Tag Archives: Markets

Inside the Archegos Implosion: “We Don’t Know How Far the Tentacles Go”

Brokers are selling over $30 billion worth of positions in imploding hedge fund Archegos Capital Management, shaking markets. Wall Street does not know exactly how many positions the fund holds for two reasons:

  • It is very lightly regulated because it’s organized as a “family office,” rather than a typical hedge fund
  • Archegos didn’t actually own most of the stocks it took positions in, if any. Instead, it owned derivatives called “contracts for difference (CFD’s),” which have few disclosures.

Some experts liken the Archegos blow-up to the bankruptcy of Bear Stearns, which helped precipitate the financial crisis:

“We don’t know how far the tentacles go,” said Joe Saluzzi, co-head of trading at Themis Trading. “Early in the Bear Stearns crisis, the market was fine — until it wasn’t.”

Others are comparing the liquidation of the hedge fund’s positions to that of Long Term Capital Management (LTCM) in 1998, which caused severe market turbulence and ultimately required a bailout:

“This reminded me a lot of the Long-Term Capital situation,” Steve Sosnick, chief market strategist at Interactive Brokers, told Insider in an interview.

Long-Term Capital Management, a massive hedge fund staffed by famed traders and Nobel Prize-winning economists, employed such highly leveraged trades that it threatened to expose America’s largest banks to more than $1 trillion in default risks by 1998. The “genius” hedge fund nearly collapsed had it not been for a bailout package from the Federal Reserve and some major Wall Street banks.

However, Archegos’s positions appear to be far smaller than those of LTCM. Nonetheless, Archegos was very heavily leveraged:

Shrouded by the secrecy of CFDs, Hwang was able to build up almost $50 billion in stock positions on the back of the $5 billion to $10 billion that Archegos managed.

Perhaps the greatest source of worry for markets is uncertainty over exactly how many positions Archegos has and with which banks. This counterparty risk was a driving factor in the LTCM crisis in 1998 and the financial crisis of 2008:

…it seems clear that the banks didn’t realize until too late that they were holding similar positions, with malign implications for efforts to keep markets in those shares from falling further.

“You can have a suspicion that maybe this person is doing this trade with a bunch of other people,” said Jay Dweck, a former trading and risk-management executive at Goldman and Morgan Stanley and now consults for banks and hedge funds. “But no one knows the aggregate.”

In all, given the smaller size of the portfolio being liquidated and the current buoyant state of markets, I don’t expect any extreme shock from Archegos going under. I think the experience with LTCM, Bear Stearns, Lehman and others will also stand banks and regulators in good stead when dealing with Archegos. But you could see some choppiness for a while as we find out who is exposed to Archegos and wind down those positions.

Another possible outcome is stricter regulation, especially of these opaque family offices, which I think would be good for markets. Indeed, regulators are already scrutinizing hedge funds after the run-up in GameStop shares this year stung some with huge losses. From the WSJ:

The steep losses at Archegos come as a council of top U.S. regulators known as the Financial Stability Oversight Council is already scheduled to meet on Wednesday to discuss hedge-fund activity during the pandemic-triggered crisis.

For more on Archegos and markets, check out these posts:

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/LinkedIn/email using the buttons below. This helps more people find the blog! And please leave a comment at the bottom of the page letting me know what you think and what other information you’re interested in!

Check out the Stuff I Use page for some great deals on products and services I use to improve my health and productivity. They just might help you too! 

Photo: “Fire” by Mike Poresky is licensed under CC BY 2.0

A Giant Hedge Fund Is Imploding, Taking Stocks with It

Ten billion dollar hedge fund Archegos Capital Management is imploding, causing banks to frantically sell its portfolio to stem further losses:

One mystery in a dramatic year on Wall Street has been the identity of a trader whose persistent purchases have sent shares in ViacomCBS Inc., Discovery Inc. and a handful of other companies surging even when the broader market was down.

People familiar with the transactions say the answer is former Tiger Asia manager Bill Hwang. Late last week Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Deutsche Bank AG swiftly unloaded large blocks of shares in those companies and others, part of the liquidation of positions at Mr. Hwang’s Archegos Capital Management.

The sales approached $30 billion in value, some of the people said, and fueled a 27% plunge Friday in shares of ViacomCBS—an unusually large decline in a widely held, large-capitalization stock on a day with no significant company-specific news. Billions of market value in other companies were wiped out as the sales continued, surprising market participants who called the size and speed of these stock sales unprecedented.

