Archive for June 2012

  • 25 Jun 2012 at 12:56 PM

Mutual Fund Managers Have The Wrong Skills

We’ve talked a bit before about how there’s a booming academic business in papers finding that investment managers do or do not add value versus non-managed alternatives like passive indexing or keeping your money under your pillow and just burning a constant percentage of it every month. Part of why that’s a thing is that the data can be prodded, smooshed, or cherry-picked to say many different things, and so they are. I enjoyed this paper about mutual funds by Stanford GSB profs Jonathan Berk and Jules Van Binsbergen (NBER today here, SSRN in April here) in part for its discussion of data problems, which starts with the fact that they used the industry-standard (in the academic-papers-about-mutual-funds industry) CRSP database and compared it to Morningstar data because “even a casual perusal of the returns on CRSP is enough to reveal that some of the reported returns are suspect.” Suspect like:

We then compared the returns reported on CRSP to what was reported on Morningstar. Somewhat surprisingly, 3.3% of return observations di ffered. Even if we restrict attention to returns that di ffer by more than 10 b.p., 1.3% of the data is inconsistent. An example of this is when a 10% return is accidentally reported as “10.0″ instead of “0.10″.

That is one way to get alpha. Anyway they look at the data using a (strangely) unusual metric of dollar value added, which is roughly alpha (gross excess return over some investable benchmark, in this case a Vanguard index fund) and multiplying it by assets under management, the intuition being that making 1% excess return on a $10bn portfolio is more impressive than doubling your $10 bet at the craps table. And they find that mutual fund managers are better than controlled money burning by the thinnest of margins: Read more »

  • 25 Jun 2012 at 11:44 AM

Layoffs Watch ’12: Asia

The bad news is that Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, UBS, and others have been making cuts and are expected to continue to do so. The good news is that not everybody is upset about it. Read more »

The master of ceremonies made a mistake as he named John Thain one of the year’s finest dads, introducing him as the chief executive officer of Citigroup. “Vikram Pandit will be very unhappy,” Thain said, accepting an award from Father’s Day/Mother’s Day Council Inc. on June 14. “I’m actually the CEO of CIT, which is similar, but not quite the same.”…host Mark Shriver apologized for bungling his introduction of Thain, 57, a former Goldman Sachs president who has been CEO of CIT Group Inc. since February 2010. “I thought it was a misspelling,” said Shriver, senior vice president of nonprofit Save the Children. “It said CIT — I’m like, this has got to be Citi.” [Bloomberg, related]



The extraordinary crises in the world economy over the last several years have led to an equally extraordinary monetary response from the Federal Reserve. Some six trillion dollars have been created since 2008 by the world’s major central banks to cushion financial markets and ease deflationary pressures. The Fed has more than tripled the size of its balance sheet since the crisis began, holding short-term interest rates near zero since the end of 2008 and embarking on several rounds of “quantitative easing” in an effort to push down longer-term rates and stimulate economic activity. Read more »

Opening Bell: 06.25.12

Soros Pushes EU To Start Joint Debt Fund Or Risk Summit Fiasco (Bloomberg)
“There is a disagreement on the fiscal side,” Soros, 81, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s Francine Lacqua at his home in London. “Unless that is resolved in the next three days, then I am afraid the summit could turn out to be a fiasco. That could actually be fatal.”

Greece Seen Blocked From Debt Markets Until 2017 (Bloomberg)
“The challenges facing Greece remain extremely large,” said Jamie Searle, a fixed-income strategist at Citigroup Inc. in London. “It will be a long while before they can get back to the market.”

Spain Asks For Help (WSJ)
The Spanish government has made its formal request for European Union aid to help finance the cleanup of its ailing banking industry, the finance ministry said in a statement Monday.

Nasdaq: ‘Arrogance’ Contributed To IPO Flop (WSJ)
Chief Executive Robert Greifeld said Sunday that “arrogance” and “overconfidence” among Nasdaq staffers contributed to problems with Facebook’s initial public offering last month. Addressing a conference of corporate directors at Stanford University’s Law School, Mr. Greifeld said Nasdaq had tested its systems extensively before the May 18 IPO, simulating higher trading volumes than actually occurred. But he said Nasdaq was unprepared for increasing numbers of canceled orders in the hours leading up to Facebook’s debut.

