Audit Notes: SAC’s returns sink, two-track recovery, Wall Street pay

The New York Post shows Steve Cohen's results fell to earth as feds investigated

The New York Post’s Michelle Celarier has a great piece of enterprise reporting on Stevie Cohen’s SAC Capital.

She finds that since 2010, when the insider trading probe began to ensnare Cohen’s giant hedge fund, SAC’s returns have trailed the S&P 500 by a full percentage point.

All traders and investors have an off spell. The vast majority fail to beat the overall market.

Which is true and which is why it’s so striking that SAC’s worst three-year period in its history just happened to coincide with an aggressive federal investigation into its illegal trading. SAC has delivered an astonishing 25 percent average annual return throughout its history, about three and a half times higher than the overall market over the same time.

The Post:

As it turns out, the best years for SAC — and its investors — were precisely when Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara said SAC became a “magnet for cheaters” — between 1999 and 2010.

And since the probe began:

In the almost three years since then, SAC has netted very pedestrian annualized returns of 13.45 percent — trailing even the S&P 500’s 14.4 percent gain over the same period.

It’s the first three-year period in SAC’s history where the S&P beat Cohen.

Perhaps Cohen was just distracted by all the feds in his office.

The Wall Street Journal has a very good front page piece on how the four year old economic recovery has bypassed huge swaths of the population:

Indeed, households earning $50,000 or more have become steadily more confident over the past year and a half, according to a monthly consumer survey conducted by RBC Capital Markets, though confidence dipped during last month’s partial government shutdown. Among lower-income households confidence has stagnated. The gap in confidence between the two groups is near its widest ever, noted RBC chief U.S. economist Tom Porcelli.

“If you look at guys with just a high-school diploma or less than a high-school diploma, those guys are still in a recession,” Mr. Porcelli said. The confidence figures, he said, “really drive home this idea of a bifurcation in the U.S. economy.”

That bifurcation, Mr. Porcelli added, isn’t only bad for those being left behind. It is also hurting the broader recovery, because it means many families are able to spend only on essential items. Consumer spending rose just 0.1% in September after adjusting for inflation, the Commerce Department said Friday, and Morgan Stanley last week said it expected the 2013 holiday shopping season to be the weakest since 2008.

More like this, please.

— Today in dog-bites-man headlines, The Wall Street Journal:

Wall Street Compensation to Rise

But only by 4 percent, apparently.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , , ,