Global Investing

Back to the dance floor

It was Chuck Prince, former CEO of Citigroup, who famously said on July 9, 2007: “When the music stops, in terms of liquidity, things will be complicated. But as long as the music is playing, you’ve got to get up and dance. We’re still standing.”

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Little did he know the music did nearly stop for Citi with its shares tumbling to less than $2 in 2009 from $55 in 2007.

A year later, worldwide reflation from huge liquidity injection and stimulus packages helped the global economy from collapsing.  The music may have started. The question is, should investors return to the dance floor?

Anthony Boeckh, president of U.S.-based Boeckh Investments, argues in his new book “The Great Reflation”,  that they should, but only cautiously.

“Many people ask whether the Great Reflation will work… In one sense it already has; the crisis of 2008-2009 could have caused a depression but it didn’t,” Boeckh writes.

from DealZone:

R.I.P. Salomon Brothers

It's official: Salomon Brothers has been completely picked apart.

Citigroup's agreement to sell Phibro, its profitable but controversial commodity trading business, to Occidental Petroleum today puts the finishing touches on a slow erosion of a once-dominant bond trading and investment banking firm.

When Sandy Weill (pictured left) staged his 1998 coup -- combining Citicorp and Travelers, Salomon Brothers was a strong albeit humbled investment banking and trading force. Yet little by little, a succession of financial crises, Wall Street fashion and regulatory intervention has whittled away at the once-dominant firm.

Not long after the Citigroup was formed, proprietary fixed income trading --  once the domain of John Meriwether, was shut down after the Asian debt crisis fueled losses that Weill could not stomach.

from Funds Hub:

The attraction of the toxic

Nothing like a bit of toxicity. Wealth managers at Citi are telling their clients to watch for a burst of hedge fund interest in bad assets. They reckon the biggest opportunity for hedge funds is probably around the Public-Private Investment Fund, which is part of the huge U.S. plan to stabilise the toxic1financial sector.

The idea is that the U.S. government will lend money to investors to buy up toxic assets from banks, thus setting a market price. But the notes are non-recourse ones, which means that any default is limited to the actual cost of whatever collateral is require. In short, it limits liability if asset prices fall.

As a result of this, Citi says, hedge funds are likely to find the system attractive. But it warns: "Returns are likely to be volatile, at least in the near term. To take advantage of these new opportunities, investors need a long time horizon and a lot of patience."

Who’s next for the Dow?

Arzu Cevik, director at Thomson Reuters Strategic Research, writes:

“With Citi shares trading below $1, the first time since 1970 that a “penny stock” traded on the Dow Jones Industrial Average, it is widely expected that it will be removed from the index.

“The company was added to the Dow in 1997 when it was still known as Travelers, and the last company to be removed from the Dow was AIG last September (when its stock hovered above $1) and was replaced by Kraft Foods.

“It’s also expected that General Motors may be removed from the Dow. GM shares are trading slightly above $1 and there’s speculation it may be headed toward bankruptcy.

For better or worse?

Wealth managers at Citi Private Bank are telling their clients to stay neutral in their exposure to hedge funds at the moment, whether the strategy be event driven, equity long/short or macro. The main reason is that capital markets are still stressed and many hedge funds still need to deleverage.

The firm points out, however, that hedge funds had a good news-bad news kind of year in 2008. Based on the HFRX Global Hedge Fund Index, it was the worst performance on record. The index lost 23.3 percent. Its next worst performance was 2002 — and that was only a 1.5 percent decline.

Losses were widespread across all kinds of strategies. Only merger arbitrage and systematic macro gained anything. 

Bah Humbug

Value managers and contrarian analysts long derided as permanent bears have been poking their heads out of the woods to bring some early Christmas cheer to delegates assembled at the CFA Institute’s European Conference in Amstedam.

James Montier, global strategist at SocGen, who likes to swim with sharks in his spare time, opened the conference on Tuesday by saying that he was more optimistic about equities than he had been for a long time, with the UK and European markets approaching bargain basement prices.

But on day two, Matt King, managing director, credit products strategy at Citigroup, rained all over this parade. “I have a message for equity investors,” he said. “It’s worse than you think!”