S&P’s Method’s Under SEC’s Lens (WSJ)
The scrutiny relates to S&P’s decision in July 2011 to pull its ratings on a new $1.5 billion commercial-mortgage-backed security, or CMBS, issued by Goldman Sachs and Citigroup The unusual step sent the commercial mortgage securities market into turmoil and scuttled the deal for weeks, angering investors and issuers. The SEC’s inquiry is part of its annual review of S&P and other credit-rating firms. But in S&P’s case regulators are looking at whether it used more lenient standards to rate new CMBS than it used on outstanding deals, the current and former employees say.

JPMorgan Unit Shifts Operations (WSJ)
The CIO, which is charged with investing a portfolio valued at $370 billion, equivalent to about 17% of J.P. Morgan’s $2.2 trillion in assets, will avoid trying to protect the bank using infrequently traded derivatives, according to people close to the matter. The CIO unit also will avoid private-equity investments. But those changes will be driven by a judgment that certain losing strategies were poorly conceived and hedged, not by a decision to foreclose investment options.

CNBC’S Guy Adami Takes On The Ironman Triathlon (NYT)
But he says none of those experiences compare with the rush he felt on a sun-dappled Sunday morning in late May in Red Bank, N.J., when he crossed the finish line of his first triathlon. It was at a so-called sprint distance — a half-mile swim, followed by a 13-mile bike ride and then a 3.2-mile run — which Mr. Adami, 48, completed in just under two hours, finishing 116th in a field of 160. Just signing up for that race was no small accomplishment for Mr. Adami, who, not six months earlier, had been leading the sedentary existence of a trader and carrying a flabby 235 pounds on his 6-foot-3 frame. But as a volunteer placed a medal around his neck, Mr. Adami had little time to celebrate. A far more daunting challenge loomed: on Aug. 11, he will join nearly 3,000 other weekend warriors as they seek to endure, and complete, the first Ironman-distance triathlon to be staged in the New York metropolitan region. To put the magnitude of that 140.6-mile race in perspective, consider this. It will begin at 7 a.m. with a 2.4-mile swim in the Hudson River — the open-water equivalent of about 170 lengths in a 25-yard swimming pool, or nearly five times the distance Mr. Adami completed in that New Jersey sprint. Those participants who manage to complete that swim in 2 hours 20 minutes or less will move on to the bicycle portion — 112 miles in two loops along the deceptively hilly Palisades Interstate Parkway, or the rough equivalent of pedaling from Manhattan to Hartford. Riders who finish the bike ride before 5:30 p.m. — or 10 ½ hours after their odyssey begins — will embark on a 26.2-mile marathon, which will begin in Palisades Interstate Park on the New Jersey side of the Hudson and continue for several loops before concluding with a brisk run (or perhaps a staggering walk, which the rules permit) across the George Washington Bridge and into Riverside Park on the West Side of Manhattan. Read more »

Write-Offs: 06.22.12

$$$ Europe stimulus rift crisis etc. etc. [FT]

$$$ Corporate Profits Just Hit An All-Time High, Wages Just Hit An All-Time Low [BI]

$$$ Wells Fargo’s mushrooming mortgage risk [Reuters]

$$$ Investors cast doubt on “end of world” hedge strategies [Reuters]

$$$ Rajaratnam Wiretaps Catch ‘Chunky But Funky’ Goldman Salesman in Scandalous Act of Doing His Job [DI / Kevin Roose]

$$$ This is a good post about quants [Mathbabe]

$$$ “Europe’s highest court ruled that workers who happened to get sick on vacation were legally entitled to take another vacation.” [NYT via MR]
Read more »

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  • 22 Jun 2012 at 4:58 PM

Jim Cramer Reviews Restaurants Now


[JimCramer via Vulture]