Monthly Archives: May 2015

GE Launches Bidding Process for $40 Billion in Commercial-Lending Operations

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Obama Seeks Rare Business Support

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Obama Seeks Rare Business Support

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Billionaire Cliff Asness’ Long Term Holdings

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My 2014 Best Performers, Looking Ahead To 2015

AQR Capital Management LLC was founded in 1998 by former Goldman Sachs portfolio manager Cliff Asness. The Connecticut-based hedge fund was also co-founded by Asness’ former colleagues at Goldman Sachs including David Kabiller, Robert Krail and John Liew. The founding group of investment professionals at AQR Capital Management is well-known for their valuable experience in developing and managing quantitative investment strategies, as they have been working together since the late 1980’s at Goldman Sachs. Asness, a hedge fund genius, is currently acting as the Chief Investment Officer at AQR Capital and co-manages a public equity portfolio worth $43.76 billion as of March 31. As AQR employs a dynamic value investment style, we would like to showcase the fund’s long-term holdings in this article, all of which it has held for at least a decade. These companies are Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT), Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) and Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ).

AQR CAPITAL MANAGEMENT

At Insider Monkey, we track hedge funds’ moves in order to identify actionable patterns and profit from them. Our research has shown that hedge funds’ large-cap stock picks historically delivered a monthly alpha of six basis points, though these stocks underperformed the S&P 500 Total Return Index by an average of seven basis points per month between 1999 and 2012. On the other hand, the 15 most popular small-cap stocks among hedge funds outperformed the S&P 500 Index by an average of 95 basis points per month (read the details here). Since the official launch of our small-cap strategy in August 2012, it has performed just as predicted, returning over 144% and beating the market by more than 84 percentage points. We believe the data is clear: investors will be better off by focusing on small-cap stocks utilizing hedge fund expertise rather than large-cap stocks.

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Cliff Asness

AQR Capital Management, $43,756,669,000

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AQR Capital Management added to its equity stake in Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) during the first quarter, with the position now amounting to 6.89 million shares valued at $857.71 million following the fund’s acquisition of 529,740 shares during the quarter. Apple, which owns one of the most profitable businesses ever, doesn’t need much of an introduction. Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s shares have increased by over 18% year-to-date and there are no signs that the stock will stop rising any time soon, as the company has been constantly growing over the last decade and has mounds of cash to facilitate yet further growth. Only a few days ago, Apple reported the acquisition of Metaio, a deeply-rooted company in the augmented reality industry. It is anticipated that the acquisition will enhance Apple’s virtual reality and augmented reality ventures and will also expose the tech giant to some of the interesting projects Metaio has cooking. It is no surprise that Carl Icahn is Apple’s largest shareholder in our database, since the activist investor claimed last year that Apple’s shares were significantly undervalued and has been a very vocal champion of the company.

Asness’ hedge fund increased its equity holding in Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) by 3.86 million shares during the first quarter, reporting a total stake of 13.22 million shares worth $537.46 million as of March 31. Despite the fact the stock has increased by only 0.88% since the beginning of the year, Microsoft’s shares have been riding a strong uptrend in recent quarters. This week, Microsoft announced that it intends to make great efforts in guaranteeing that its app store doesn’t contain any useless and costly apps. Thus, it might be the case that the company will be able to boost revenues from its apps store by eliminating the current state of disorder and confusion. By taking a look at the massive pool of hedge funds that we track, Jeffrey Ubben’s ValueAct Capital is by far the largest shareholder in Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT), owning approximately 75.27 million shares.






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GE launches sales process for U.S. lending units

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(Update throughout, adds background)

NEW YORK, May 31 (Reuters) – General Electric Co has launched the sales process for a roughly $40 billion portion of its U.S. commercial lending assets as a part of its broad retreat from its finance businesses, a source familiar with the situation said on Sunday.

These businesses include its commercial distribution finance business, involving dealers of boats and recreational vehicles; equipment finance, which includes loans to buy trucks and construction equipment; and corporate finance, which is for direct lending and leasing to midsize companies, the source said.

The Wall Street Journal first reported this development on for GE’s planned divestiture. The conglomerate announced it planned to sell most of its finance businesses in April.

A GE spokesman declined to comment.

These GE business units could all go to a single buyer or could be divided and sold separately, the source said.

The chunk of the operation involved represents more than half of the $74 billion U.S. commercial lending and leasing portfolio.

Toronto-Dominion Bank, CIT Group Inc., Ally Financial Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co. are among the potential bidders for the GE assets, the paper said, citing people familiar with the matter.

Other large and midsize banks, as well as private-equity firms are expected to show interest, it added.

Capital One and U.S. Bancorp are also considered possible bidders, the source told Reuters.

GE is working with Credit Suisse Group AG and Goldman Sachs Group Inc on the sale, while J.P. Morgan Chase & Co is overseeing all of the sales processes, according to the source.

(Reporting by Lewis Krauskopf and Richard Leong; Editing by Eric Walsh)

  • commercial lending






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ShortTermCopper1

What Does The ‘Smart Money’ Think About Copper Right Now?

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After plunging in the fall, copper has slowly recouped some of its losses this year due to speculation about an upcoming Chinese stimulus program, U.S. dollar weakness, and rebounding oil prices. Is copper’s recent strength sustainable or is it just a pause before another leg down? To answer that question, let’s take a look at the technical and fundamental picture.

After approaching and being unable to break its long-time $3/lb. resistance level in early-May, copper has sold off in recent weeks. The $3 resistance level is an important psychological “line in the sand” that must be surpassed in order for the technical situation to improve. In addition, the “smart money” (commercial futures hedgers) have used copper’s rally to cut their long position to virtually zero, which may be a harbinger of future weakness. Furthermore, the “dumb money” (large traders) have been the primary driving force behind copper’s rebound this year.

ShortTermCopper

Source: Finviz.com

The longer-term chart of copper shows how critical the $3/lb. resistance level is and how aggressively the “smart money” has pared its long position. In the past, copper has experienced notable bearish moves after the commercial hedgers cut their bullish bets like they have in the past several months.

LongTermCopper

Source: Finviz.com

The U.S. dollar has a strong influence on commodities such as copper, so traders should watch it closely. The dollar trades inversely with commodities, so dollar strength is typically bearish for copper, and vice versa. The U.S. Dollar Index broke its long-term uptrend line in late-April, but is now re-testing this key technical level. If the Dollar Index drops after touching this level, it may help to support copper prices. If the Dollar Index can break above this level, on the other hand, copper’s 2015 relief rally may encounter headwinds.

Dollar

Source: Barchart.com

China’s ongoing economic slowdown and ample inventories continue to weigh on copper, but the dollar’s next major move is likely one of the most important catalysts that will help determine if copper can break above its $3 resistance level, or prove the “smart money” right by re-testing its early-2015 lows.

Please follow or add me on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn to stay informed about the most important trading and bubble news as well as my related commentary.

(Disclaimer: All information is provided for educational purposes only and should not be relied on for making any investment decisions. These chart analysis blog posts are simply market “play by plays” and color commentaries, not hard predictions, as the author is an agnostic on short-term market movements.)

 





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Microsoft’s Universal Keyboard and Arc Touch mouse make a great ultraportable work system

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My 2014 Best Performers, Looking Ahead To 2015

MyTable with Microsoft Universal Mobile KeyboardWhen my ZDNet colleague James Kendrick wrote about his Top 5 portable writing systems for getting work done (hands on) earlier this month, I was struck by the fact that he had missed mine. No system suits everybody, of course, but I’m a writer, and I thought my system beat most of his. So what is it?

My current lightweight portable writing system consists of an 8-inch Windows tablet, a Microsoft Universal Mobile Keyboard, and a Microsoft Arc Touch Bluetooth Mouse. No, we agree it’s not as good as a Surface Pro or similar device, or even an Asus Transformer T-100, but it’s cheap, small and light. And although it’s in three pieces, not every piece has to go in the same bag or pocket: you can distribute the load around a coat or jacket.

