First Read

Steve Ballmer Serves Up a Fascinating Data Trove
Andrew Ross Sorkin- NY Times
On Tuesday, Mr. Ballmer plans to make public a database and a report that he and a small army of economists, professors and other professionals have been assembling as part of a stealth start-up over the last three years called USAFacts. The database is perhaps the first nonpartisan effort to create a fully integrated look at revenue and spending across federal, state and local governments.

****JB: It is a pretty slick website. Although there are still gaps to be finished it is well worth checking out and poking around for a few minutes to get a sense of what is there and how it is laid out.


The Investing Parallels of Alcohol and Marijuana
Barry Ritholtz – Bloomberg View
Imagine for a moment that you could go back in time to 1932, the year before the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, repealing Prohibition (and the 18th Amendment). What might you do with the knowledge that the production, transport and sale of alcoholic beverages was about to be legalized? What sort of investment opportunities might you find? How would you deploy your capital?

****SD: It is going to be a lot easier to “Buy low, sell high.”


‘Hipsters of Portland’ inspire new investment fund
Matthew Kish – Portland Business Journal
A New York City wealth management firm has launched a new investment product inspired by the “socially conscious hipsters of Portland,” according to a news release. Ritholtz Wealth Management’s “Portland Portfolio” will focus on investments that tread lightly on the environment and meet strong social and corporate governance standards, a strategy often referred to as ESG (environmental, social, governance).

****SD: Wouldn’t Ritholtz be better off just banging the sustainable investing drum and leaving the mustachioed, fixie riding, old school tat crowd references behind? Then again, Barry did write the above Bloomberg story about weed investing, so maybe he knows his audience.


Mark Zuckerberg confirms Facebook is working on mind-reading technology
James Titcomb – The Telegraph
Mark Zuckerberg has confirmed that Facebook is working on technology that will allow people to directly send their thoughts over the internet. The Facebook founder, who has hinted at mind-reading technology in the past, said the company was hard at work at creating “direct brain interfaces”.

****JB: Forcing people to type acts as at least a small check on what people spew out into the electronic ether. Letting people put whatever crosses their minds onto the internet with the barest of thought does not bear thinking about.


Adidas Apologizes for ‘You Survived’ Boston Marathon Email
Jennifer Calfas –
Completing the Boston Marathon ó the pinnacle of marathon running for many ó is quite a feat. But some finishers of Monday’s race have taken issue with a congratulatory email sent by Adidas, the sponsor for the 121st annual race. “Congrats, you survived the Boston Marathon!” an email sent by Adidas to 2017 Boston Marathon finishers on Tuesday read.

****JB: Madison Avenue has had a number of surprising, tone-deaf missteps recently.


Tuesday’s Top Three
For good reason, Flextrade’s announcement that it has a trade application that uses augmented reality nabbed our first spot yesterday. Second came a story about the reach of Chicago’s trading firms, Chicago’s trading muscle gets a boost from overseas. Third was a cold dose of reality for one American demographic, Young White America Is Haunted by a Crisis of Despair.


MarketsWiki Stats
98,317,587 pages viewed; 22,464 pages; 205,394 edits
MarketsWiki Statistics


Lead Stories

In rare fumble, Goldman stuns Wall Street with weak trading
Olivia Oran and Sruthi Shankar Goldman – Reuters
Sachs Group Inc (GS.N) fell short of earnings expectations on Tuesday due to a drop in quarterly trading revenue, prompting analysts to demand explanations for underperformance in an area where the bank usually outshines rivals.

****SD: More in our bank section.

Markets Start to Ponder the $13 Trillion Gorilla in the Room
Enda Curran, Liz McCormick and Eric Lam – Bloomberg
After heading into the uncharted territory of quantitative easing, the world’s central banks are starting to plan their course through the uncharted waters of quantitative tightening. How the Federal Reserve, European Central Bank and — eventually — the Bank of Japan handle the transition could make the difference between a global rerun of the 2013 “taper tantrum,” or the near undetectable market response to China’s run-down of U.S. Treasuries in recent years.

