In Christian ethics – although not in exclusivity – there are a number of vices, most often referred to as the seven deadly or capital sins, which depict the antithetical side of virtue. Of the seven, avarice or greed (Avaritia in Latin) comes at the head of the list for me since its practice affects the wellbeing of others, and not just those who profess it. And it was this lady, Avaritia, who walked the Red Carpet a week ago, Friday, May 18, in a glittering dress that reminded us of what rapacious capitalism is all about, as shares of Facebook started trading past their scheduled time in the NASDAQ. A very surprising opening with a larger (25 percent) number of shares issued for trade, at a much higher (52 percent) price… or a “more aggressive” price in Wall Street IPO parlance.
Just after the market close on what will probably go down as the worst day in history for every stock-broker-come-private-wealth-commission-taker's wealth-manager's future business (that would be the Facebook IPO - or as some call it "Blue-Friday"), the head of Morgan Stanley's 'Consulting Services Group' sent what is likely the worst timed, worded, and ironic self-congratulatory email of all time. James Walker, the MD of the group (correction - Andy Saperstein - who later blamed the NASDAQ for all his woes)- which manages $385 billion of client assets and is the nation's largest managed accounts business - was not wrong in his summation that this IPO was "orderly, fair, and well-communicated" and "will have a long-lasting impact on our clients and the organization". We assume he didn't mean "finish it" as one can only imagine the breadth of these clients who ended up stuffed full of the worst large IPO of the decade.
By now everyone is well aware what the main tension involving this year's presidential campaign as far as Mitt Romney is concerned, will be his professional past, namely his experience at, and exposure to, Bain Capital. By now most have also gotten a sense of the angle of attack that the incumbent will rely on in order to discredit his GOP challenger, and if they haven't, they will soon enough: after all in Obama's own words "Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capital is what this campaign is going to be about." In other words, Romney's history with managing private (emphasis added) equity. Yet at Marc Thiessen at the WaPo points out, the logical retort from the Romney camp would be to shift attention to something potentially more embarrassing: Obama's record with public equity. Because, frankly, it is deplorable. And while one may debate the number of job losses at the companies that Bain took private, the driving prerogative for Romney was to generate value for his investors and shareholders. This in itself will hardly be debated by Obama. In other words, for any and all of his other failings, Romney succeeded at his primary task. The question then is: did Obama do the same? Did he succeed in investing public equity, i.e., the taxpayer capital that the US financial mechanism has afforded him. Sadly, the answer appears to be a resounding no.
Back on March 27, following the epic disappointment that was the BATS IPO, we presented a detailed forensic analysis courtesy of Nanex, which demonstrated step by step how a Nasdaq-borne algo may have been the culprit shattering BATS' hopes of ever going public. Fast forward two months later to the most anticipated IPO in recent history, in which FaceBook's even more epic, if not quite as stark, implosion has set back the general public's faith in capital markets decades back. The irony, of course, is that FB didn't do anything that many weren't warning about: it simply plunged which would make perfect sense in a normal world. This in turn was the spark that provoked the public ire - had FB simply doubled since IPO day, nobody would care about what really happened on May 18. Alas, it didn't. And now the lawsuits come. The problem is we don't transact in a normal world, but one dominated by central banks and algorithms - which is why the most pressing question for those who grasp the real new normal is how come in a market as controlled and manipulated as the central bank-dominated venue we have now, was FB stock allowed to plunge? For what may be the actual definitive answer, as opposed to now trite philosophical ruminations on valuation, ethics, underwriter and shareholder greed, we once again go to Nanex, which has caught the perpetrator red handed once again... As Nanex' Eric Hunsader tells us: "Turns out just before Nasdaq's quote crossed and became non-firm, one copy of the same quote (crossed) was marked regular, and I think that caused other algos to react and immediately sell off the stock. When that crossed quote from nasdaq appears, bid prices from other exchanges suddenly evaporate and that causes the NBBO spread to explode from 1 cent to 70+cents in 1/10th of a second! Nasdaq's quote started doing this when the stock approached 42.99 -- that effectively prevented the stock from going higher (a few spurious trades right at the open came from BATS for 44 ~ 45 etc, before Nq's quote was in play). So these stupid Algos effectively short circuited the stock for Facebooks IPO! Unreal."
