Hits & Takes
By JLN Staff
Seventeen years ago today, the John Lothian Newsletter had over 200 new subscribers to this newsletter after the Wall Street Journal piece ran the day after Christmas in 2002. That piece opened up the readership to more equity players on Wall Street.~JJL
When the Wall Street Journal included the picture of me in that story, one reader shared with me his theory about those hedcut pictures. He said that if they like you, they make you look good. And if they don’t like you, they make you look like Saddam Hussein. A Wall Street Journal reporter confirmed this, by saying, for example, they had two pictures of Martha Stewart. One picture was when she did something good, and another for when she was doing something bad. I asked the reader what he thought my picture said. He said based on how the Wall Street Journal made me look in that picture, really good, that they thought I was the second coming of Jesus Christ. It was a nice rendering of me, I will say that.~JJL
The John Lothian News office is shut down for the rest of the year, though we will be producing the John Lothian Newsletter every market day. I may be in the office on Monday, but the rest of the team is enjoying the holidays and working from home as little as they can.~JJL
I am planning on going to Washington, DC in January. No date is set yet.~JJL
The ‘Fire and Ice’ Decade That Changed Everything on Wall Street
Bull market defied euro crisis, political bombs, oil shocks; Cross-asset highs and lows of the 2010s flag the risks ahead
It started with animal spirits left for dead by the financial crisis. It’s set to finish with stocks near records, volatility vanquished and the credit supercycle on steroids. This is the tale of global markets over a decade of “fire and ice.”
*****This decade dwarfs the previous ones.~JJL
William Greider, Journalist Who Focused on Economy, Dies at 83; In interviews with Reagan’s budget director, David Stockman, he exposed doubts about the supply-side economics that the administration had embraced.
Katharine Q. Seelye – NY Times
William Greider, a reporter, editor and popular author who examined the United States, its politics and its position in the world through an economic lens for four decades for The Washington Post, Rolling Stone, The Nation and other media outlets, died on Wednesday at his home in Washington. He was 83.
*****We have lost a great journalist~JJL
Bitcoin’s Purported Creator Says His Fortune May Remain Locked
Olga Kharif – Bloomberg
Wright could turn in about $3 billion of his Bitcoin holdings; Many investors doubt that he has an extensive trust to access
The man who claims he invented the world’s largest cryptocurrency and was ordered by a judge to surrender about $3 billion of his Bitcoin holdings said he may not be able to do so anytime soon.
*****Don’t you hate when you forget your password?~JJL
Thursday’s Top Three
The Wall Street Journal got the trifecta in our Top Three yesterday. First was the 17-year-old story about John Lothian and this newsletter Futures Analyst or a Broker? Skepticism Surrounds Critic. Second was making the distinctive portraits The Wall Street Journal is known for with your own photo, Create Your Portrait. Third was Eleven Years in the Making: Breaking Even on JPMorgan’s Purchase of Bear Stearns
170,115,915 pages viewed; 24,004 pages; 222,862 edits
|CryptoMarketsWiki, our archive of the cryptocurrency and blockchain world, is going strong and keeping pace as this area of finance grows and evolves.Recently Updated Pages
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Banks Set for Biggest Job Cull Since 2015 as Morgan Stanley Cuts
Nicholas Comfort – Bloomberg
Banks around the world are unveiling the biggest round of job cuts in four years as they slash costs to weather a slowing economy and adapt to digital technology. This year, more than 50 lenders have announced plans to cut a combined 77,780 jobs, the most since 91,448 in 2015, according to filings by the companies and labor unions. Banks in Europe, which face the added burden of negative interest rates for years to come, account for almost 82% of the total.
*****Happy New Year!
LSE’s Borsa Italiana is not up for sale – LSE board member Jerusalmi to paper
London Stock Exchange’s subsidiary Borsa Italiana is not for sale, LSE Board Member and Borsa Italiana CEO Raffaele Jerusalmi told Il Sole 24 Ore newspaper on Friday.
Repo Fix Requires Wall Street, Fed Collaboration; Strains in the repo market show a need to update outdated financial plumbing, investors say
Julia-Ambra Verlaine – WSJ
Recent tumult in short-term cash markets highlights what many investors say is an inescapable fact: The plumbing underpinning U.S. financial markets needs to be modernized. But few see an easy way to do it.