Goldman, BofA Cash In on a Leveraged-Loan Frenzy Like No Other
Sally Bakewell and Nabila Ahmed – Bloomberg
If yield is a drug, Wall Street’s working overtime to supply it. Investors’ global reach for income is giving America’s largest banks their biggest surge in risky-loan sales on record. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Bank of America Corp. on Tuesday joined JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc. in reporting first-quarter gains of almost 40 percent in underwriting revenues.

A Le Pen-MÈlenchon Runoff: Investors’ Nightmare Scenario in France
Mike Bird and Christopher Whittall – WSJ
With the start of the French election just days away, investors are contemplating their nightmare scenario: a choice between far-left and far-right candidates. In recent days, a surge in opinion polls has placed Jean-Luc MÈlenchon, a left-wing firebrand who promises higher wages and fewer working hours, as a potential candidate to move past this Sunday’s first round of voting. That could set up a second-round vote in May 7 with Marine Le Pen, an economic nationalist who wants to pull France out of the euro.

Meet Elliott Management, the Hedge Fund That Toppled Arconic CEO Klaus Kleinfeld
David Benoit – WSJ
Elliott Management Corp. has a long history of needling its opponents. Now it has baited one into a career-ending reply. Klaus Kleinfeld resigned Monday as chief executive of Arconic Inc. amid accusations that he sent a threatening letter to the hedge fund, which was fighting to oust him and install four directors on the specialty parts maker’s board.

Investors Follow the Herd as 10 Big Stocks Power Market’s Gains
Chris Dieterich – WSJ
Ten big stocks are exerting an unusually large influence on the S&P 500 in 2017, the latest sign that the herd instinct is alive and well on Wall Street. Those 10 large stocks have powered nearly 53% of the S&P 500’s 4.7% advance this year, according to Fundstrat Global Advisors’ data through the middle of last week. During an average year, the 10 stocks with the greatest impact typically account for only 45% of the market’s price moves, according to analysis of data from AQR Capital Management.

Commodity Funds Have Been Losing Bets Since the Start
Tim Puko – WSJ
The returns are in for commodity mutual funds, and, well … they’re actually not in: They’re out.
If you bought and held shares in a commodity mutual fund during their 20 year history, it probably hasn’t returned you a dime. In fact, you probably lost money.

Billions Gush Into Merrill’s Fee Accounts as Obama-Era Rule Looms
Michael Wursthorn – WSJ
Merrill Lynch’s push to capitalize on now-delayed retirement rules is already paying off.
Clients of Bank of America Corp.’s BAC global wealth unit, including Merrill Lynch, moved a record $29.2 billion into fee-based accounts during the first quarter as Merrill brokers continued to push retirement savers who pay commissions for stocks and bonds to make a choice: move their accounts to a model that charges a fee based on a percentage of assets or to online brokerage platform Merrill Edge.

Interview with Steven Mnuchin: Transcript
Sam Fleming, Demetri Sevastopulo and Shawn Donnan – Financial Times
The following is an edited transcript of an interview between the Financial Times and Steven Mnuchin, US Treasury secretary, on Monday, April 17, 2017.

Dash Financial Technologies Names Ari House Chief Financial Officer
Dash Financial Technologies today announced the appointment of Ari House as Chief Financial Officer. His first day was April 1. Mr. House has spent nearly 20 years working in various capital markets roles and has accumulated extensive experience successfully operating private equity-backed software and information services businesses. He joins Dash from The Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists (ACAMS), where he served as Chief Financial & Corporate Development Officer.

Exchanges, OTC and Clearing

No end in sight for Deutsche Boerse hiring freeze
Lucy Burton – The Telegraph
Deutsche Boerse’s hiring freeze is continuing as the exchange looks to regroup following the failure of its merger with the London Stock Exchange.
The Frankfurt stock exchange suspended hiring at the end of February after revenues for the first two months of the year proved weak, but a person close to the process said there was still “no date for an end yet”.

