Levine on Wall Street: Don't Get Too Comfortable

Marty Lipton seems to have built the most cronyish possible board at NYU, possibly just to troll shareholder activists.

Quiet. Too quiet.

What if I told you that one indicator suggests that the next couple of months will be relatively quiet, in the equity markets? Would you notice that yesterday was Memorial Day and be like, yeah, okay, that sounds plausible? There is a word for people like you, and that word is "complacent." "To be sure, some analysts say the lack of volatility suggests a complacency that could encourage excessive risk-taking." And a "low VIX doesn't necessarily presage a reversal, but over the past two decades, 34 of the 50 lowest readings came in either 2006 or 2007," so I guess enjoy it while it lasts.

Everyone's getting criminally probed.

Specifically a bunch of Swiss banks are "seeking to avoid pleading guilty to helping Americans cheat the Internal Revenue Service" but once Credit Suisse has what's your excuse? There's a these-go-to-eleven-ness about the criminal guilty plea replacing the civil penalty as the relatively harmless punishment for naughty banks; I guess once the fourteenth bank has pled guilty to crimes and been okay, one will have to conclude that criminal prosecutions are just a cost of doing business. For Swiss banks anyway; funny that Credit Suisse's successful (?) guilty plea has not led to similar discussions about American banks.

Pfizer is all done with AstraZeneca.

I like this British system where your "final offer" is final and if you say you're abandoning a merger you can't just quietly pick it up again a week later (you have to wait six months). For one thing the merger stories don't drag out forever; for another it makes the game theory a bit more, you know, game-like. There are rules and everything. Anyway apparently Pfizer and AstraZeneca lost.

Companies want to hedge emerging market currencies.

And it sounds like banks are just thrilled:

Locking in an exchange rate through a forward contract -- the most common way to hedge currency risk -- is rarely economic with high-yielding EM currencies.

But David Whelan, managing director of Treasury Solutions at Capita Asset Services, argues the recent spate of profit warnings shows “the traditional approach to hedging hasn’t quite worked . . . there is a need to have a tailored and dynamic approach”.

Ha no come on, always do the delta-one thing. If you do something "more tailored and dynamic" you're still paying the carry -- it doesn't go away just because you call it something else -- but you're also paying the tailors and the dynamiters, and they are expensive.

Cyprus depositors are mad.

There's an AIG/Fannie/Freddie aspect to this lawsuit in which people who had bank deposits in Cyprus are suing the European Central Bank and the European Commission for demanding haircuts to those deposits as a condition of rescuing Cyprus's banks. How would your deposits look if the ECB hadn't rescued those banks?

Oh, NYU.

Remember when the Times reported on how terribly New York University treats the workers building its Abu Dhabi campus? And NYU president John Sexton blamed everything on its contractor? Oops:

Mr. Sexton might have been trying to create distance between N.Y.U. and the contractor, but it is a red herring: The general contractor that helped oversee the construction of the campus isn’t some fly-by-night firm outside N.Y.U.’s purview. Quite the opposite. The contractor is run by a trustee of N.Y.U.’s board: Khaldoon Khalifa Al Mubarak, the chief executive of the Mubadala Development Company.

Marty Lipton seems to have built the most cronyish possible board at NYU, possibly just to troll shareholder activists.

Things happen to spreadsheets.

Don't hardcode fudge factors into an Excel spreadsheet, come on. Here is Tyler Cowen on Thomas Piketty's oopsie. Here are partial defenses from Paul Krugman and Mike Konczal.

Things happen.

Hedge funds are picking up a little extra money managing mutual funds. Somehow Anthony Scaramucci "is now seen as a validator who can steer major Wall Street money to hedge funds and super PACs alike." There's a zinc manipulation lawsuit. Foxes and hedgehogs. David Schwimmer is keeping busy. BSports tells you who will win the World Cup. Buy shares in SD Eibar, this is not investment advice but come on, live a little.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

    To contact the author on this story:
    Matthew S Levine at mlevine51@bloomberg.net

    To contact the editor on this story:
    Toby Harshaw at tharshaw@bloomberg.net

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