More Investment Managers Are Helping an Adversary: Short Sellers; Stock-picking fund managers are more willing than ever to lend their shares to other investors
Justin Baer – WSJ
Stock-picking fund managers are more willing than ever to lend their shares to other investors, including the short sellers who bet against those investments.
Fed’s Repo Op Is Undersubscribed, Suggesting Dealers at Capacity
Alex Harris – Bloomberg
Participants submitted $18 billion in bids for offering; This is the third straight undersubscribed term action
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s operation to inject cash into the financing system over the end of the year was undersubscribed on Thursday, a possible indication that dealer balance sheets are nearing capacity.
Deutsche Bank knuckles down to close its credibility gap; Despite shares near record lows, the effects of Sewing’s turnround efforts are starting to show
Stephen Morris and Olaf Storbeck – FT
When a delighted oenophile started praising the “excellent” choice of red wine at a shareholder dinner this month, Christian Sewing moved to dispel any notion that Deutsche Bank was back to its profligate ways.
China Aims to Breed More Pigs, Lift Rural Farmers Out of Poverty
China wants large pork producers to invest billions in rural pig farms to tackle poverty and boost supplies of the meat that’s been crushed by a deadly swine disease.
We’ve Found the Best Replacement for Libor; We chose SOFR because—unlike Libor—it is robust, reliable through economic cycles, and better reflects the way financial institutions fund themselves.
Tom Wipf – WSJ
I understand Scott Shay’s concern about Libor’s fast-approaching expiration date (“The Fed’s Libor Replacement Would Shackle Small Banks,” op-ed, Dec. 19). Yet there is much that his article leaves out in describing the Alternative Reference Rates Committee (ARRC) and the secured overnight financing rate (SOFR), the preferred alternative to U.S. dollar Libor.
Investors Conquered Fees. Next Up Is Their Own Behavior; They led a revolution to slash costs. Now they have to face the ones they impose on themselves.
Nir Kaissar – Bloomberg
Investors have beaten the money managers. Their next adversary will be even more difficult: themselves.
Exchanges, OTC and Clearing
Tokyo Stock Exchange’s equity market structure set for major overhaul
Maria Nikolova – Finance Feeds
There will be three market sections – Prime Market, Standard Market, and Growth Market, with each company to be able to choose the most suited market section for its listing.
Upon Publication of Final Report by the Expert Study Group on Capital Markets in Japan of the Financial System Council
Today, “Expert Study Group on Capital Markets in Japan of the Financial System Council” has published their final report, upon conclusion of their discussion. Upon the publication of this final report, we have published a message from our Group CEO Kiyota, as “Upon Publication of Final Report by the Expert Study Group on Capital Markets in Japan of the Financial System Council.”
Taiwan Futures Exchange To Deliver Real-Time Market Data Feed From March 2020
The Taiwan Futures Exchange (TAIFEX) is set to provide real-time market data feed from 23 March 2020 simultaneously with the introduction of continuous trading on Taiwan’s stock market, which currently adopts the call auction trading method during trading hours.
Fintech Startups Got All The VC Love In 2019 But Investors Like The Traditional Players Better
Donna Fuscaldo – Forbes
When it comes to fintech stocks in 2019, it’s the traditional players, not the startups, that investors are placing their bets with.
Just look at Visa, the global payments company for evidence. Its stock is up more than 37% year-to-date, while Square, the digital payments startup, is only 5% higher.
Crackdown on bank-fintech partnerships would hurt subprime borrowers
William Isaac – American Banker
Partnerships between fintech firms and banks provide access to safe and affordable credit to more than 160 million Americans.
These are people who have generally been excluded from traditional financial institutions because they have a nonprime credit score of less than 700.
The Top 5 Fintech Stocks of the Last Decade
Matthew Cochrane – The Motley Fool
The American stock market has enjoyed a resilient decade, bouncing off the lows caused by the great financial crisis by steadily and consistently making new all-time highs. Since Jan. 1, 2010, the S&P 500 index has climbed 182%, good for annual returns of 10.9%. While passive index investors have done well, some fintech companies — companies using technology to make traditional financial tasks affordable, convenient, and fast — have trumped those returns by orders of magnitude.
