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More Evidence Wall Street Is Overpaid

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We'll be getting to this more next week when we do our piece on Mitt Romney and the private equity business, but one of the most frequently-overlooked problems of the financialization age is that a lot of our brilliant financial engineers are actually pretty damned average, when it comes to playing the market.

There's a great little piece at Zero Hedge about how hedge funds are having a terrible year (for the second straight year), with only 11% of all funds outperforming the Standard and Poor's 500, the basic stock index.

Here's Tyler's take on the panic in the hedge fund industry:

This is the worst yearly aggregate S&P 500 underperformance by the hedge fund industry in history, and also explains why the smooth sailing in the S&P500 belies the fact that nearly every single hedge fund manager (and at least 89% of all) is currently panicking like never before knowing very well there are only 4 more months left to beat the S&P or face terminal redemption requests. And with $1.2 trillion in gross equity positions, the day of redemption reckoning at the end of the year (and just after September 30 for that matter as well) could be the most painful yet. it also explains why, just like every other quarter in which career risk is at all time highs, HFs are dumping everything not nailed down and buying up AAPL, which as of June 30 was held by an all time high 230 hedge funds (more on that later).

Translating that into English, all those super-rich people who turned to hedge funds with their millions in the hopes that bunches of Whiz-Kids from Wharton and Harvard and Yale would find unseen and wildly creative investment ideas to fatten their fortunes – all those rich clients are actually finding out now that those same Whiz Kids are buying Apple just like the rest of us. Hey, it has to be a good stock, right? Everyone has an iPhone now.

Jesus. After all that craziness in the last decade or so, after MF and the London Whale and all that nuttiness, this is what it comes down to? These guys are buying Apple? Couldn't we have just started off doing that and saved ourselves all that trouble?

As is apparently also the case with Mitt Romney's PE business, which analysts have found often don't do much better than average if at all, the data shows more and more that we'd all be better off, and there'd be a lot less mischief, if the world's biggest and more powerful investment specialists just dumped money into humdrum baskets of stocks instead of racking their enormous brains to come up with exotic new trades.

Someday we'll get back to the time when the really smart guys from the best schools went to work for companies that built actual products, engineered more efficient cars, cured diseases, etc. Because it seems like our best minds kind of suck at investing.

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Matt Taibbi

Matt Taibbi is a contributing editor for Rolling Stone. He’s the author of five books and a winner of the National Magazine Award for commentary. Please direct all media requests to taibbimedia@yahoo.com.

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