WASHINGTON, Sept 27 (Reuters) – Two Federal Reserve officials who came under scrutiny for investment trades they made last year announced their retirements on Monday, in a controversy that has already sparked a planned review of the Fed’s ethics rules.
Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan said he will retire on Oct. 8, citing the “distraction” of the controversy over his investments, while Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren said he will retire on Sept. 30, pointing to a long-term health condition.
The two are among 12 regional Fed presidents that get rotating seats on the central bank’s powerful monetary policy committee, which sets U.S. interest rates.
Kaplan and Rosengren had faced calls to step down for investment trades made in 2020, a year in which the Fed took unprecedented action to steady the economy, while news of the transactions, revealed in recent financial disclosures, raised questions about the effectiveness of Fed trading guidelines for policymakers.
Their departure came after Fed Chair Jerome Powell, who is nearing the end of his term and under consideration for reappointment as Fed chief, called earlier this month for a review of the central bank’s ethics rules and said the policies need to change.
Powell is due to testify before the Senate Banking committee on Tuesday, where he may face questions from Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has demanded stricter ethics rules at the regional Fed banks.
According to financial disclosures first reported by the Wall Street Journal, Kaplan made multiple million dollar trades in individual stocks in 2020. Rosengren invested in real estate investment trusts on a smaller scale, but he was criticized for making the moves while also calling out risks in the real estate sector.
The financial disclosures did not look strikingly different from prior years, and both officials said their investment trades were cleared by ethics officers and did not violate Fed policy. They also previously agreed to sell their stock holdings by the end of September to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest.
But the actions were still viewed as problematic during a year when millions of Americans lost their jobs and the Fed took sweeping action to stabilize financial markets and the economy in the wake of the rapidly-unfolding pandemic. read more
When asked if he trusted the two regional Fed bank presidents to do their jobs, Powell said last week that “in terms of having confidence and that sort of thing, I think, no one is happy.”
Calls for broader reform of Fed ethics rules continued Monday despite the resignations, with outside groups pressing Powell to take stronger action. read more
Kaplan said on Monday afternoon: “Unfortunately, the recent focus on my financial disclosure risks becoming a distraction to the Federal Reserve’s execution of that vital work.”
Rosengren earlier cited a long-term health condition in his decision to step down.
In a statement that did not mention the investment controversy, Rosengren revealed that he qualified for the kidney transplant list in June of 2020 and wanted to make “lifestyle changes” to protect his health.
While Rosengren was facing mandatory retirement next June, Fed rules would have allowed Kaplan to stay on until 2025.
The last such high-profile departure from the Fed was in 2017, when then-Richmond Fed president Jeffrey Lacker resigned while acknowledging he had, five years earlier, been the source of information used in a report by Medley Advisors that included at that point unreleased information.
Lacker took explicit blame, saying his “conduct was inconsistent with … confidentiality policies.” Neither Rosengren or Kaplan have acknowledged any breach of the Fed ethics rules that require them to abide by certain trading practices and avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest.
Kaplan, 64, was hired to lead the Dallas Fed just over six year ago. The son of a traveling jewelry salesman, Kaplan had taught at Harvard Business School for about 10 years and before that was an executive at Goldman Sachs, where he worked for 23 years.
Rosengren, a PhD economist, has been the president of the Boston Fed since 2007, and has been part of its staff since 1985. Prior to becoming president he was head of the bank’s supervision and regulation division.
Dallas Fed First Vice President Meredith Black will serve as interim president after Kaplan steps down.
Boston Fed First Vice President Kenneth C. Montgomery will take over as interim president during the search for Rosengren’s replacement, which is already underway given his approaching retirement date.
The back-to-back resignations leave a suddenly wider opening for a potential overhaul of Fed leadership.
U.S. President Joe Biden is assessing whether to reappoint Powell and is poised to nominate as many as three others to the seven-member Washington-based Board of Governors, a group long criticized for mostly being comprised of white men.
