Posts Tagged ‘Financial Services’

The Age of The Trader

The Age of The Trader

Courtesy of Edward Harrison at Credit Writedowns 

I have written a number of posts which point to a shift in the center of power on Wall Street from the client-facing advisory business to the market-making trading business. I think understanding this shift is vital to understanding what caused the financial crisis and to understanding the defense that Goldman Sachs has proffered for its actions in the Abacus AC1 deal.

What has happened is that major international investment banking groups have taken on a sales & trading ethos of caveat emptor where once the client was king. In my view, this is a direct result of the rise of securitization, structured products and derivatives as a profit center in financial services and is the major contributor to Wall Street’s new unfortunate public image as a casino.

I took on different aspects of this shift in these posts:

I suggest you read them to get more colour on various aspects of Wall Street culture which have eroded the ethics of bankers and led to self-preservation over client-focus.

Here’s the statement in all of those posts I want to dwell on. It came in my post on Goldman’s earnings announcement from July of last year. I wrote:

The Goldman press release is here.  What I find notable is the order in which the press release presents the earnings, with a statement on the advisory business first, followed by equities and then fixed income even though fixed income was where the most revenue and profit came.  That is revealing – and shows Goldman execs still consider the advisory business of relatively more importance from a reputational perspective. (emphasis added)

Reputation is one thing, reality is another. Former banker turned journalist Bill Cohan gets at the heart of this in his recent blog post "Goldman: Still Greedy, No Longer Patient." He writes:

Once upon a time, Goldman Sachs’ raison d’etre was to serve the ongoing needs of


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America Just Declared The Recovery Over So You’d Better Get Ready For The Double Dip

America Just Declared The Recovery Over So You’d Better Get Ready For The Double Dip

Courtesy of John Carney at Clusterstock/Business Insider  

american america flag usa u.s. us stars and stripes

Today’s bleak consumer confidence number is undoubtedly bad news for the economy. The bigger than expected drop suggests that consumers have lost confidence in the recovery, which will drive down home prices and consumer spending.

Consumer confidence is typically our "first look" at the state of the economy. While most government aggregated data come out with a two-month lag, or more, consumer confidence hits with just a one month lag. Studies have shown that consumer confidence is a good predictor of consumer spending numbers. Basically, people surveyed seem to be good at accurately reading their own economic situation, and those surveyed accurately reflect the broader economy. When consumer confidence drops to such deep unexpected levels--today’s were the worst in 27 years--then it is a flashing red-light about the economy.

There wasn’t anything good about today’s numbers. Every part of the survey was awful. On jobs, the optimistic folks who say jobs are plentiful fell to 3.6 percent from 4.4 percent. The pessimistic people who said jobs are hard to get increased to 47.7 percent from 46.5 percent. The gauge of expectations for the next six-months fell to 63.8, from 77.3 the prior month. The share of people who believe their incomes will increase over the next six months fell to 9.5 from 11 percent. The share of those expecting more jobs fell to 12.4 percent from 15.8 percent.

The message: the economy sucks.

The recovery we were supposed to have.
You’ll read a lot about how the consumer confidence numbers are a lagging indicator. Indeed, they are a lagging indicator when measured against the stock market. The real time data conveyed by the stock market is often a better indicator than any survey or government data. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention to the consumer confidence number, especially since stocks have declined for most of this year. 

Lets be clear here. The story-book recovery was dependent on a recovery of the consumer and a decline in the saving rate. If consumers lost some of their apprehension about future income prospects and future employment, they might begin to spend more on both retail goods and to purchase homes again. Anticipating this return of the consumer, businesses would increase capital spending and inventory.  

We got half of that equation. Business spending…
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‘Low Cost’ ETFs Actually Cost Investors More Than Some Hedge Funds

‘Low Cost’ ETFs Actually Cost Investors More Than Some Hedge Funds

Courtesy of Vincent Fernando at Clusterstock/Business Insider

Devil Fire Costume

ETFs bill themselves as low-cost alternatives to standard mutual funds or even hedge funds. The idea is that their management fees are lower and trading costs are low since you can simply buy and sell them easily through a discount online broker. 

But here’s the problem --  it’s only true if ETFs are actually tracking their benchmarks effectively. Unfortunately they aren’t.

