasn't gold: it was yellow cab medallions.  As we wrote then, "the best returning asset class traded in the NY Metro area is yellow but doesn't change hands on Wall Street.... over the last 12 months New York City taxi medallions have risen 49% in price, besting the relatively humdrum returns of the S&P 500 (up 21%), the NASDAQ (22%) and the Dow (18%).  Medallions – essentially the right to operate a for-hail taxi in New York City – now trade for as much as $1.3 million, an all-time record."  In retrospect it was also the perfect time to cash out on the "yellow" euphoria. According to the NYT, "the average price of an individual New York City taxi medallion fell to $872,000 in October, down 17 percent from a peak reached in the spring of 2013, according to an analysis of sales data. Previous figures published by the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission — showing flat prices — appear to have been incorrect, and the commission removed them from its website after an inquiry from The New York Times."

How RenTec Made More Than $34 Billion In Profits Since 1998: "Fictional Derivatives"

From 1998 to 2013, Barclays and Deutsche Bank sold 199 basket options to hedge funds which used them to conduct more than $100 billion in trades. The subcommittee focused on options involving two of the largest basket option users, Renaissance Technology Corp. LLC (“RenTec”) and George Weiss Associates. The hedge funds often exercised the options shortly after the one-year mark and claimed the trading profits were eligible for the lower income tax rate that applies to long-term capital gains on assets held for at least a year. RenTec claimed it could treat the trading profits as long term gains, even though it executed an average of 26 to 39 million trades per year and held many positions for mere seconds. Data provided by the participants indicates that basket options produced about $34 billion in trading profits for RenTec alone, and more than $1 billion in financing and trading fees for the two banks.

Uber Launches War Against Yellow Cabs, Cuts New York Fares By 20% As Ali-Baba Launches Chinese Uber Competitor

Curious what Uber is spending the record $1.2 billion in cash it raised in its most recent funding round (which valued it at a whopping $18.2 billion)? The answer: subsidies. In a page right out of Amazon's playbook, the management of Uber has found that the best use of proceeds now that it may have finally saturated addressable markets, is to use its cash on hand to fund sub-equilibrium pricing losses and in the process, hopefully, put its competition out of business. Earlier today, the Uber blog announced that UberX is "now cheaper than a New York City taxi."

Frontrunning: December 3

  • With website improved, Obama to pitch health plan (Reuters)
  • Joe Biden condemns China over air defence zone (FT)
  • Tally of U.S. Banks Sinks to Record Low (WSJ)
  • Black Friday Weekend Spending Drop Pressures U.S. Stores (BBG)
  • Cyber Monday Sales Hit Record as Amazon to EBay Win Shoppers (BBG)
  • Ukraine's Pivot to Moscow Leaves West Out in the Cold (WSJ)
  • Investment banks set to cut pay again despite rise in profits (FT)
  • Worst Raw-Material Slump Since ’08 Seen Deepening (BBG)
  • Democrats Face Battles in South to Hold the Senate (WSJ)
  • Hong Kong reports 1st case of H7N9 bird flu (AP)
  • In Fracking, Sand Is the New Gold (WSJ)

Returning 2706% In The Past 40 Years, The Best Performing "Yellow" Asset Is...

Medallions – the yellow metal plates that essentially represent the right to operate a for-hail taxi in New York City – now trade for over  $1.3 million, an all-time record.  Part of this dynamic is fixed supply – there are just 13,336 medallions available for a city of 8.3 million people.  There is also a macroeconomic point, with a stronger NYC economy for those inhabitants who can afford the service... is this the real impact of trickle-down economics? Or yet another distortion?