Archive for the ‘Wealth and Power’ Category

Orlando the ginger cat

The Observer’s panel of stock-picking professionals has been undone in our 2012 investment challenge by a ginger feline called Orlando who spent time paw-ing over the FT.

The Observer portfolio challenge pitted professionals Justin Urquhart Stewart of wealth managers Seven Investment Management, Paul Kavanagh of stockbrokers Killick & Co, and Schroders fund manager Andy Brough against students from John Warner School in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire – and Orlando.

Each team invested a notional £5,000 in five companies from the FTSE All-Share index at the start of the year. After every three months, they could exchange any stocks, replacing them with others from the index.

By the end of September the professionals had generated £497 of profit compared with £292 managed by Orlando. But an unexpected turnaround in the final quarter has resulted in the cat’s portfolio increasing by an average of 4.2% to end the year at £5,542.60, compared with the professionals’ £5,176.60.

While the professionals used their decades of investment knowledge and traditional stock-picking methods, the cat selected stocks by throwing his favourite toy mouse on a grid of numbers allocated to different companies.

The challenge raised the question of whether the professionals, with their decades of knowledge, could outperform novice students of finance – or whether a random selection of stocks chosen by Orlando could perform just as well as experienced investors.

The result indicates that the “random walk hypothesis”, popularised in economist Burton Malkiel’s book A Random Walk Down Wall Street, is perhaps truer than we thought. Burkiel’s book explores the idea that share prices move completely at random, making stock markets entirely unpredictable.

“It’s time to crack open the Whiskas,” said a good-humoured Justin Urquhart-Stewart. “The cat’s got talent.” To celebrate his success, Orlando’s owner, former Cash editor Jill Insley, has bought him a red collar in the style of Urquhart-Stewart’s omnipresent red braces.

All but one of Orlando’s stocks (Morrisons) rose during the last three months of the year, including specialist plastics and foam company Filtrona, which Orlando had hastily swapped for under-performing Scottish American Investment Trust in September.

By contrast, the professionals refused to swap any stocks at the end of the third quarter and paid the price. British Gas fell by 19% and Imagination Technologies dropped by 16.8%, dragging their portfolio down by an average 7.1%.

The students may have finished last, but displayed the best performance of all the teams in the final quarter, their portfolio increasing by an average 5.4%, including a fantastic performance of 17.4% for property company Savills.

Their trading decisions were key: at the end of the final quarter they swapped Mulberry for Aviva and Betfair for Tesco. In the final quarter, Aviva’s share price increased by 17% (compared with a rise of only 6.6% for Mulberry during that time) and Tesco rose by 1.2% (far superior to a fall in the Betfair share price of 5.4%).

Nigel Cook, deputy headteacher at John Hoddesdon School, said: “The mistakes we made earlier in the year were based on selecting companies in risky areas. But while our final position was disappointing, we are happy with our progress in terms of the ground we gained at the end and how our stock-picking skills have improved.”

A spokeswoman for Orlando said he was not available to give an interview because of a claws in his contract.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2013/jan/13/investments-stock-picking

 

There’s one big, but overlooked, development from the election last night: In Montana, a referendum to state that corporations don’t have constitutional rights has unofficially passed by a 75 percent to 25 percent margin. Initiative number 166 stated that “corporations are not entitled to constitutional rights because they are not human beings,” and thus is a blow to the Citizen’s United ruling that helped make this presidential election the most expensive one ever.

Montana has been a leader in trying to buck Citizen’s United, the 2010 Supreme Court ruling that equated money with free speech and allowed corporations to contribute unlimited amounts of money to campaigns through super PACs. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a ruling by the Montana Supreme Court that limited political spending in state and local elections. That ruling, which came without a hearing as liberal justices wanted, only strengthened Citizen’s United, but now Montana’s voting populace has fired back.

Montana has long had some of the country’s toughest campaign spending laws, which mostly crumbled under the Supreme Court. According to a nice background piece at CNN, the tradition has its roots in Montana’s mining industry, where copper barons used to buy off politicians in the 1800s. Because the sparsely-populated state is fueled by large mining operations, advocates worry that Citizen’s United will allow mining interests to take control of the state’s legislature yet again.