WSJ:

In 2009, ETFs missed their targets by an average of 1.25 percentage points, a gap more than twice as wide as the 0.52-percentage-point average they posted in 2008, according to a study of ETF returns released this week by Morgan Stanley.

Part of this so-called tracking error stems from the recent proliferation of ETFs targeting exotic investments or areas where trading is less frequent, such as emerging-market stocks and junk bonds.

Last year, 54 ETFs showed tracking errors of more than three percentage points, up from just four funds the prior year. And a handful of the 54 missed by more than 10 percentage points.

1.25% is more than the management expense of some actively managed funds, or some hedge funds even (before performance fees).

We think ETFs are great for tracking broad, liquid benchmarks such as the S&P 500 where they are likely to be worthwhile in terms of cost and trading ease. But ETF products for niche investments are highly suspect. The more illiquid investments the worse off ETF investors will be, especially since savvy traders will likely be able to line up and pick-off trades ahead of the ETF. 

For anything niche, investors are probably better off with old fashioned mutual funds once all of their real expenses are factored in.

Yet we’re fully aware of the fact that expenses of an ETF such as the above are near-invisible, especially if someone is been trading in and out of an ETF. So we’ll expect investors to keep lapping these products up. In investment management, products with the least visible expenses, and best ability to avoid blame, win.

(Tip via Abnormal Returns)


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Now See What Banks Are Really Doing With Your Tax Dollars

Now See What Banks Are Really Doing With Your Tax Dollars

chartCourtesy of Joe Weisenthal at Clusterstock/The Business Insider  

What are banks doing with the billions upon billions of dollars they’ve taken from the taxpayer?

The St. Louis Fed has just updated its latest data on bank health and activity, and the charts paint a great picture of what’s really going on in our banking system.

The bottom line: lending is still tanking (unless you count lending to the government)

See the whole story of the banking system >

 


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Traders Churning Derivatives Like Never Before As Volume Soars 20%

Traders Churning Derivatives Like Never Before As Volume Soars 20%

Courtesy of Vincent Fernando at Clusterstock/Business Insider

Anyone who thinks that the business of derivatives ended with the financial crisis had better check out the recent trading volumes released by the derivatives exchange company CME Group.

Just this January, total derivatives trading volume shot up 19% year over year, with particularly feverish activity in interest rate derivatives (for fixed income, Up 33%), foreign exchange derivatives (Up 78%), and metals derivatives (Up 65%).

Traders are loving derivatives like never before:

Chart

Also, keep in mind that CME Group just began clearing infamous credit default swaps (CDS), which comprise an enormous market for further trading growth. The sky’s the limit, until it comes crashing down again.

See the CME Group release here >


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Financial Services: From Servant to Lord of the Economy

Financial Services: From Servant to Lord of the Economy

Close-up of a rolled up Indian one hundred rupee banknote on a chessboard with chess pieces

Courtesy of Jesse’s Café Américain

Here is an interesting chart that shows the ascendancy of the financial sector in the US.

Commercial banking is largely an administrative function, with a few highly paid decision makers, and many lower paid functionaries and clerks that make a decent if unspectacular wage commensurate with a utility function.

Starting with the Reagan privatization revolution, the finance sector began to grow in importance, moving from a utility serving the capital distribution and storage needs of the real economy taking a relatively small percentage of real output, to a dominant force in the national decision making process, controlling the allocation of capital through its powerful influence and lobbying in Washington, placement of its supporters in political positions of power, and the consolidation of the mainstream media into an oligopoly of four or five major corporations.

Now we have a financial sector dominated by a relatively few number of multinational corporations that are certainly not utilities serving the productive economy. In reality the big multinational banks have become hedge funds speculating in a broad range of markets, often in competition if not contrary to the interests of their customers, relying on other people’s money for capital to sustain an outsized leverage and a steady stream of rents and speculative winnings, and to cushion any losses in the event of the occasional market downturns.

And if we do not give the banks their demands, if we do not maintain the status quo, then they threaten that they cannot protect the world from financial ruin and a collapse of the money system, which they themselves control. And this is no mere extortion, no corruption of a single party or person, but the foundation of an enduring modern tyranny.