You can take your pick of cheap Windows tablets with 7-inch, 8-inch or even 10-inch screens. I bought (and reviewed) a £99 Bush My-Tablet from Argos, which isn’t perfect but turned out to be much better than similarly-priced Android tablets. For me, its huge advantage over rival systems is that it runs full Microsoft Word, which I use daily on my desktop PC. In fact, it came with a year’s free subscription to Office 365, which makes £99/$99 or whatever an even better price if you need it.

The obvious response was to write a blog post about why my system was better. However, I was beaten to the punch – again – by another James Kendrick post: Microsoft Universal Mobile Keyboard is the best in class (review). Unprompted by me, he’d bought one, and loved it. “I rarely recommend a device but have no problem doing so with the Microsoft keyboard. It’s not just good for typing, it’s a real writer’s keyboard,” he said.

Not sure I like it quite that much, but it’s the best universal mobile keyboard I’ve used so far… and I suspect I’ll prefer it to Microsoft’s new foldable keyboard, due for release on 20 July.

Microsoft Universal Mobile Keyboard

Microsoft Universal Mobile Keyboard switch Photo: Microsoft The MUMK’s main claim to fame is that it works with different devices. There’s a sliding switch on the top right that enables you to select Windows, Android or Apple iPad/iPhone. There’s even a special Command key for Apple users. I found it worked perfectly with Windows devices, including a Surface Pro 2. (This is too thick to fit the slot in the MUMK’s stand, but it has its own….)

It also worked well with other devices once it had paired. However, it fell in love with the Windows MyTablet, so switching wasn’t always instant. For example, the first time I opened it up to sync with an Android tablet, I wondered why it wouldn’t work: I found it had silently switched on the Windows tablet that was still in my bag.

The MUMK doesn’t just open up, it comes apart: you can detach the lid, which is magnetically attached to the keyboard. This is really useful because you can raise the height of the tablet (eg by standing it on a few books) while using the keyboard on a table or even on your lap.

The keys are just a bit too small for my fat fingers, so I found it hard to type very quickly. It dropped my typing speed by about a third. However, you do get used to it after a few days, and I still find it much faster than typing with an on-screen keyboard. It also has the advantage that you’re not losing any valuable screen space.

While I’d prefer wider keys, there’s obviously a trade off: wider keys would result in a wider and less portable keyboard. Users with smaller hands will find this less of a problem, as will people who use Microsoft Word’s autocorrect features. (I usually have them turned off, but they’re a boon with this keyboard.)

Microsoft Arc Touch Bluetooth Mouse

Microsoft Arc Touch Bluetooth Mouse Photo: Microsoft The MUMK’s ideal travelling companion is the Microsoft Arc Touch Bluetooth Mouse. This is a very clever bit of design, because it’s quite a big mouse that folds flat for travelling. Installing two AAA batteries and snapping it into its arc shape turns it on, after which it connects via Bluetooth to your active device.

If your device doesn’t have Bluetooth, the ATBM comes with a tiny USB plug-in Bluetooth connector that provides one. If you don’t want to have this plugged in all the time, it attaches magnetically to the underside of the mouse for carriage.

The ATBM has large left and right panels for clicking, divided by an odd-looking touch-sensitive strip that does the same things as a scroll wheel. Brushing the strip provides up and down scrolling, accompanied by faint clicking noises that mimic a mouse-wheel. (If you don’t like the sound, you can turn it off.)

In use, the touch-strip is a bit slower and less accurate than a real wheelie-mouse, but it has enabled Microsoft to produce a fold-flat mouse with no moving mechanical parts. In other words, it’s good for travelling with a tablet or laptop, but you wouldn’t buy one for your desktop PC.

Whether you actually need a travel mouse is an interesting point, for two reasons. First, many programs – especially Microsoft Office programs – can be operated using keyboard shortcuts. That’s great if you know enough of them.

Second, tablets and many laptops now have touch-sensitive screens. The problem with tablets with 8-inch or smaller screens is that it’s really hard to hit icons and other Windows features with your fingers: they’re just too tiny. Further than that, it’s often easier to use the mouse to move the cursor to a particular point on the screen, and for other options, such as right-click menus.

