Finance

Michael P. Regan is a Bloomberg Gadfly columnist covering equities and financial services. He has covered stocks for Bloomberg News as a columnist and editor since 2007. He previously worked for the Associated Press.

One of those squatters from that Oregon preserve that has been in the news reportedly sued the U.S. for $666 billion this week, contending the government had engaged in the "works of the devil."

The alleged works of the devil include forcing "socialism, communism and imperialism types of government onto the people of the United States of America," according to NPR. We always pictured the devil's workshop as more like the basement of the pawnshop in "Pulp Fiction." But whatever. Apparently charging below-market rates for grass is just as bad to some people.   

So far, the lawsuit doesn't seem to be affecting the bond market too much. Treasury yields are down since the suit was filed on Wednesday, but they say the devil works in mysterious ways. (They say the same thing about bond markets, at least on equity desks). This obviously sounds like a long shot for a lawsuit to show proof of the "works of the devil," but then again one of our leading presidential candidates is in a big fight with the Pope, so who knows what to think anymore?  It's probably prudent to keep an eye on this suit just in case. After all, the plaintiff does plan to subpoena "various law professors." If the government decides to do a quickie nondisclosure settlement for like $500 billion, it might be time to start worrying.

We'll keep a future Gadfly Trade of the Week award on ice for squatter Shawna Cox just in case she makes even a shiny dime by suing the devil, but she had a lot of competition for the recognition in this holiday-shortened week. We learned of the Aussie manager of the Magellan Global Equity Fund who pushed his returns into the top 1 percentile by stuffing a bunch of cash under the mattress. There was Alastair Marsh's tale of Milan Patel, who racked up returns of as much as 800 percent by going long on the big short at the right time and snatching up distressed mortgage securities that had been left for dead. 

In the alternative-investing space, Citadel's Ken Griffin is giving Steven Cohen a run for his money as the biggest whale in the art market. Griffin recently paid $500 million for paintings by Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, according to a New York Times article that came a day after Kathy Burton's report that Citadel sacked 15 people after the main hedge funds had a rough start to 2016. At this point, if you're a kid looking to make a fortune from hedge funds, you might be better off majoring in art than anything math-y. In fact, we're thinking about going to Central Park after work to commission a caricature of a giant-headed Griffin wrestling a giant-headed Cohen and see if we can't start a bidding war. 

But really there were only two stories that had the most profound effects on just about every trader's P&L this week. One was China flipping the bird to all the yuan bears out there after a weeklong market holiday, with the currency on Monday strengthening the most since the peg to the dollar was scrapped in 2005. The other story was Russia and Saudi Arabia flipping the bird at oil bears and agreeing to freeze production near current levels. 

Full Tanks
U.S. crude-oil inventories are at the highest level since the Great Depression.
Source: Department of Energy
Note: Data is weekly starting in December 2015, monthly before then.

Now, obviously there are valid reasons to put about as much faith in this promise as there is to trust Kanye West's vow to be less cocky. Furthermore, equity and oil markets were weakening once again by the end of the week as a U.S. government report reminded the nation that it has more crude festering in storage tanks than it's had since the days when Model T's were still on the road.   

Underwater
Oil and stocks weakened as the weekend neared, but rallies early in the week left them above recent lows.
Source: Bloomberg data

Still, say what you will about communist imperialist governments, or former communist imperialist governments, but these two moves by China and Russia served as the desperately needed defibrillator paddles that shocked risky assets back into an upright position. So at least we can head into the weekend with a little bit of distance between the prices of oil and stocks and the lows set earlier this month. That's worthy of Trade of the Week.

Perhaps all you need to know about the week that was can be summed up in this lone headline sent by Bloomberg editor Eric Weiner, quoting Oak Hill CEO Glenn August: 

*INVESTING IN DISTRESSED ENERGY IS STILL VERY VERY HARD: AUGUST

Now, breaking news headlines are written in a hurry, so some of you may be wondering if the word "very" was repeated by mistake. However, Gadfly can exclusively confirm: 'twas no accident. 

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Michael P. Regan in New York at mregan12@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Daniel Niemi at dniemi1@bloomberg.net