“Single acts of tyranny may be ascribed to the accidental opinion of a day; but a series of oppressions, begun at a distinguished period and pursued unalterably through every change of ministers, too plainly prove a deliberate, systematic plan of reducing a people to slavery." Thomas Jefferson

 


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Government Screwing Savers, Retirees To Keep Secret Wall Street Bailout Going

Government Screwing Savers, Retirees To Keep Secret Wall Street Bailout Going

Courtesy of Henry Blodget at The Business Insider

gethosed.pngAs PIMCO’s Bill Gross notes in this NYT article on zero-percent interest rates, the Fed’s ongoing Wall Street bailout is coming at a cost: Anyone who has any cash savings is getting screwed. 

This includes retirees who did exactly what they were supposed to do--save.  Their incomes are now getting clobbered.

Meanwhile, for those who prefer to borrow money, the ongoing bailout has created the world’s easiest way to make $1 billion.  Borrow short-term from the taxpayers and lend the same money back to the taxpayers--and get a guaranteed risk-free spread.

Here’s Bill Gross:

“What the average citizen doesn’t explicitly understand is that a significant part of the government’s plan to repair the financial system and the economy is to pay savers nothing and allow damaged financial institutions to earn a nice, guaranteed spread,” said William H. Gross, co-chief investment officer of the Pacific Investment Management Company, or Pimco. “It’s capitalism, I guess, but it’s not to be applauded.”

Mr. Gross said he read his monthly portfolio statement twice because he could not believe that the line “Yield on cash” was 0.01 percent. At that rate, he said, it would take him 6,932 years to double his money.

See Also: How To Make The World’s Easiest $1 Billion

 


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The Harvard-Goldman Filter Keeps Too Big To Fail Banks Intact

The Harvard-Goldman Filter Keeps Too Big To Fail Banks Intact

harvard commencementCourtesy of John Carney of Clusterstock/Business Insider

Arnold Kling explains why our political leaders won’t break up the Too Big To Fail banks:

My answer to both relates to what I call the Harvard-Goldman filter.

The Harvard-Goldman filter works like this.

1. To get into a position of power, you have to pass through a filter. The easiest way to show that you can pass through the filter is to go to Harvard and then work for Goldman.

2. If you do not go to Harvard and work for Goldman, then you have to show that you can get along with people who did.

3. The best way to show that you can get along with people who pass the Harvard-Goldman filter is to show that you believe in applying the Harvard-Goldman filter.

Why was Tim Geithner regarded as such an obvious, in fact necessary, choice to be Treasury Secretary? Because he satisfies the Harvard-Goldman filter, particularly point (3). He is not going to bring people from the wrong social caste into the policymaking arena.

 


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Second mortgage debt collections

Two articles on collections of second mortgage debt being attempted, prior to resolution of the first mortgage. Justice BrandeisNormally, first mortgages have priority, but it appears owners of second mortgage obligations – debt collection agencies – are cutting ahead and demanding payback early and then using questionable tactics to accomplish their goals (e.g., filing suit without giving notice). – Ilene  

Decency, security, and liberty alike demand that government officials shall be subjected to the same rules of conduct that are commands to the citizen. In a government of laws, existence of the government will be imperiled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously. Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy.  Justice Louis Brandeis

Debt Collectors Raiding Coffers Of Homeowners With Second Mortgages

By Vince Veneziani, courtesy of Clusterstock

foreclosureAmericans who decided to take out a second mortgage on their home who are now underwater are in big trouble. In fact, they may finding their bank accounts empty and their paychecks dwindling in the near future:

Housing Doom: Josh Zinner of the Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project in Manhattan said some lenders or trusts for banks that went out of business are selling off second mortgages today to debt collectors for pennies on the dollars. Those debt collectors are then going after the homeowners’ bank accounts or pay checks to recoup whatever money they can.

And if a bank or debt collection agency goes after you, for god’s sake, respond to the complaint in a timely manner:

Perhaps in part because they are not notified, people sued in New York City often fail to appear in court to protect their interests, according to a study released last year by MFY Legal Services, a nonprofit law firm in New York.