The Microsoft Universal Mobile Keyboard and Arc Touch Bluetooth Mouse are relatively expensive at $79.95/£73.82 and $69.95/£65.40 respectively. However, they are usually available at good discounts (eg £94.81 the pair on Amazon), and they are not unreasonably priced if you write for a living. They can help you make use of travelling time that would otherwise be wasted. Indeed, I wrote half of this post on a commuter train, and I’d have finished it sooner if the journey had been longer….






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U.S. Defense Firms Falter in Asia

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My 2014 Best Performers, Looking Ahead To 2015

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Uh oh. What did I just give Google?

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Year-To-Date Winners: We Have Found The Market And It's Apple

APPLE – THE BEST OPPORTUNITY EVER?

I SEE APPLE GOING BACK ABOVE $300, SOONER RATHER THAN LATER

On Thursday, I downloaded Google Photos and started backing up 16 years of family snapshots on Google’s servers. Struck by how much better Google Photo Backup worked than Apple’s iCloud Photos Library did, I wrote a story about it. (Apple should hate itself for Google Photos Backup.)

On Friday, several readers admonished me. “Mighty selfish of you. How does your family and the rest of your friends feel about being uploaded to Google?” wrote one.

“What are those f….s doing with our photos?,” wrote another. “Read the agreement!”

I had read the agreement, but mostly to make sure I wasn’t giving Google permission to use the images themselves — in an ad, article, image search result or anywhere else.

But then I read “The Hypocrisy of the Internet Journalist,” Quinn Norton’s alarming Medium piece about browser cookies — she called their advent “a transcendent moment in data collection” — and I started having second thoughts.

So I went back and re-read Google’s Privacy Policy. Here’s what I learned:

Google collects information about me in two ways: There’s the kind of information I volunteered when I signed up for a Google account (name, e-mail address, telephone number or credit card) and the information they collect when I use their services (my IP address, my search queries, my online purchases, my telephone logs, the YouTubes I watch, the contents of my e-mail and any cookies I generate as I navigate the Web).

The latter get a paragraph of their own:

We and our partners use various technologies to collect and store information when you visit a Google service, and this may include sending one or more cookies or anonymous identifiers to your device. We also use cookies and anonymous identifiers when you interact with services we offer to our partners, such as advertising services or Google features that may appear on other sites. Our Google Analytics product helps businesses and site owners analyze the traffic to their websites and apps. When used in conjunction with our advertising services, such as those using the DoubleClick cookie, Google Analytics information is linked, by the Google Analytics customer or by Google, using Google technology, with information about visits to multiple sites.

What does Google do with that information? Here’s what caught my eye: (I quote)

  • We use information collected from cookies and other technologies, like pixel tags, to improve your user experience and the overall quality of our services. One of the products we use to do this on our own services is Google Analytics.
  • Our automated systems analyze your content (including emails) to provide you personally relevant product features, such as customized search results, tailored advertising, and spam and malware detection.
  • We may combine personal information from one service with information, including personal information, from other Google services.
  • We will ask for your consent before using information for a purpose other than those that are set out in this Privacy Policy.

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Did I make a big mistake leaving Apple’s walled garden? Should I be worried? Should my family and friends? You tell me.

Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter at @philiped. Read his Apple AAPL coverage at fortune.com/ped or subscribe via his RSS feed.






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GE launches bidding process for U.S. lending operation -WSJ

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NEW YORK, May 31 (Reuters) – General Electric Co launched the bidding process for a $40 billion portion of its U.S. commercial lending business, a critical step in its effort to avert regulation by the U.S. Federal Reserve, the Wall Street Journal said on its website on Sunday.

The chunk of the operation represents more than half of the $74 billion U.S. commercial lending and leasing portfolio that includes loans for equipment purchases and financing and leases for midsize firms.

The business units could all go to a single buyer or could be divided and sold separately, the Wall Street Journal said.

GE is working with Credit Suisse Group AG and Goldman Sachs Group Inc on the sale, while J.P. Morgan Chase & Co is overseeing all of the sales processes, it said.

(Reporting by Richard Leong; Editing by Eric Walsh)

  • Wall Street Journal
  • General Electric Co
  • commercial lending
  • U.S. Federal Reserve






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