Bitcoin Exchanges Hit Snags
Gregor Stuart Hunter – WSJ
Bitcoin suffered a series of setbacks over the past few days, when the biggest exchange said it couldn’t enable customers to withdraw or deposit money except in other virtual currencies, while another exchange said a technical glitch sparked a crash in prices that caused investor losses.

M&A playbook: how to get the EU to approve a takeover
Rochelle Toplensky and Michael Pooler – Financial Times
It was the blunder that may have cost them the deal. On Tuesday, February 7 at 11:56pm ó just four minutes before the deadline ó London Stock Exchange Group and Deutsche Bˆrse sent Brussels a meagre offer to sell the LSE’s French clearing arm.

“Let’s put the Italian stock market under government management as part of Brexit talks,” former MTS?CEO?says
Antonella Olivieri – Il Sole 24 Ore
Former MTS CEO?Gianluca Garbi is probably one of the best-placed people to gauge the impact of Brexit on the Italian Stock Exchange and its MTS bond trading platform, given that they are part of the London Stock Exchange group. Now that LSE?will no longer merge with the Frankfurt’s Deutsche Boerse, it’s time to take a hardheaded look at the future shareholding structure of Italian financial markets. In this interview, he launches a provocative proposal: to place MTS?under government management.


CloudMargin Appoints Laurence Jones, Marc Desanges as Sales Executives in New York, London
Press Release
CloudMargin, the multi-award winning creator of the world’s first web-based collateral and margin management solution, announced today the hiring of Laurence Jones and Marc Desanges to further the firm’s sales efforts globally.

Neurensic and Jordan & Jordan Enter Strategic Partnership
Press Release
Neurensic, a regtech artificial intelligence (AI) startup headquartered in Chicago, today announced a strategic partnership with Jordan & Jordan, LLC, a fintech company that provides regulatory, market data and trading solutions across the securities industry.

UK fintech giant relocates due to Brexit
Sarah Kocianski – Business Insider
In a sign that Brexit is already negatively affecting the UK’s fintech industry, TransferWise, an international payments startup valued at over $1 billion, will relocate its European headquarters from the UK to a location elsewhere in Europe by March 2019, according to Reuters.

PayPal Signs New Android Deal to Speed Up Store Checkout
Peter Rudegeair – WSJ
PayPal Holdings Inc. PYPL said Tuesday that it will make its offerings available on Alphabet Inc.’s GOOGL Android Pay, marking one of the payment company’s biggest steps to bringing its digital wallet to physical stores.

The Life of an Apple Supplier Is Getting Even Tougher
Alex Webb and Ian King – Bloomberg
Imagination Technologies Group Plc discovered how fickle life can be as an Apple Inc. supplier when it was ditched this month by the iPhone maker. More suppliers may suffer the same fate as the world’s largest technology company faces a shrinking number of semiconductor makers and expands into areas that need special chips designed in-house.


GOP Targets Trillion-Dollar Tax Break for Democratic States
Sahil Kapur – Bloomberg
Conservative activists and House Republican leaders want to eliminate a trillion-dollar tax break that mostly benefits wealthy filers in Democratic states, a push that could further imperil President Donald Trump’s hopes of winning bipartisan support for a tax overhaul.

Currency Traders Spot Fatal Flaw in Republicans’ Border Tax Plan
Andrea Wong – Bloomberg
In Washington D.C., one of the selling points of an ambitious border-tax plan rests on a key economic assumption: The dollar will appreciate enough to offset any increase in the cost of cheap, imported goods that so many Americans have come to rely on. It’s just Econ 101, backed by well-established macroeconomic theory.