MFY found that just seven law firms filed nearly one-third of all the cases seeking to collect $25,000 or less in


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JP Morgan: Stop Freaking Out, The UAE Can Easily Save Dubai

Good morning!  Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. – Ilene

JP Morgan: Stop Freaking Out, The UAE Can Easily Save Dubai

Dubai - tbi Courtesy of Vincent Fernando at Clusterstock

Kian Abouhossein at J.P. Morgan delivers some excellent insight into the Dubai crisis. The wealthy UAE will be able to easily bail out Dubai if need be, this time. It just might not be so optimistic to do so in the future.

We are less concerned for global banks about Dubai World’s direct $59bn outstanding debt exposure with $4.3bn due to mature in Dec-09 and a further $4.9bn in 1Q10, considering “only” $13bn of syndicated loans across global banking sector based on Dealogic data. Assuming a 10% “hold” strategy, the most exposed banks would be RBS with $0.23bn, DB and CS with $0.17bn each.

The view from our MENA team is that this event reflects cash flow challenges rather than refinancing ability. They believe that obligations on Dubai World and its property unit Nakheel PJSC are likely to be fulfilled at the new May 2010 earliest repayment date, and that Dubai should be eventually be able to fulfill its debt obligations maturing in the short-term ($4bn in Dec-09, relating to Dubai World, and $9 to $10 in 2010) with continued Abu Dhabi support. Abu Dhabi is strong financially with fiscal and current account surpluses, ~$150bn in FX reserves and a ~$300bn sovereign wealth fund. However it seems that Abu Dhabi will no longer be happy to underwrite all debt, and rather will differentiate more strongly between supporting Dubai’s strategically important assets (such as DEWA, and Dubai Ports), and the non strategic assets – hence the concurrent timing of the Dubai World debt restructure and the Abu Dhabi underwritten government of Dubai debt raising.

Here’s one rough measure of relative bank exposure to Dubai, based on Dubai World syndicated loans since 2007. Overall, JP Morgan believes the exposures are relatively small compared with the major banks involved.

jpk

Here’s probably a better estimate of relative exposure, by loans made to the UAE as a whole. The amount of direct loan exposure to Dubai specifically, within this UAE-wide figure, are apparently very difficult to know.

jpg

Conclusions for some of the major banks exposed:

jpj

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Overall


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Zero Hedge

Amid Soaring Cobalt Prices, Apple Will Buy Direct From Miners

Courtesy of ZeroHedge. View original post here.

One of the most underreported commodity stories of the past year has been the staggering climb in the price of cobalt - a metal that's an essential ingredient of everything from smartphones to electric cars, as BusinessWeek pointed out in a feature about the looming cobalt crisis published last month.

For example, both cobalt and lithium are key components of lithium-ion batteries used in smartphones. And as global demand for electric vehicles is expected to explode thanks to China's heavy handed inducements for urban car ...



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Phil's Favorites

Why Altered Carbon is not about the future - nor is any other science fiction

 

Why Altered Carbon is not about the future – nor is any other science fiction

Netflix

Courtesy of Gavin Miller, University of Glasgow

The hopes and dreams of the technological movement known as “transhumanism” have been brought into the media spotlight thanks to Netflix’s new science fiction series, Altered Carbon (based on Richard Morgan’s 2001 novel).

Transhumanists believe that our species will soon undergo a technological evolution into a new and superior form. While ...



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Chart School

Sellers Come In But Semiconductors Gain

Courtesy of Declan.

Markets were set up for sellers with most indices experiencing broad selling. However, the one index which looked set up best for shorts - the Semiconductor Index - actually managed to gain.  Anyone taking up Friday's short in the latter Index will have been stopped out but another shorting opportunity may have presented itself. Technicals haven't returned to becoming net bullish but only the ADX remains to shift.


The S&P eased a little lower but didn't return below what was channel support. Te...

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ValueWalk

Bill Nygren's Stock Picks

By VW Staff. Originally published at ValueWalk.

Bill Nygren, Harris Associates U.S. equities CIO and Oakmark Funds portfolio manager, shares his top stock picks and long-term investment strategy.

H/T Dataroma

]]> Get The Full Seth Klarman Series in PDF

Get the entire 10-part series on Seth Klarman in PDF. Save it to your desktop, read it on your tablet, or email to your colleagues.

Bill Nygren's Stock Picks

Pro: Three hot stocks to watch from ...