The departure of the two Fed bank presidents could allow for a more diverse group of regional bank presidents, who are chosen by local boards of directors with the approval of the Fed governors. Currently seven of 12 bank presidents are white men, three are white women, and two are non-white men.
Reporting by Howard Schneider, Ann Saphir, Jonnelle Marte and Lindsay Dunsmuir;
Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky, Andrea Ricci, Aurora Ellis and Richard Pullin
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Micron Urges Government Investment with R&D Spend – The Next Platform
Over the last twenty years, memory has risen from 10% of the semiconductor market to almost 30%, a trend that is expected to continue, propelled by compute at the edge all the way up to datacenter. To meet these demands, memory giant, Micron, has announced it will make $150 billion in internal investments, ranging from manufacturing and fab facilities to R&D to support new materials and memory technologies.
The nature of the announcement serves two purposes. The first is obvious, Micron is putting a stake in the ground around its bullish view for edge to datacenter growth and their role as a primary component maker. The second is only slightly less obvious: to compel the U.S. to match funds or continue new investment strategies to support U.S. fabs and semiconductor R&D.
While $150 billion is a sizable investment, the fab component of Micron’s plans will gobble up a significant fraction. While no fab is created equally, consider TSMC’s investments in new facilities, which are upwards of $9 billion. Such investments can take two to three years to yield but the time is certainly right. Gartner, for instance, estimates the costs for leading-edge semiconductor facilities to increase between 7-10%.
While DRAM and NAND are less expensive than leading edge technologies, Micron will need to choose carefully as it sets its plans in motion. Luckily, there is ample government support building in the U.S. for all homegrown semiconductor industry, although it is unclear how federal investments, including the $52 billion CHIPS Act, will augment Micron’s own ambitions.
Micron is seeking the attention of government with its broad R&D and manufacturing investment, pointing to the creation of “tens of thousands” of new jobs and “significant economic growth.” In a statement, Micron explained that memory manufacturing costs are 35-45% higher than in lower-end semiconductor markets, “making funding to support new semiconductor manufacturing capacity and a refundable investment tax credit critical to potential expansion of U.S. manufacturing as part of Micron’s targeted investment.”
“The growth of the data economy is driving increased customer demand for memory and storage,” said Executive Vice President of Global Operations Manish Bhatia. “Leading-edge memory manufacturing at scale requires production of advanced semiconductor technology that is pushing the laws of physics, and our markets demand cost-competitive operations. Sustained government support is essential for Micron to ensure a resilient supply chain and reinforce technology leadership for the long term.”
Micron CEO, Sanjay Mehrotra says the company will “look forward to working with governments around the world, including in the U.S. where CHIPS funding and the FABS Act would open the door to new industry investments, as we consider sites to support future expansion.” The subtext there is that the U.S. is only one country in the running, among others making investments.
Increasing government support will likely align with fabs and facilities but Micron says it’s working on next generation technologies set to keep pace with growing demand.
This is part of the company’s 2030-era plan for memory technology. Micron sees edge and cloud deployments expanding but also points to AI as the leading workload across deployment types. The company’s senior VP and GM for Compute and Networking, former Intel HPC lead, Raj Hazra, says that by 2025, 75% of all organizations will have moved beyond the AI experimentation stage into production.
To support this more practically, Micron has set forth some ambitious near-term targets, including reaching for 40% improvements in memory densities over existing DRAM, double SSD read throughput speeds over current 1TB SSDs, 15% power reductions over existing DRAM and 15% better performance for mixed workloads over existing NAND.
Walmart allowing some shoppers to buy bitcoin at Coinstar kiosks
Coinstar, known for its machines that can exchange physical coins for cash, has partnered with digital currency exchange CoinMe to let customers buy bitcoin at some of its kiosks.
There are 200 Coinstar kiosks located inside Walmart stores across the United States that will allow customers to buy bitcoin, a Walmart spokesperson said.