Lawsuit against Trump over foreign payments expands
Jonathan Stempel – Reuters
A nonprofit watchdog expanded a lawsuit accusing U.S. President Donald Trump of violating the Constitution by letting his hotels and restaurants accept payments from foreign governments.
The amended complaint filed on Tuesday in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan adds a restaurant trade group, whose members include nationally known chefs Tom Colicchio and Alice Waters, and a hotel events booker in Washington, D.C. as plaintiffs.

Trump’s billionaire adviser stands to gain from policies he helped shape
Isaac Arnsdorf and Josh Dawsey – Politico
Billionaire investor Steve Schwarzman’s newfound status as a trusted outside adviser for President Donald Trump has created blurred lines in which the Blackstone CEO is offering guidance on policies that could boost the fortunes of his company and his personal wealth.

Trump took something from America’s cattlemen, and they want it back
Ylan Mui – CNBC
One question loomed large Tuesday during the vice president’s first diplomatic mission to Japan: Where’s the beef? Take that literally: The $60 billion U.S. beef industry was one of the most ardent backers of the now-defunct free trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. That sweeping deal covered a dozen nations along the Pacific Rim, but the big prize for the United States was improved access to the 127 million consumers in Japan.

Scaramucci Says ‘I’m Unemployed,’ Skybridge Deal to Close Soon
Simone Foxman – Bloomberg
Anthony Scaramucci said his status with the Trump administration remains unclear and that his deal to sell his firm should be completed in the next several weeks. “I’m unemployed,” Scaramucci said in an interview Tuesday on Bloomberg TV and radio. “My status is still unchanged. I’m still about five to six weeks away from closing my transaction.”

A month after dismissing federal prosecutors, Justice Department does not have any U.S. attorneys in place
Sari Horwitz – Washington Post
Attorney General Jeff Sessions is making aggressive law enforcement a top priority, directing his federal prosecutors across the country to crack down on illegal immigrants and “use every tool” they have to go after violent criminals and drug traffickers.


The Technology Impacts of Mifid II (Part 3)
In the final article of this three-part series looking at the impact of Mifid II on trading operations and technology, Richard Bentley turns his attention to the post-trade environment and the activities immediately following the execution of a client order.

Brexit, PPI and high cost credit are top priorities for City watchdog
The Guardian
The City regulator has pledged to ensure that financial firms remain strong in the face of Brexit in its annual list of priorities, which also includes protecting vulnerable customers from overly expensive loans.

U.S. top court questions SEC’s powers to recover ill-gotten profits
Sarah N. Lynch – Reuters
The U.S. Supreme Court, in a case with wide consequences for the policing of Wall Street, indicated on Tuesday it may diminish the Securities and Exchange Commission’s ability to get back ill-gotten profits reaped through defendants’ misconduct. In a case involving New Mexico-based investment adviser Charles Kokesh, the justices raised concerns about whether the SEC should be able to order defendants to fork over illegal profits that date back more than five years, as the agency argued it should be able to do.

SEC suffers rare in-house loss in insider trading case
Jonathan Stempel – Reuters
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday suffered a rare loss before one of its own judges, who dismissed a case accusing an Atlanta real estate investor of insider trading.

Banks quote rock star prices in rushed research deals
Financial News
Talks to agree a price for investment research – which has to be sold separately under looming European Union rules – have taken a chaotic turn.From near silence until less than a month ago, negotiations between investments banks and other firms that sell the research, and asset managers, who buy it, have erupted in April as both sides realise time is running out to agree their deals.

Is MiFID II the Final Nail in Active Management’s Coffin?
TABB Forum
MiFID II and the shift to passive management threaten the very existence of active equities managers. But few buy-side firms are prepared to meet these challenges, according to TABB Group’s 2017 US Institutional Equity Trading Study. And the ability of both large buy-side and sell-side firms to adjust at this time of transition by leveraging their spending power will widen the gap between small and large players even further.