FinTech Coming After Banking: Looking Ahead
John M. Mason – Seeking Alpha
Is 2020 going to be the tipping point for the transition of the banking sector into the future? Julie Verhage and Jennifer Surane, writing for Bloomberg seem to think that this might be the year when everything breaks loose when it comes to FinTech. The United States has tended to run behind the world in terms of the use of information technology in the financial sector, but in recent years, some in the banking area seem to be waking up.
CQG QTrader 2020 offers detailed DOM tool showing order’s place in queue
Maria Nikolova – Finance Feeds
The detailed DOM tool provides traders with full transparency of the order book by price and shows one’s order’s placement in the queue.
New version of OANDA fxTrade mobile app enables partial closing of trades
Maria Nikolova – Finance Feeds
The latest version of the solution allows traders to partially close any of their open trades.
Interactive Brokers enables real-time tracking of wire withdrawals
Maria Nikolova – Finance Feeds
Interactive Brokers recently introduced functionality to let its clients track in real time the progress of wire withdrawals from their IBKR account.
YouTube Calls Crypto Purge a Mistake But Many Videos Still Missing
Danny Nelson – Coindesk
YouTube erroneously purged cryptocurrency education videos from its video-sharing platform this week but claims to have reinstated them, according to a spokesperson. Content creators, however, are telling a different story.
Crypto Derivatives Market Continues Strong for a Reason, OKEx Emerges on Top
The cryptocurrency sector, with its origins spanning a bit over a decade, has already made its presence and impact felt on the global economy. In fact, this new class of digital assets is now on the verge of becoming part of the mainstream financial system. The transition is evident from the ever-increasing trade volumes on various cryptocurrency platforms, which is further supported by the availability of trading products to the crypto community that bears similarity to traditional instruments.
The Big Moments Of The Crypto Tax Space In 2019 And A Look Into 2020
Shehan Chandrasekera – Forbes
The popularity of cryptocurrency has been on the rise for years, and 2019 was a year of renewed crypto regulation — particularly in the tax space — as the IRS produced more detailed guidance after 5 years of the issuance of original Notice 2014-21. Prior to reflecting on my big predictions for the new year, it is important to look back on 2019 and recognize some of the most monumental moments in the space.
Beijing authorities issue warning: Firms must not conduct crypto business
Yogita Khatri – The Block (via Yahoo Finance)
Several local authorities in China’s capital city, Beijing, have jointly issued a new risk warning on cryptocurrency trading activities.
The Beijing Local Financial Supervision and Administration Bureau, the Business Management Department of the People’s Bank of China, the Beijing Banking and Insurance Regulatory Bureau, and the Beijing Securities Regulatory Bureau, have all asked firms not to engage in crypto businesses, according to a notice issued Friday.
Binance Blockade of Wasabi Wallet Could Point to a Crypto Crack-Up
Danny Nelson – Coindesk
2020 may see crypto’s most consequential fork yet: A split between regulated exchanges and privacy-focused users.
Late last week, Binance’s Singapore arm threw crypto Twitter into a frenzy with reports that it had allegedly suspended one user’s account. The problem? That user, @bittlecat, had tried sending their bitcoin to the hash-scrambling Wasabi wallet in an apparent violation of Binance SG’s anti-money-laundering (AML) policies.
Binance SG refused to transact “directly or indirectly” with a variety of often illicit-tied crypto services, “especially darknet/mixer sites,” according to @bittlecat’s tweets of their email exchange with Binance SG support.
NYDFS appears to be building RegTech solutions to improve its supervising capabilities
Yogita Khatri – The Block
The New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS), the state’s financial and cryptocurrency regulator, appears to be building RegTech (regulatory technology) solutions to improve its supervising capabilities.
Ethereum’s ‘Bazaar’ Development Model Will Pay Off in 2020
Ben Edington – Coindesk
My life would be much easier if I could give you an exact date when Ethereum 2.0 will go live, if I could show you a two-year committed road map or explain precisely how cross-shard transactions will preserve DeFi composability. I’m pretty sure failing to have answers on issues like these would have gotten me fired from my old, corporate job.
Catching up with CME Group’s crypto executive Tim McCourt
Frank Chaparro and Yilun Cheng – The Block
Tim McCourt, managing director at derivatives trading firm CME Group, believes traders will begin migrating over to its platform as nascent crypto native exchanges like Deribit and BitMEX continue to what he views as exhibit high risks and lack of security.
