Cliff Asness

Teachers Unions Vs Hedge Funds: The Battle Over Billions

Randi Weingarten is the president of the American Federation of Teachers, and is a name Wall Street is beginning to know quite well. Since the beginnging of her reign in 2013, having sifted through the personal charitable donations of hedge fund managers, focusing on those who want to end defined benefit pensions, and entities backing charter schools and the overhauling of public schools, she implemented a 'suggestion' to Teachers' pension fund adminstrators that if asset managers don't support unions, the unions won't invest with the funds. Some hedge fund managers - with exceptional return records - did not take kindly to her 'influence'.

Weekend Reading: It's Probably A Trap

The “bullish case” is currently built primarily on “hope.” Hope the economy will improve in the second half of the year; Hope that earnings will improve in the second half of the year; Hope that oil prices will trade higher even as supply remains elevated; Hope the Fed will not raise interest rates this year; Hope that global Central Banks will “keep on keepin’ on.”  Hope that the US Dollar doesn’t rise; Hope that interest rates remain low; Hope that high-yield credit markets remain stable.

Weekend Reading: Breaking Markets - Season II

Fed Chair Janet Yellen will be forced to either acknowledge labor market tightening as reason to continue with the four-hike schedule for 2016 or risk her credibility, belittle job market stability and sound a warning about the risks of lower oil prices and cheap gasoline (sacrilege to regular Americans) by slowing the hiking pace after a single 0.25 percent increase last month. If she gets it wrong, things could get ugly fast."

Weekend Reading: Market Forecasting

The mainstream media is increasingly suggesting that we have once again entered into a 'Goldilocks Economy.' The problem is that in the rush to come up with a 'bullish thesis' as to why stocks should continue to elevate in the future, they have forgotten the last time the U.S. entered into such a state of 'economic bliss.' You might remember this: "The Fed's official forecast, an average of forecasts by Fed governors and the Fed's district banks, essentially portrays a 'Goldilocks' economy that is neither too hot, with inflation, nor too cold, with rising unemployment." - WSJ Feb 15, 2007. Of course, it was just 10-months later that the U.S. entered into a recession followed by the worst financial crisis since the 'Great Depression.'

Weekend Reading: Differing Diatribes

Importantly, while the "bias" of the market is to the upside, primarily due to the psychological momentum that "stocks are the only game in town," the mounting risks are clearly evident. From economic to earnings-related weakness, the "bullish underpinnings" are slowly being chipped away.

Biggest US Dark Pool Busted For Rigging Markets, Engaging In Precisely The Manipulation It Warned Against

The WSJ reported that none other than the operator of the biggest dark pool in the US by volume, Credit Suisse and its massive Crossfinder dark pool, "is in talks with regulators to settle allegations of wrongdoing at its “dark pool” with a record fine in the high tens of millions of dollars, according to people familiar with the matter." What is grotesque about this story, is that back in December 2012, it was none other than Credit Suisse which conveniently explained and laid out all those forms of HFT manipulation which we accused virtually every HFT firm of employing since 2009... and which Credit Suisse itself is now accused of engaging in!

Head Trader Of World's 4th Largest Hedge Fund Caught In HFT Frontrunning Scandal

Shortly after we reported the latest market-rigging scandal, in which ITG was busted for frontrunning sellside clients in its dark pool in what has been since dubbed a "trading experiment" (because it sounds better than criminal conspiracy to defraud clients), and which will cost the company a record for a private Wall Street firm $22 million settlement, we had one question for AQR's Cliff Asness yesterday morning: "Hi @Cimmerian999, is Hitesh Mittal the AQR employee who was formerly at ITG and is part of the SEC settlement?"   We got no answer from the AQR head, but luckily Bloomberg noticed, and as it turns out the answer to our question was a resounding yes.