It’s unclear right now what will happen next. While the initiative states that corporations are not human beings and thus don’t have constitutional rights — Citizen’s United was based on an interpretation of the First Amendment — any changes to spending rules in state and local elections are likely to wind up in the Supreme Court again, which may or may not prompt an actual review of Citizen’s United. (Some folks think that the Supreme Court is finally ready to take another look at what has become one of its most controversial rulings in ages, especially now that the election is over.) But one thing is for sure: In Montana, unlimited corporate spending on elections is resoundingly unpopular.

http://motherboard.vice.com/2012/11/7/montana-quietly-passed-a-measure-that-says-corporations-aren-t-humans–2

Thanks to Kebmodee for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

 

A Brazil city council candidate has been arrested after she was caught allegedly handing out cocaine with her election leaflets, according to reports.

Carme Cristina Lima, 32, was running for councillor of Itacoatiara, in Brazil’s northern state of Amazonas.

Police became suspicious when they saw a crowd allegedly gathering around Ms Lima’s car on the morning of election day on Sunday.

Officers searched her car and allegedly found hundreds of packets of cocaine attached to the candidate’s leaflets with instructions on how to vote for her.

Speaking to Brazil’s TNOnline website, police chief Daniel Ottoni said: “There was a large gathering of people around Ms Lima, but when they saw the police they all ran away.

“The candidate and another man also fled by car but officers caught up with them.

“According to locals, she had been distributing the drugs since early in the morning, on condition that people vote for her.”

Ms Lima was arrested for electoral corruption and drug dealing.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/southamerica/brazil/9593442/Brazil-candidate-handed-out-cocaine-with-election-leaflets.html

Jon Hubbard, a Republican member of the Arkansas House of Representatives, has written a new book in which he says slavery was “a blessing” for African-Americans, among other questionable statements.

Hubbard, a first term Republican from Jonesboro, Ark., makes a series of racially charged statements in the self-published book, including saying that integration of schools is hurting white students, that African slaves had better lives under slavery than in Africa, that blacks are not contributing to society, and that a situation is developing the United States which is similar to that of Nazi Germany.

The questionable statements in Hubbard’s book, “Letters to the Editor: Confessions of a Frustrated Conservative,” were first reported by Arkansas Times and TalkBusiness.net.

Regarding slavery, Hubbard wrote:

“… the institution of slavery that the black race has long believed to be an abomination upon its people may actually have been a blessing in disguise. The blacks who could endure those conditions and circumstances would someday be rewarded with citizenship in the greatest nation ever established upon the face of the Earth.” (Pages 183-89)

On the subject of school integration, Hubbard described black students as having a “a lack of discipline and ambition,” which he said has hurt the entire educational system.

Hubbard also tackled immigration and said that Christians in America are in a similar position to that of Germans during Hitler’s rise to power.

… the immigration issue, both legal and illegal … will lead to planned wars or extermination. Although now this seems to be barbaric and uncivilized, it will at some point become as necessary as eating and breathing.” (Page 9)

Hubbard declined to comment on the book when contacted by The Huffington Post, saying that he did not have time.

An Air Force veteran, Hubbard sells insurance in Arkansas and Missouri. He serves on several legislative committees, including ones dealing with issues related to aging, insurance, telecommunications, and waterways and aeronautics policy.

On his campaign website, Hubbard says he will defend Christianity as a state lawmaker.

“And perhaps the most important pledge I can make to the people of District 58, the citizens of Arkansas, and to myself, is to do whatever I can to defend, protect, and preserve our Christian heritage,” Hubbard says on his website. “Regardless of one’s religious beliefs, if we as a nation continue to turn away from those Christian principles and values upon which this great nation was founded, we will have truly lost everything worth saving!”