Assistant Trader, CFTC Reach Settlement Over False Reports
Martin O’Sullivan – Law360
A Chinese national who pled guilty in a 2014 criminal case to making false entries into a computerized record of commodities futures orders consented Friday to an injunction against future violations and a fine to settle a parallel U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission civil suit.

CFTC Extends Margin Rule Relief Pending Agreement with EC
Profit & Loss
The US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has further extended its no action relief for swap dealers that are subject to, and in compliance with, the margin requirements for non-centrally cleared OTC derivatives in the European Union (EMIR RTS) for failure to comply with the CFTC’s final margin rule. The extension to the relief, which was first granted in February, comes as both the US and European Union continue to investigate the other’s suitability for substituted compliance with their individual final margin rules.

Investing and Trading

Are thematic ETFs gimmicks or smart strategic plays?
It has become something of a joke on Wall Street: if the industry exists, there is an ETF for it.
Fund issuers have been looking for ways to tap into the white-hot market for exchange-traded funds, one of the fastest-growing vehicles in the financial industry, but with major asset classes and regions already dominated by multibillion-dollar funds from major asset managers, new players are hoping to make a name for themselves by engineering niche ETFs.

Jesse and the Quake
The Reformed Broker
One hundred eleven years ago, one of the most devastating natural disasters in American history struck. Here’s something about how Jesse Livermore traded through it that I found interesting.

Gold Trading Systems Experience Growing Pains
Shelley Goldberg – Bloomberg View
On the afternoon of April 11, London’s daily gold price benchmark fix took a peculiar turn: It was about $12 under the spot price. The auction appeared to be stuck on a descending escalator from an initial $1,265.75, before fixing at $1,252.90.


Goldman Sachs licks wounds in equities trading as peers grab share
Olivia Oran – Reuters
Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N) on Tuesday became the first Wall Street bank this earnings season to report lower equities trading revenue, signaling it was unlikely to reclaim the top market share ranking from Morgan Stanley (MS.N) any time soon. People familiar with the business said a combination of outdated trading technology, a late effort to court quantitative funds and overall fee pressure on the bank’s key clients has blunted Goldman’s edge. It now ranks No. 2 behind its biggest rival.

Goldman’s Mighty Traders Strike Out
Aaron Back – WSJ
Goldman Sachs ‘s strengths became weaknesses in the first quarter as its dominance in commodities trading and deal-making worked against it. Investors shouldn’t be overly concerned at quarter-to-quarter fluctuations in what remains an exceptionally strong investment-banking franchise. But the bank does risk losing its halo among shareholders as a consistent outperformer.

Boom in index funds and ETFs lifts BlackRock profit
Trevor Hunnicutt – Reuters
BlackRock Inc (BLK.N), the world’s biggest asset manager, on Wednesday reported a 31 percent rise in quarterly profit as investors continued to plow money into its index-tracking funds. Investors poured $64.5 billion into BlackRock’s iShares exchange-traded funds business during the quarter, up from $24.3 billion a year earlier.

Bank of America’s wealth revenue rises on assets under management, fees
Elizabeth Dilts – Reuters
Bank of America’s (BAC.N) wealth business reported revenue climbed 3 percent to $4.6 billion in the first quarter this year from last year on higher client assets under management and fees, Bank of America Chief Financial Officer Paul Donofrio said Tuesday.

Morgan Stanley’s Results Climb on Trading Bump
Liz Hoffman – WSJ
Morgan Stanley said its quarterly earnings rose 70%, riding a big boost in its trading and underwriting businesses to become the last of the big Wall Street banks to post strong numbers. Shares climbed 2.5% premarket as earnings and revenue beat Wall Street estimates.

BofA posts solid growth boosted by trading, rates
Dan Freed and Nikhil – Reuters
Subba Bank of America Corp’s (BAC.N) quarterly profit rose 44 percent as its investment banking and trading units produced hefty gains, and higher long term interest rates also underpinned results for the second-largest U.S. bank.