- This is the solution? - Germany Writing Six-Point Plan for Europe Growth, Spiegel Says (Bloomberg)
- JPMorgan Gave Risk Oversight to Museum Head Who Sat on AIG Board (Bloomberg)
- Vatican bank president Gotti Tedeschi ousted -statement (Reuters)
- Bribery, crime and stupidity pays. From this: SEC Staff Ends Probe of Lehman Without Finding Fraud (Bloomberg)
- To this: Lehman to buy remaining Archstone stake for $1.58 billion (Reuters)
- Governments must restore faith in debt sustainability: ECB's Praet (Reuters) - by issuing more debt
- IMF Helping EU Explore Alternatives to Euro Bonds (WSJ)... such as US-funded bailout bonds?
- China Banks May Miss Loan Target for 2012, Officials Say (Bloomberg)
- Facebook market makers' losses total at least $100 million (Reuters)
- World Bank’s Sri Mulyani Says Asean Is Resilient to Europe Woes (Bloomberg)
- Time to flip "The Scream" - Tiffany Cuts Full-Year Profit Forecast (Bloomberg)
- Definitely Maybe: Italy's Monti says Greece will probably keep euro (Reuters)
The following EOD commentary from Goldman's S&T desk pretty much summarizes how everyone feels.
As High-Frequency-Trading rapes and pillages its way across global capital markets, perhaps it is no surprise that the country that gave the world 'Vikings' would be the first to stand up to the computerized hordes. In a breakthrough moment of clarity, The Financial Times reports, the Oslo Stock Exchange will issue punitive changes to traders if they send too many orders into the exchange that do not result in deals being done. This first-of-its-kind crackdown on 'Quote Stuffing' comes after the exchange has seen a surge in the number of orders flooding its systems and while the bourse does not quite go so far as to say HFT is "in itself necessarily negative for the market", it says the placement and cancellation frequency of trades has reduced the efficiency of its market. Bente Landsnes, chief executive of Oslo Bors, said: "A market participant does not incur any costs by inputting a disproportionately high number of orders to the order book, but this type of activity does cause indirect costs that the whole market has to bear. The measure we are announcing will help to reduce unnecessary order activity that does not contribute to improving market quality. This will make the market more efficient, to the benefit of all its participants." From September 1st the exchange will limit each trader to 70 orders for every trade executed and any excess of that ratio will be charged $0.0008 per order. We are sure the NASDAQ, wanting to make up for its SNAFBU, will be next in line to punish the pernicious penny-pinchers.
According to some estimates, there are currently about 500 hedge funds in the world with AUM over $100 million. This means that roughly half of these asset managers collected performance and management fees for one simple task: to hold AAPL stock. According to the latest just released Hedge Fund Tracker from Goldman Sachs, a record high number of hedge funds, or 226, were long AAPL stock as of March 31, just days ahead of its all time highs, in what can only be described as the world's biggest hedge fund hotel (California). Because the only thing that is roughly comparable to the chart of the recently parabolic move higher in the AAPL stock is the number of hedge funds holders: 216 at the end of 2011, 209 at the end of Q3, 181 at the end of Q2, 173 at the end of Q1 2011, and so on. And while they may all be long the stock for their own "fundamental" reasons, the reality is that whenever there is a scramble for safety, on margin calls or simply due to general Risk Off behavior, it is the winners that would get sold, as selling beget selling, and eventually liquidations. Only in this case, 226 hedge funds all have the same winner. So far the AAPL drop has been relatively benign, not least of all because the stock is the NASDAQ, which just happens to be the growth frontrunning of the 2012 stock market. But what happens if the Fed continues to push off the NEW QE announcement: just how much of a general collateral redemption onslaught can the said hotel withstand before its tenants all scramble to leave at the very same time?
Minutes ago we reported that as the WSJ broke an hour ago, the Nasdaq has pronounced a retroactive mea culpa, claiming that had it known back then what it knows now, namely the plethora of technical glitches plaguing its systems, that it would have simply called the whose FaceBook IPO off. Yet we wonder: is the NASDAQ lying? The reason why we are suspicious that the exchange knew all too well just how badly it was overloaded, is the following stunning report from, who else, Nanex, which shows that for a period of 17 seconds, just around the time the FaceBook IPO launched for trade, all "quotes and trades from reporting exchange NASDAQ for all NYSE, AMEX, ARCA and Nasdaq listed stocks completely stopped." In other words: full radio silence. Or, as Nanex wonders, did "Nasdaq panic and reboot major systems to gain control over High Frequency Trading, just before the FB open of trading?" If so, not only was Nasdaq fully aware of the fully technical glitchiness of its systems, but it may well have precipitated even more confusion and more trading errors, resulting in the two hour trade confirm delays first reported on Zero Hedge, all in a mad dash and epic scramble to avoid reputational and monetary damage at the expense of investors.
"Retroactive Market Conditions": Nasdaq Says Would Have Called Off FaceBook IPO If It Knew Then What It Knows NowSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 05/22/2012 18:07 -0400
First of all, let's get one thing straight: if instead of about to breach a 20-handle, the Facebook stock price was in the $60, nobody would care about anything that happened in the past 3 days, everyone would be happy and delighted, and increasing the velocity of money with the comfort that some greater fool would be willing to pay even more for ridiculous overvalued ponzi, pardon, portfolio holdings. Alas, we are not there, and as a result, the fingerpointing phase has come and gone. Now come the lawsuits, because people, led to believe in huge short-term profits, are now faced to face with a grim sur-reality in which the tooth fairy was just exposed as the cookie monster. And the latest farcical development: Nasdaq finally pulling market conditions, but not just any market conditions - retroactive ones.
Update: well, our feeling was correct:
MASSACHUSETTS SUBPOENAS MORGAN STANLEY OVER FACEBOOK
MASSACHUSETTS SEEKS MS COMMENTS TO INSTUTIONAL INVESTORS ON FB
MASSACHUSETTS SUBPOENAS MORGAN STANLEY OVER FACEBOOK COMMENTS
It is by now well-known that certain large banks were heavy defenders (by mandate and then by sheer panic) of the Facebook share price post-IPO. Margin Stanley appears to have been the name of choice for this defender and today's price action suggests that whether it was them or not - whoever it was just gave up their undying defense. The following volume profile (how many shares were traded at each price point since the share's release) illustrates dramatically the massive bid-side presence (remember there are no short-sellers per se) as they defended first $42 (78mm shares bid), $41 (11.6mm shares bid), $40 (18.4mm shares), $39 (3.9mm shares), $38.50 (6.5mm shares), and finally $38 (22.7mm shares bid) before the first day or two were over. This is at least 140mm shares that were bid for above the volume-weighted average price of $37.98 across all 844mm trades that have occurred since Facebook began trading on NASDAQ. $32.1bn of trading volume across the three days. It appears that today's action - which seemed to be left undefended as algos were in charge was the breaking point for MS.
Something different today. A dip was bought and kept a little momentum - aided and abetted by some late-afternoon desperation EUR buying correlation-help which dragged the Dow back over the magical 12,500 level. Stocks and high-yield credit bounced nicely today - with the latter dragging the former higher from what we could tell (on the back of reversion to fair-value in the ETF and credit market) - as the rest of risk-assets were generally stable. AAPL rotation (making yet another one of its 9-plus % drops-and-pops) helped drag NASDAQ up while FB dragged the entire social media segment down. Financials, while up as a sector, were ugly in the majors with JPM joining Citi and MS in the red YTD now and BAC back to 4 month lows. Gold was unch and silver down as Oil and Copper jumped (with the former testing $93 at the close). Treasuries were practically unchanged from Friday's close but the long-end rallied the most from its opening levels last night and the 2s10s30s curve was a significant risk-on driver. Stocks were on their own though when we look at Treasuries, the USD, and gold as it appears the credit compression arbs were enough to pull stocks up and AUD and EUR strength into the close was interestingly aggressive - short-squeeze or does someone know something? Heavy and large size volume into the close suggests it was another ramp to provide exits - and credit indices needed to shed some 'cheapness' - though we remember that Europe is due to open in 10 hours. VIX tumbled over 3 vols but remains above 22% with the term-structure fo vol still steep.