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Insider Scoop

Stifel Sees Reboot Opportunity For Chipotle, Upgrades From Sell To Hold

Courtesy of Benzinga.

Related CMG Benzinga's Top Upgrades, Downgrades For February 20, 2018 The Market In 5 Minutes: Albertsons-R...

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Digital Currencies

As Bitcoin Nears $11,000, Here's A History Of Its Biggest Ups And Downs

Courtesy of ZeroHedge. View original post here.

The cryptocurrency rebound off Feb 5th's bloodbath lows (below $6,000 for Bitcoin) has been impressive, as a 'mysterious' massive buyer 'bought the dip' and momentum took care of the rest.

With Bitcoin now nearing $11,000 (almost a double off the lows), ...



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Biotech

What is 'right to try,' and could it help?

Reminder: Pharmboy is available to chat with Members, comments are found below each post.

 

What is 'right to try,' and could it help?

In this March 18, 2011 photo, Cassidy Hempel waved at hospital staff as she was being treated for a rare disorder. Her mother Chris, left, fought to gain permission for an experimental drug. AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

Morten Wendelbo, Texas A&M University and Timothy Callaghan, ...



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Mapping The Market

The tricks propagandists use to beat science

Via Jean-Luc

How propagandist beat science – they did it for the tobacco industry and now it's in favor of the energy companies:

The tricks propagandists use to beat science

The original tobacco strategy involved several lines of attack. One of these was to fund research that supported the industry and then publish only the results that fit the required narrative. “For instance, in 1954 the TIRC distributed a pamphlet entitled ‘A Scientific Perspective on the Cigarette Controversy’ to nearly 200,000 doctors, journalists, and policy-makers, in which they emphasized favorable research and questioned results supporting the contrary view,” say Weatherall and co, who call this approach biased production.

A second approach promoted independent research that happened to support ...



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Members' Corner

An Interview with David Brin

Our guest David Brin is an astrophysicist, technology consultant, and best-selling author who speaks, writes, and advises on a range of topics including national defense, creativity, and space exploration. He is also a well-known and influential futurist (one of four “World's Best Futurists,” according to The Urban Developer), and it is his ideas on the future, specifically the future of civilization, that I hope to learn about here.   

Ilene: David, you base many of your predictions of the future on a theory of historica...



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OpTrader

Swing trading portfolio - week of September 11th, 2017

Reminder: OpTrader is available to chat with Members, comments are found below each post.

 

This post is for all our live virtual trade ideas and daily comments. Please click on "comments" below to follow our live discussion. All of our current  trades are listed in the spreadsheet below, with entry price (1/2 in and All in), and exit prices (1/3 out, 2/3 out, and All out).

We also indicate our stop, which is most of the time the "5 day moving average". All trades, unless indicated, are front-month ATM options. 

Please feel free to participate in the discussion and ask any questions you might have about this virtual portfolio, by clicking on the "comments" link right below.

To learn more about the swing trading virtual portfolio (strategy, performance, FAQ, etc.), please click here ...



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Promotions

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Kimble Charting Solutions

Brazil; Waterfall in prices starting? Impact U.S.?

Courtesy of Chris Kimble.

Below looks at the Brazil ETF (EWZ) over the last decade. The rally over the past year has it facing a critical level, from a Power of the Pattern perspective.

CLICK ON CHART TO ENLARGE

EWZ is facing dual resistance at (1), while in a 9-year down trend of lower highs and lower lows. The counter trend rally over the past 17-months has it testing key falling resistance. Did the counter trend reflation rally just end at dual resistance???

If EWZ b...



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All About Trends

Mid-Day Update

Reminder: Harlan is available to chat with Members, comments are found below each post.

Click here for the full report.




To learn more, sign up for David's free newsletter and receive the free report from All About Trends - "How To Outperform 90% Of Wall Street With Just $500 A Week." Tell David PSW sent you. - Ilene...

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About Phil:

Philip R. Davis is a founder Phil's Stock World, a stock and options trading site that teaches the art of options trading to newcomers and devises advanced strategies for expert traders...

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About Ilene:

Ilene is editor and affiliate program coordinator for PSW. She manages the site market shadows, archives, more. Contact Ilene to learn about our affiliate and content sharing programs.

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