Chancellor Philip Hammond admits taxpayer stake in RBS could be sold at a loss
Lucy Burton – The Telegraph
Chancellor Philip Hammond has told MPs “we have to live in the real world” when it comes to making a decision on the government’s holding in the Royal Bank of Scotland, admitting for the first time that the shares could be sold at a loss.
Mr Hammond said that while the government was not actively marketing the taxpayers’ 72pc stake in RBS, the plan to return the bank to private hands “as soon as we can achieve fair value” remains.


No More New Frontiers Creates Index Problem for Hottest Stocks
Natasha Doff, Isobel Finkel and Tracy Alloway – Bloomberg
Reclassification of Pakistan shrinks benchmark gauge; Argentina, Nigeria may also ascend to emerging-market status
Alexander the Great is said to have wept when he saw there were no more lands to conquer. For investors in a shrinking pool of frontier markets — places like Morocco and Vietnam — the feeling might be familiar.

Venezuelan opposition to hold ‘mother of all marches’ against Maduro
Brian Ellsworth and Diego Ore – Reuters
Venezuela’s opposition says it will stage the “mother of all marches” on Wednesday, accusing President Nicolas Maduro of resorting to dictatorial measures to quash popular outrage over a deepening economic crisis.

In Which Market Cycles Do Active Funds Add the Most Alpha?
Akash Jain – Indexology
Those who invest in active funds may expect portfolio managers to deliver excess returns over their benchmark indices for the fee they paid. However, results from the SPIVA (S&P Indices Versus Active) India Scorecard suggest this may not always be the case. The scorecard, which is a biannual report, attempts to capture the performance of active funds (both equity and debt funds) domiciled in India against S&P BSE benchmarks over different time horizons.

China’s $8.5 Trillion Shadow Bank Industry Is Back in Full Swing
Bloomberg News
China’s shadow banking is back in full swing, an unintended side effect of the government’s campaign against financial leverage, which has curbed traditional lending and squeezed bond financing.

Japan 10-Year Yield Drops to Zero for First Time in Five Months
Chikako Mogi – Bloomberg
BOJ target is zero percent so level is not an issue – Barclays; Little chance yield will drop below zero, Nomura says
Japan’s 10-year bond yield fell briefly to zero percent for the first time since November as U.S. Treasury yields plunged on weak economic data while tensions over North Korea and uncertainty over France’s presidential election buoyed haven demand.

A 9,800% Stock Increase Exposes Hong Kong’s Billionaires on Paper
Robert Olsen and Benjamin Robertson – Reuters
A dozen billionaires can’t sell shares at the value they trade; SFC warns about companies with $80 billion total market value
They are classic Hong Kong stories: people who, in a blink, became stock-market billionaires. But exactly what’s behind much of this wealth is something of a mystery. Take Wong Wing-wah, who used to be a fishmonger before starting a civil engineering firm. He took his company public last year — and its stock then soared 9,800 percent.

Allocations to European equities hit 15-month high despite election risk
BofA Merrill Lynch survey
Tom Eckett – Investment Week
Fund managers are cutting US equities exposure in favour of European equities despite the region’s upcoming elections, the latest Bank of America Merrill Lynch Fund Manager survey has revealed. The survey, carried out between 6 and 12 April, found the number of fund managers overweight eurozone equities had reached a 15-month high, with 48% of respondents overweight the region.


British PM calls election: What next?
British Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday called for an early election on June 8. Here are the steps needed before the vote happens.

TransferWise and Azimo are setting up European HQs because of Brexit ó who’s next?
Oscar Williams-Grut – Business Insider
It was less than two hours into the Treasury’s first International Fintech conference last week that Taavet Hinrikus pierced the government’s jingoistic bubble. The conference was meant to promote Britain as a global hub for fintech post-Brexit, with over 400 investors from around the world invited and around 100 local businesses. Chancellor Philip Hammond told the audience that fintech could help create a “global Britain” by exporting to the world.

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