Walmart was subject to a cryptocurrency hoax in September when a fake press release was published announcing a partnership between the world’s largest retailer and litecoin. The news had briefly sent prices of the little known cryptocurrency surging.
(Reporting by Uday Sampath in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath)
Here’s What Makes Intuit (INTU) A Meaningful Investment – Yahoo Finance
Cooper Investors, an investment management firm, published its “Cooper Investors Global Equities Fund (Hedged)” third quarter 2021 investor letter – a copy of which can be downloaded here. For the rolling three months to one year, the Fund returned 5.7% and 28.24% respectively, while its benchmark, by comparison, returned -0.42% and 26.57% over the same period. You can take a look at the fund’s top 5 holdings to have an idea about their best picks for 2021.
Cooper Investors, in its Q3 2021 investor letter, mentioned Intuit Inc. (NASDAQ: INTU) and discussed its stance on the firm. Intuit Inc. is a Mountain View, California-based software company with a $156.4 billion market capitalization. INTU delivered a 50.80% return since the beginning of the year, while its 12-month returns are up by 72.12%. The stock closed at $572.80 per share on October 19, 2021.
Here is what Cooper Investors has to say about Intuit Inc. in its Q3 2021 investor letter:
“The other meaningful deal during the quarter was Intuit’s acquisition of Mailchimp for $12bn. Intuit has reinvented itself over the last decade and thrived with a leadership position in QuickBooks Online, the financial accounting software for small businesses (effectively the ‘Xero of the US’). We originally invested in Intuit in February 2020, excited by the QuickBooks prospects.
Management have executed exceptionally well on the opportunity set which has seen the shares double since our initial purchase. However, the company has now conducted two meaningful deals in Mailchimp and Credit Karma worth a combined US$20bn over the last 12 months. The investment proposition has shifted from a focus on QuickBooks to now being a financial and small business software conglomerate. We continue to very much admire the company, but with Intuit now trading on 50x forward earnings we no longer see such attractive latency on offer, nor the rewards for the level of execution risk and thus we have exited the position.”
Based on our calculations, Intuit Inc. (NASDAQ: INTU) was not able to clinch a spot in our list of the 30 Most Popular Stocks Among Hedge Funds. INTU was in 66 hedge fund portfolios at the end of the first half of 2021, compared to 68 funds in the previous quarter. Intuit Inc. (NASDAQ: INTU) delivered an 11.34% return in the past 3 months.
Hedge funds’ reputation as shrewd investors has been tarnished in the last decade as their hedged returns couldn’t keep up with the unhedged returns of the market indices. Our research has shown that hedge funds’ small-cap stock picks managed to beat the market by double digits annually between 1999 and 2016, but the margin of outperformance has been declining in recent years. Nevertheless, we were still able to identify in advance a select group of hedge fund holdings that outperformed the S&P 500 ETFs by 115 percentage points since March 2017 (see the details here). We were also able to identify in advance a select group of hedge fund holdings that underperformed the market by 10 percentage points annually between 2006 and 2017. Interestingly the margin of underperformance of these stocks has been increasing in recent years. Investors who are long the market and short these stocks would have returned more than 27% annually between 2015 and 2017. We have been tracking and sharing the list of these stocks since February 2017 in our quarterly newsletter.
At Insider Monkey, we scour multiple sources to uncover the next great investment idea. For example, lithium mining is one of the fastest-growing industries right now, so we are checking out stock pitches like this emerging lithium stock. We go through lists like the 10 best EV stocks to pick the next Tesla that will deliver a 10x return. Even though we recommend positions in only a tiny fraction of the companies we analyze, we check out as many stocks as we can. We read hedge fund investor letters and listen to stock pitches at hedge fund conferences. You can subscribe to our free daily newsletter on our homepage.
Disclosure: None. This article is originally published at Insider Monkey.
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