Hwang had placed giant bets on several stocks funded with borrowed money, and his fund suffered major losses when the stocks moved against him:

…a major actor in supporting companies’ share prices appears to have been undone by his continuing to add to leveraged bets as markets soared. The strategy fell apart when some of those bets started to reverse on him.

There were serious warning signs about Hwang’s conduct, which his banks, including Nomura and Credit Suisse, did not heed:

U.S. securities filings show Credit Suisse was prime broker in 2011 and 2012 to Mr. Hwang’s former firm, Tiger Asia Management LLC. Tiger Asia handed money back to investors after Mr. Hwang admitted in December 2012 that the hedge fund criminally used inside information from investment banks at least three times to profit on securities trades.

This is the latest in a string of problems for Credit Suisse:

Credit Suisse is still digesting the collapse earlier this month of Greensill, a British supply-chain finance company that declared bankruptcy shortly after the Swiss bank froze funds that provided it with liquidity. The double hit could be an extraordinary run of bad luck; there were other banks caught up in both failures. Alternatively, it could point to endemic problems of risk management at Credit Suisse. The Swiss company carried on working with Greensill despite internal concerns.

So if you see volatility in stocks like Viacom, Discovery, Credit Suisse, etc. in the coming days, you’ll know where it’s coming from. I do wonder if other stocks may be impacted by this forced selling of Archegos’ positions.

For more on what’s moving markets, check out these posts:

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/LinkedIn/email using the buttons below. This helps more people find the blog! And please leave a comment at the bottom of the page letting me know what you think and what other information you’re interested in!

Check out the Stuff I Use page for some great deals on products and services I use to improve my health and productivity. They just might help you too! 

Photo: “Boom-goes-the-dynamite” by Aaron & Alli is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

The US Government Is Selling Its Bitcoin

The US government is selling its bitcoin…all $38,000 worth:

Tucked away among the Ford, Dodge and Chevy sedans, the 12,000-gallon storage container and the inoperable Caterpillar tractor being auctioned off by the U.S. government is an unusual item: 0.7501 of a Bitcoin.

The federal government did not reveal the source of its cryptocurrency holdings, but I imagine they were probably seized in a bust of some sort. Indeed, a far larger collection was sold off when the Silk Road was shut down:

The government doesn’t say where its surplus digital currency came from. And while it’s a far cry from the 30,000 Bitcoins auctioned off by the U.S. Marshals Service in 2014 after they were seized from the Silk Road marketplace, the GSA auction is one more indication of how Bitcoin is becoming more and more mainstream.

This does make me wonder if eventually states and sovereign wealth funds will buy crypto and hold it. Can the day be far in the future?

For more on the latest in cryptocurrencies, check out these posts:

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/LinkedIn/email using the buttons below. This helps more people find the blog! And please leave a comment at the bottom of the page letting me know what you think and what other information you’re interested in!

Check out the Stuff I Use page for some great deals on products and services I use to improve my health and productivity. They just might help you too! 

Photo: “Vice President Joe Biden visit to Israel March 2016” by U.S. Embassy Jerusalem is licensed under CC BY 2.0

This New Indicator May Tell You Where Bitcoin Is Headed

For many years, investors in stocks have been able to see how volatile the market is expected to be by relying on a gauge called the CBOE Volatility Index, or VIX. This measure, often called the “fear gauge,” reads how much volatility investors are expecting based on option prices.

Nothing like this has ever existed for cryptocurrencies. Until now:

A bitcoin “fear gauge,” similar to the Cboe Volatility Index (VIX) investors use to gauge volatility in the stock market, saw its first trades on Wednesday.

The T3i BitVol Index measures the expected 30-day implied volatility in bitcoin derived from tradable bitcoin option prices.

The index goes two years back so far. Current expected volatility appears higher than normal.

A high VIX tends to correlate with a drop in stocks. A low VIX tends to predict calm, gradually rising markets. This pattern may hold with Bitcoin as well, giving crypto holders a chance to see a bit into the future.

For more on the latest in cryptocurrencies, check out these posts:

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/LinkedIn/email using the buttons below. This helps more people find the blog! And please leave a comment at the bottom of the page letting me know what you think and what other information you’re interested in!

Check out the Stuff I Use page for some great deals on products and services I use to improve my health and productivity. They just might help you too! 

Photo: “Winklevoss Twins – Caricature” by DonkeyHotey is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Bitcoin Anonymity Could Become A Thing of the Past If This Regulation Passes

In the waning days of the Trump administration, the government proposed regulations that would ban anonymity for holders of cryptocurrencies:

Users whose wallets now are only identified with codes would have their true identities recorded with the financial institutions they zealously avoided.