This Is What the Trade War Looks Like in Bourbon Country
Steve Matthews – Bloomberg
Kentucky, where the economy has lagged, is looking for relief; State boasts 68 distillers with annual payroll of $1 billion
After Europe retaliated with tariffs on Kentucky bourbon in response to President Donald Trump’s trade war, the James E. Pepper distillery in Lexington so far this year has suffered a more than 20% sales decline internationally.
Trump Violated Another Law, the Impoundment Control Act, by Withholding Ukraine Aid, Democratic Senator Van Hollen Says
Melissa Lemieux- Newsweek
During an appearance on MSNBC, Senator Christopher Van Hollen (D-Md.) announced that he’d asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to look into the charges against President Trump to determine whether or not he had violated the Impoundment Control Act.
Public support for Trump conviction at all-time high, poll finds
Zoe Tidman – The Independent
Public support for Donald Trump’s removal from office is the highest it has ever been, according to a new poll. Fifty-five per cent of those asked said they were in favour of the US president’s conviction by the Senate, a figure which has shot up from 48 per cent the week before.
How America Ends; A tectonic demographic shift is under way. Can the country hold together?
Yoni Appelbaum – The Atlantic
Democracy depends on the consent of the losers. For most of the 20th century, parties and candidates in the United States have competed in elections with the understanding that electoral defeats are neither permanent nor intolerable. The losers could accept the result, adjust their ideas and coalitions, and move on to fight in the next election. Ideas and policies would be contested, sometimes viciously, but however heated the rhetoric got, defeat was not generally equated with political annihilation. The stakes could feel high, but rarely existential. In recent years, however, beginning before the election of Donald Trump and accelerating since, that has changed.
Beware When Democrats Spend as Recklessly as Republicans; Only one party tries to pay down budget deficits during economic expansions.
Noah Smith – Bloomberg
For the past 40 years, the U.S. has had one fiscally responsible party and one fiscally irresponsible party. What happens when this changes? Basic Keynesian economics says that deficit spending gives the economy a temporary boost. Faster growth means more jobs, which means people are happier. That probably leads to better electoral performance for the ruling party. So if Keynesianism is correct — and the evidence mostly suggests that it is — then every ruling party has an incentive to run big deficits.
Danske Sued by International Investors Over Money Laundering
Nick Rigillo – Bloomberg
A group of international investors who manage trillions of dollars in assets has filed what it says is the first in a series of lawsuits against Danske Bank in connection with the money laundering scandal engulfing Denmark’s largest lender.
FINRA sanctions Citi, JPMorgan, LPL Financial, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, and Merrill Lynch
Maria Nikolova – Finance Feeds
The five firms paid combined fines totaling $1.4 million, and agreed to review their policies to ensure that they are reasonably designed to supervise custodial accounts.
FINRA Sanctions Five Firms for Failing to Reasonably Supervise Custodial Accounts; Firms Did Not Know Essential Facts About Customers With Custodial Accounts Established Pursuant to the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA) and Uniform Gifts to Minors Act (UGMA)
FINRA announced today that it has sanctioned five firms—Citigroup Global Markets Inc.; J.P. Morgan Securities LLC; LPL Financial LLC; Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC; and Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Incorporated—for failing to reasonably supervise compliance with FINRA Rule 2090, FINRA’s “Know Your Customer” rule.
Investing and Trading
A Sea Change in Fuel Prices Is Imminent; January’s deadline to use cleaner marine fuel could ripple through the global fuel market on land and sea
Spencer Jakab – WSJ
Much of the hand-wringing about cleaner fuel has to do with things we encounter daily—trains, planes and automobiles. But possibly the most significant issue, and certainly the most immediate one, is far out at sea.
Mortgage Bonds Attract Investors in Low-Yield World; Yields on the securities have been pushed to their highest levels in years relative to U.S. Treasurys
Sam Goldfarb – WSJ
Some debt investors are taking a second look at mortgage bonds after a summer slump pushed yields on the securities to their highest levels in years relative to U.S. Treasurys.
Bizarre Fortunes Flourish as World’s Richest Gain $1.2 Trillion
Tom Metcalf and Jack Witzig – Bloomberg
The wealth of the 500 richest people surged 25% in 2019; Wrecked cars, catchy tunes are among the sources of new riches
The leveraging of a giant social-media presence, a catchy tune about a family of sharks and a burgeoning collection of junkyards are just a few of the curious ways that helped make 2019 a fertile year for fortunes to blossom around the world.