Hubbard has a history of taking conservative stances in the legislature. In June, he called for the University of Arkansas to be audited to see if tax money had been spent on a panel discussion about undocumented immigrants. In February, he asked the state Department of Health to implement a policy that would require birth certificates be produced by anyone seeking non-emergency medical care in a hospital in order to prove their citizenship.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/05/jon-hubbard-arkansas-slavery-book_n_1943661.html

 

 The daughter of the tycoon who on Tuesday offered HK$500 million (US$64 million) to any man who would marry her found the proposal “quite entertaining,” she told CNN.

Gigi Chao said her father, property developer Cecil Chao Sze-tsung, “loves her very much” and was aware of the cash offer before it was first reported Tuesday by local Hong Kong media.

The tycoon’s offer came after Chinese media reports last week that she married another woman, her long-time companion Sean Eav, in a civil ceremony in Paris last week. Asked by CNN to confirm her civil union, Chao said she was “not in a position to verify that.”

Her father, however, was unequivocal, telling CNN “reports of Gigi being married is not true, it’s a rumor.” However, he did confirm that he is offering the multi-million dollar bounty for a future son-in-law: Any nationality or wealth of the suitor is fine, the only requirement is that the man “loves my daughter, and she loves him.”

Asked if she would consider her father’s offer, Chao said, “we will see.”

The 76-year-old tycoon himself has never married, and has long earned a reputation on the pages of local newspapers and magazines in the arms of beautiful women, having once bragged of having had 10,000 girlfriends, the South China Morning Post reported.

Gigi Chao is an executive director of Cheuk Nang Holdings, a luxury property development company run by her father.

http://www.cnn.com/2012/09/27/business/hong-kong-tycoon-daughter-reward/index.html?hpt=hp_t3

Thanks to Ray Gaudette for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

Authorities in Carson City recently made an astounding discovery in the home of a local recluse whose body was found in his residence. Walter Samaszko Jr. had left only $200 in his bank account. But hidden throughout the house were other treasures – including gold bars and coins valued at $7 million.

“You never anticipate running into anything like this,” Carson City Clerk-Recorder Alan Glover told the Los Angeles Times. “It was a run-of-the-mill 1,200-square-foot tract home that still had orange shag carpet. This guy was everybody’s next-door neighbor.”

Samaszko, 69, was described by officials as a loner who went about his business and had few friends. He had been dead at least a month when neighbors called authorities. The victim, who suffered from heart trouble, had lived in the house since the 1960s, and his mother lived with him until her death in 1992.

Glover, who also serves as the local public administrator, was tasked with dealing with the effects of a man who had left no will and had no known living relatives. But during the home cleanup, workers struck gold.

“He was a hoarder – there was everything inside that home you could think of,” Glover said. “The workers found a crawl space from the garage. That led to everything else.

“He was apparently buying gold from a local coin dealer. We found it in sealed boxes marked ‘books.’ We also found gold wrapped in tinfoil stored in ammunition boxes,” Glover told The Times. “There was just more and more. We found a family silver set with rolls of U.S. $20s and Mexican five peso coins.”

The gold coins had been minted as early as the 1840s in such countries as Mexico, England, Austria and South Africa, he said.

Based on just the weight of the gold, Glover estimates the value at $7 million. Because some of the coins appear to be collector items, the value could go much higher, he said.

Officials eventually used a metal detector to search the backyard to make sure they had left no coin uncovered. Samaszko also had stock accounts of more than $165,000 and another $12,000 in cash at the house.

Then came the task of finding relatives. Investigators used list of people who attended Samaszko’s mother’s funeral to track down a first cousin who lives in San Rafael, Calif.

“This will be good for her,” Glover said. “She’s a substitute school teacher who lives in an apartment.”

He said the deceased remains an enigma. “He didn’t socialize. He wasn’t exactly a hermit – he shopped for groceries and talked with at least one elderly neighbor. In his garage was a 1968 Mustang he bought new.”

“He didn’t belong to anything. He just went his own way, with all that gold.”

http://www.latimes.com/news/nation/nationnow/la-na-nn-carson-city-gold-20120917,0,5763811.story