This proposed regulation has now been passed on to the Biden administration. There’s no timeline for a decision, but removing anonymity from crypto transactions could hammer the price:

If adopted, the regulations could cause a sharp fall in the prices of virtual currencies like Bitcoin, said Matthew Maley, chief market strategist for Miller Tabak & Co., adding that he thinks Bitcoin’s price will continue to rise in the long term.

There are some major companies like Fidelity and Coinbase pushing to retain anonymity, and I think their political influence may stop such regulations. But on the other hand, the possibility for anonymity to facilitate drug deals and terrorism could push the government in the opposite direction.

For more on the latest in cryptocurrencies, check out these posts:

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/LinkedIn/email using the buttons below. This helps more people find the blog! And please leave a comment at the bottom of the page letting me know what you think and what other information you’re interested in!

Check out the Stuff I Use page for some great deals on products and services I use to improve my health and productivity. They just might help you too! 

Photo: “Bitcoin, bitcoin coin, physical bitcoin, bitcoin photo” by antanacoins is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

How Bitcoin Could Reach $400,000

I came across an interesting stat today: the estimated value of all the gold in the world is $7.5 trillion. Gold and bitcoin are often compared as stores of value with a limited supply. What if bitcoin became as widely accepted and highly valued as gold?

At the current market cap of $949 billion, bitcoin would have to multiply in value eight fold in order to equal the value of all gold reserves. Bitcoin’s price is already heady at over $50,000, up from under $9,000 a year ago. But this stat makes me think it may have more room to run. If it reached parity with gold, one bitcoin would be worth $400,000.

Bitcoin is much easier to store and exchange than gold. On the other hand, gold has a much longer track record as a store of value and also has some industrial uses.

I prefer cash flowing stocks, bonds and real estate to either one, but for someone like me who is used to dismissing cryptocurrencies, this information did give me pause.

For more on cryptocurrencies and financial markets, check out these posts:

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/LinkedIn/email using the buttons below. This helps more people find the blog! And please leave a comment at the bottom of the page letting me know what you think and what other information you’re interested in!

Photo: “Bitcoin, bitcoin coin, physical bitcoin, bitcoin photo” by antanacoins is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Check out the Stuff I Use page for some great deals on products and services I use to improve my health and productivity. They just might help you too! 

Bitcoin Is Worth More Than Double All US Gold Reserves

When it comes to storing value, what could be more iconic than Fort Knox, where the US keeps a large portion of its gold reserves? It’s heavily guarded and contains gold worth over $290 billion.

But that along with all other US reserves, at $456 billion, are worth less than half of the value of all bitcoin, at $948 billion.

The value of all bitcoin worldwide still pales in comparison to the value of gold, however. Were they to reach parity, bitcoin’s value would have to multiply many times.

(I arrived at the value of all US gold reserves by taking the reserve amount here and multiplying it by the price per metric ton here.)

For more on cryptocurrencies and financial markets, check out these posts:

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/LinkedIn/email using the buttons below. This helps more people find the blog! And please leave a comment at the bottom of the page letting me know what you think and what other information you’re interested in!

Check out the Stuff I Use page for some great deals on products and services I use to improve my health and productivity. They just might help you too! 

Photo: “Bitcoin, bitcoin coin, physical bitcoin, bitcoin photo” by antanacoins is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Bots Are Pumping GameStop And Dogecoin

Buy GameStop!

New research indicates that bots are pumping GameStop shares on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram:

PiiQ said it identified very similar daily “start and stop patterns” in the GameStop-related posts, with activity starting at the beginning of the trading day, followed by a large spike at the end of the trading day. Such patterns are indicative of bots, said Aaron Barr, co-founder and chief technology officer of PiiQ.

“We saw clear patterns of artificial behavior across the other four social media platforms. When you think of organic content, it’s variable in the day, variable day-to-day. It doesn’t have the exact same pattern every day for a month,” he said.

The research firm, PiiQ Media, also found signs of robot activity in other stocks favored by the Wallstreetbets community, along with Dogecoin cryptocurrency.

Reddit claims it has seen no sign of bot activity, but anecdotally, I notice so many posts there that have basically no content. They just say “GME to the moon!” or what not. My gut tells me a lot of these are bots, but I can’t prove that.

For more on AMC and the Wallstreetbets phenonmenon, check out these posts:

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/LinkedIn/email using the buttons below. This helps more people find the blog! And please leave a comment at the bottom of the page letting me know what you think and what other information you’re interested in!