After Aramco’s Record IPO, Traders Now Ask How to Short Shares
Brandon Kochkodin – Bloomberg
Saudi exchange permits shorting shares, but market is illiquid; Government is large investor and willing to “protect prices”
Shares of Saudi Aramco have shot up 10% since its record-setting $25.6 billion initial public offering earlier this month. That’s got bearish traders wondering whether they can short shares of the Gulf oil giant.
By One Tesla Metric, Wall Street Has Never Been More Skeptical
Esha Dey – Bloomberg
The sharp rally in Tesla Inc. shares over the past couple of months has helped the electric-car maker’s stock score its biggest ever gain over Wall Street analysts’ average price target.
Hedge fund Mudrick Capital prospers despite vaping backlash; Stake in Juul rival Njoy helps distressed investment specialist eye over 20% gain for year
Miles Kruppa and Ortenca Aliaj – FT
One of this year’s top-performing hedge fund managers made a large chunk of his returns from a surprising source: an e-cigarette company whose value has soared despite the clampdown on vaping that has rocked the industry.
Hedge funds record best year since 2013 but still trail market; Industry delivers 8.5 per cent overall return compared with 29.1 per cent gain for S&P 500
Lindsay Fortado and Laurence Fletcher – FT
Hedge funds are on track for their best year since 2013 but continue to lag the broader market, adding to pressure on an industry that charges some of the highest fees in the investment world.
SocGen leads EU banks on trading gains
Louie Woodall, Abdool Fawzee Bhollah – Risk.net
French lender Societe Generale generated the most income from trading assets in the first half of 2019 of the 20 largest banks in the European Union-wide transparency exercise.
Nigeria LNG to Boost Output by 35% With New Train
Anthony Osae-Brown – Bloomberg
Plant will increase the company’s LNG capacity by 35%; The plant will cost an estimated $10 billion to complete
Nigeria LNG Ltd. decided to proceed with the construction of the country’s seventh liquefied natural gas production train, which will boost the company’s output by 35%.
Australia Suffers Worst of China’s Coal Curbs After Earlier Boom
Australian Nov. volumes sink 31% while total imports gain 9%; Data signal shift after record-high shipments from Australia
Australia is bearing the brunt of China’s year-end coal import restrictions, ceding market share to other exporters including Russia and Mongolia, after shipments soared earlier in 2019.
China’s Government Is Letting a Wave of Bond Defaults Just Happen; Investors have long assumed the state would step in and help many companies, but that’s no longer a safe bet.
Rebecca Cheong Wilkins – Bloomberg
China’s had another record year of corporate bond defaults. That’s not a crisis. It’s a plan.
China Sentences Ex-Chairman of Hengfeng Bank to Death
Jiang found to have misappropriated $108 million of firm stock; Hengfeng Bank received about $14 billion bailout package
The former chairman of struggling lender Hengfeng Bank Co. has been sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve by a Chinese court for making illegal gains of over $100 million.
Sugar Traders Hold Tight: India’s Set to Roil Markets Again
Pratik Parija and Manisha Jha – Bloomberg
Farmers in Maharashtra are seen boosting sugar cane planting; Water levels in main reservoirs are 48% higher than last year
India may roil the global sugar market again as prospects for next year’s cane crop have brightened due to brimming reservoirs.
China M&A Bankers Face Another Grim Year; Growing protectionism and Beijing’s campaign to control debt will keep a lid on overseas purchases in 2020.
Nisha Gopalan – Bloomberg
You’d expect the world’s second-largest economy to have a bigger presence on the world stage. But in mergers and acquisitions, China’s presence has been shrinking for years, and 2020 is unlikely to be any better.
New Zealand passes historic zero carbon bill with near unanimous bipartisan support
Michael Mazengarb – Reneweconomy.com
The New Zealand parliament has passed landmark legislation that enshrines the country’s commitment to the Paris Agreement into law, and will see the country achieve zero net carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.
Political uncertainty puts brakes on London IPO market; Just 34 UK flotations in 2019 as Brexit deters investors
Daniel Thomas and Richard Henderson – FT
London’s stock markets endured their slowest year for fundraising activity since the financial crisis a decade ago, with political uncertainty hampering flotations and equity raising in 2019.