If you were raised in a religious household, or were sent to a Catholic school, you have heard of the seven deadly sins. These transgressions -- wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy and gluttony -- are human tendencies that, if not overcome, can lead to other sins and a path straight to the netherworld. In the investing world, these same seven deadly sins apply. These "behaviors," just like in life, lead to poor investing outcomes. Therefore, to be a better investor, we must recognize these "moral transgressions" and learn how to overcome them.
As regular readers are well aware, when it comes to "more than arms length" equity market intervention in New Normal markets, the New York Fed's preferred "intermediary" of choice to, how should one say, boost investor sentiment aka "protect from a plunge", is none other than Chicago HFT powerhouse, Citadel. Recently we discovered that the true culprit behind the May 2010 Flash Crash was not Waddell & Reed, but quote stuffing. The most recent revelation for Citadel is that quote stuffing is not just some byproduct of some "innocuous" HFT strategy, as none other than the Nasdaq has now stated on the record, that the most leveraged hedge fund (at 9x regulatory to net assets), and the third largest after Bridgewater and Millennium, used quote stuffing as a "trading strategy." The following 2 clips give a sense of what goes on from day to day inside the firm that trades more volume than the NYSE every day...
As regular readers are well aware, when it comes to "more than arms length" equity market intervention in New Normal markets, the New York Fed's preferred "intermediary" of choice to, how should one say, boost investor sentiment aka "protect from a plunge", is none other than Chicago HFT powerhouse, Citadel. Yet one question had remained unanswered: just how does Citadel manipulated stocks? We now know the answer, and perhaps more importantly, it also links in to the true culprit behind the May 2010 Flash Crash, no not Waddell & Reed, but quote stuffing. Most importantly, the revelation that for Citadel quote stuffing is not just some byproduct of some "innocuous" HFT strategy, is that none other than the Nasdaq has now stated on the record, that the most leveraged hedge fund (at 9x regulatory to net assets), and the third largest after Bridgewater and Millennium, used quote stuffing as a "trading strategy."
A month ago, Carl Icahn told told CNBC that he was "very nervous" about US equity markets. Reflecting on Yellen's apparent cluelessness of the consequences of her actions, and fearful of the build of derivative positions, Icahn says he's "worried" because if Yellen does not understand the end-game then "there's no argument - you have to worry about the excesssive printing of money!" Today he follows up that warning with an op-ed that states "we are in a major asset bubble that continues to grow," supporting Stiglitz comments that "these very strong stock market prices are in a sense a symptom of the weak economy, not a symptom that we are about to have a strong recovery to our real economy."
Pension funds over exposure to paper assets and lack of diversification has cost pension holders dearly in recent years. This will continue in the coming years with attendant consequences for pensions ...
In top place, for many years in a row, remains that HFT and quant wolf in fundamental analyst sheep's clothing, Chicago's very own HFT champion Citadel, followed closely by perpetual SAC pod-PM wannabe, Millennium.
Having discussed the links between economic growth and energy resource constraints, and with the current geo-political fireworks as much about energy (costs, supply, and demand) as they are human rights, it would appear the following chart may well become the most-important indicator of future tensions...
Transparency has nothing to do with freedom and everything to do with control, and the more “radical” the transparency the more effective the control…the more willingly and completely we police ourselves in our own corporate or social Panopticons. This was Michel Foucault’s argument in his classic post-modern critique Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, which – just because it was written in an intentionally impenetrable post-modernist style, and just because Foucault himself was a self-righteous, preening academic bully as only a French public intellectual can be – doesn’t make it wrong. The human animal conforms when it observes and is observed by a crowd, at first for fear of discipline but ultimately because that discipline is internalized as belief and expectation.
In the aftermath of the recent Wall Street Journal profile piece that, rather meaninglessly, shifted attention to Bill Gross as quirky manager (who isn't) to justify El-Erian's departure and ignoring Bill Gross as the man who built up the largest bond fund in the world, the sole head of Pimco was eager to return to what he does best - thinking about the future and sharing his thoughts with one of his trademark monthly letters without an estranged El-Erian by his side. He did that moments ago with "The Second Coming" in which the 69-year-old Ohian appears to have pulled a Hugh Hendry, and in a letter shrouded in caveats and skepticism, goes on to essentially plug "risk" assets. To wit: "As long as artificially low policy rates persist, then artificially high-priced risk assets are not necessarily mispriced. Low returning, yes, but mispriced? Not necessarily.... In plain English – stocks, bonds and other “carry”-sensitive assets would outperform cash."