Check out the Stuff I Use page for some great deals on products and services I use to improve my health and productivity. They just might help you too! 🙂

Photo: “Robot” by andreavallejos is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

For AMC, The Rent Is Too Damn High

As COVID forced AMC to close all its movie theaters in the spring of 2020, it played hardball with its landlords in order to survive. From a letter to landlords:

“Without revenue from its theatres,” the letter continues, “AMC will cease paying rent and charges under the lease effective as of April 1, 2020.”

Even with rent relief, the company lost $900 million in the first 9 months of the year, per their latest quarterly report. Things are looking a little brighter these days with many theaters reopened and people being vaccinated, but one small matter remains…

AMC owes almost half a billion dollars in back rent to landlords:

Getting through 2022 will require theater attendance to rise and that landlords further delay or reduce outstanding deferred rent owed by AMC, totaling $450 million.

AMC expects to negotiate these payments, but is still looking at a big expense increase. From its latest quarterly report:

commencing in 2021, absent further negotiations with landlords, the Company’s cash expenditures for rent will increase significantly following periods of agreed deferrals

And landlords may be less willing to give AMC a break since it just raised $1.3 billion in additional capital. But having lost $100 million a month last year, plus owing $450 million in back rent, how long will it take AMC to chew through that $1.3 billion? I question whether that cash hoard can last through 2021, especially since studios are giving AMC less time to run each movie exclusively before the studios stream it themselves:

AMC was able to negotiate an exclusivity window with Universal Studios before new movies hit Peacock, owned by Universal’s parent company Comcast. AMC wanted 75 days of exclusivity, they got 17. That’s only one major studio.

However, AMC does have two things on its side: a great management team that even furloughed itself to save money, and a high stock price that could let the company raise more capital.

That said, given the company’s big obligations and increasingly diluted stock, I’ll be cheering for them from the sidelines.

For more on AMC and the Wallstreetbets phenonmenon, check out these posts:

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/LinkedIn/email using the buttons below. This helps more people find the blog! And please leave a comment at the bottom of the page letting me know what you think and what other information you’re interested in!

Photo: “The Rent is too Damn High.” by TenSafeFrogs is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Forget GameStop, Treasury Yields Are The Thing to Watch

Treasury bonds have been falling hard lately. Their interest rates are up significantly as a result:

The yield on the 10-year note, a bellwether for borrowing costs on everything from mortgages to corporate loans, has jumped to near 1.5% from around 1% in a matter of weeks, lifted by increased expectations that vaccines and government stimulus efforts will accelerate growth and inflation.

And the sell-off is making its way into the stock market today:

The sell-off in the bond market ricocheted into equities, pushing the broad S&P 500 down 2.3 per cent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite down 3.3 per cent by afternoon on Wall Street.

A lot of this is the side effect of something good: people are getting vaccinated, new vaccines are coming, and economic stimulus could boost the economy further. That picture is leading investors to expect greater economic growth in the future, along with greater inflation (see the Feb 22 post):

Signs of a renewed economic boom, in tandem with pockets of price pressure, color that move in rates. Bianco Research notes today that Wall Street economists now expect U.S. real GDP growth of nearly 5% this year

But higher rates on Treasury bonds could affect other markets negatively in several ways:

  • Higher Treasury yields tend to mean higher rates in other areas. This could make it more expensive for companies to borrow to fund expansion, etc. That would hurt their shares.
  • If Treasuries offer more interest, that makes stocks less attractive by comparison.
  • Treasury yields, especially the 10 year note, tend to drive mortgage rates. Higher mortgage rates mean a weaker real estate market.

Nonetheless, the Fed remains committed to low interest rates and a loose monetary policy:

In his remarks to the House Financial Services Committee, [Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome] Powell said it could take more than three years before inflation reached the Fed’s target of 2%. That helped to reiterate the message that the central bank was in no rush to pare back on stimulus anytime soon, Deutsche’s Reid said.

I think that if rates spike too high, Powell will probably get the Fed in there buying lots of bonds (with printed money, if necessary) to get the rates back down. He doesn’t want to see higher rates derailing the economic recovery.

A slower rate rise may be less problematic:

“If it is stable and steady, it is easier for equities to digest,” O’Rourke said in an interview. “A quick spike has the potential to create a shock.”

Overall, this situation concerns me and it’s one I’m going to watch. But I am pretty confident that Powell will put a stop to extreme increases in Treasury yields.

For more on recent developments in financial markets, check out these posts:

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/LinkedIn/email using the buttons below. This helps more people find the blog! And please leave a comment at the bottom of the page letting me know what you think and what other information you’re interested in!

Photo: “Jerome H. Powell, governor of the Federal Reserve Board, discusses how markets currently function” by BrookingsInst is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0