- European Bonds Surge on Slowing German Inflation, Ukraine Tumult (BBG)
- Ukraine tensions hit shares (Reuters)
- Debating Geithner’s Appearances in 2008 Transcripts (Hilsenrath)
- Tensions in Asia Stoke Rising Nationalism in Japan (WSJ)
- GM Investigated Over Ignition Recall Linked to 13 Deaths (BBG)
- Smartphone wars shift from gadgetry to price (Reuters)
- Some Companies Alter the Bonus Playbook (WSJ)
- London’s Subterranean Luxury Manors Lure New Breed of Lenders (BBG)
- Japan No Country for Old Farmers as 7-Eleven Takes Plow (BBG)
- Dream of U.S. Oil Independence Slams Against Shale Costs (BBG)
The tyranny of models is rampant in almost every aspect of our investment lives, from every central bank in the world to every giant asset manager in the world to the largest hedge funds in the world. There are very good reasons why we live in a model-driven world, and there are very good reasons why model-driven institutions tend to dominate their non-modeling competitors. The use of models is wonderfully comforting to the human animal because it’s what we do in our own minds and our own groups and tribes all the time. We can’t help ourselves from applying simplifying models in our lives because we are evolved and trained to do just that. But models are most useful in normal times, where the inherent informational trade-off between modeling power and modeling comprehensiveness isn’t a big concern and where historical patterns don’t break. Unfortunately we are living in decidedly abnormal times, a time where simplifications can blind us to structural change and where models create a risk that cannot be resolved by more or better modeling! It’s not a matter of using a different model or improving the model that we have. It’s the risk that ALL economic models pose when a bedrock assumption about politics or society shifts.
Size matters, it would seem, in the world of elite hedge fund managers. George Soros' Quantum Fund had its 2nd-best year on record, adding $5.5bn (22%) to the pound-breaking billionaire's horde and has now shifted above Ray Dalio's Bridgewater fund as the most successful hedge fund of all time. As The FT reports, since inception in 1973, Quantum has generated almost $40bn. Four other funds including Tepper's Appaloosa, Mandel's Lone Pine, and Klarman's Baupost also made more than $4 bn for their investors. Since they were set up, the top 20 hedge funds have made 43 per cent of all the money made by investors in more than 7,000 hedge funds.
Now that even Bridgewater has joined the Twitter craze and is using user-generated content for real-time economic modelling, and who knows what else, the scramble to determine who has the most market-moving, and actionable, Twitter stream is on. Because with HFT algos having camped out at all the usual newswire sources: Bloomberg, Reuters, Dow Jones, etc. the scramble to find a "content edge" for market moving information has never been higher. However, that opens up a far trickier question: whose information on the fastest growing social network, one which many say may surpass Bloomberg in terms of news propagation and functionality, is credible and by implication: whose is not? Indeed, that is the $64K question. Luckily, there is an algo for that.
Just over a year ago, in one simple graphic, we showed why Bridgewater, which currently manages around $150 billion, is the world's biggest hedge fund. Quite simply, its flagship $80 billion Pure Alpha strategy had generated a 16% annualized return since inception in 1991, with a modest 11% standard deviation - returns that even Bernie Madoff would be proud of. And, true to form, according to various media reports, Pure Alpha's winning ways continued in 2013, when it generated a 5.25% return: certainly underperfoming the market but a respectable return nonetheless. However, Pure Alpha's smaller cousin, the $70 billion All Weather "beta" fund was a different matter in the past year. The fund, which touts itself as "the foundation of the "Risk Parity" movement", showed that in a centrally-planned market, even the best asset managers are hardly equipped to deal with what has largely become an irrational market, and ended the year down -3.9%.
From the first headline to the last, the following brief month-by-month summary of the year shows just how far markets and global happenings have come...