Traders Seek Fortune In AIG Stock

American International Group Inc., a symbol of the financial crisis, has morphed into a playground for speculators.

At a traders meeting before the market opened on Monday, Scott Redler, chief strategist at hedge fund T3 Capital Management, noted that AIG’s stock hadn’t moved much for days and was ripe for a breakout. Whether it headed up or down, he said, the traders should be ready.

AIG shares, trading below $40 at the opening bell, climbed within 15 minutes to $41, then above $42. ‘This thing’s going to $45,’ T3 President Marc Sperling said, watching his six computer monitors. ‘It’s on every trader’s radar screen across the country.’

AIG shares rose 21% for the day, and T3’s traders did ‘great,’ said Mr. Redler. Since Aug. 5, the shares — deemed highly risky by most analysts — have more than tripled. ‘The stock paid the traders’ bills all summer,’ Mr. Redler said.

A year after the government sought to avert a market meltdown by rescuing some of the country’s biggest financial firms, speculative traders are feasting on these companies’ remains. Shares of two government wards, mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, bounced between about 60 cents and $2 in August. Shares of Lehman Brothers, left to fail by the government and currently in bankruptcy proceedings, rose from five cents to 20 cents in recent weeks.

AIG, arguably, has been the biggest casino of all. In the past seven weeks, its common shares have careened between $13 and $55, surging past $54 on Tuesday before closing at $45.80.

The extraordinary price action is a dramatic display of an unintended consequence of the U.S. bailout of AIG. Last Sept. 16, the government propped up the faltering company by trading $85 billion in loans for an 80% stake in AIG in the form of preferred shares, which don’t trade on the market. It allowed the other 20% of the company’s equity — its millions of common shares — to continue to trade publicly.

Some analysts declared the deeply indebted company’s common shares basically dead money. Many buy-and-hold investors bailed out. That has left AIG’s common shares — $6.2 billion worth, as of Tuesday — trading most actively between short-term traders, who buy and sell based on market momentum and bet against each other in risky options trades. Often they use borrowed funds, amplifying their gains and losses.

Dominating the recent move in AIG stock were professional day traders like those at T3. But Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. also owned AIG shares during the run-up, according to people familiar with the matter. Fund managers including AllianceBernstein LP and Davis Selected Advisers also held the shares during a portion of the run-up, according to fund documents.

Taxpayers aren’t profiting, or taking a hit, from the movement in AIG’s common stock. That’s because the securities the government owns, preferred shares, aren’t traded. The government will recoup most of its investment if AIG can repay its debts through asset sales or profits. While a run-up in common shares would typically reflect an increase in expectations of a company’s overall value, in this case, AIG has to repay roughly $80 billion before holders of common stock can expect to see their share of profits.

Alex Herrera, head of Soldier Capital LLC, a 26-member day-trading firm in Ramsey, N.J., has been among those buying and selling AIG. A former floor trader on the New York Stock Exchange, Mr. Herrera says he often trades blocks of 100,000 shares, using funds he borrows through the firm to make bets of as much as 15 times the size of his portfolio.

On some days during the past month, AIG trading volume topped 130 million shares — nearly equaling the total number of existing common shares — up from less than 10 million a day in early August. Trading by firms such as Soldier Capital is ‘one of the reasons you’re seeing all this volume,’ says Mr. Herrera, 40 years old.

Susan Pulliam / Tom Lauricella

堪称金融危机标志的美国国际集团(American International Group Inc.)已经变成了投机者的乐园。

对冲基金T3 Capital Management的首席策略师瑞德勒(Scott Redler)在周一股市开盘前的交易员会议上说,AIG的股票多日未见波动,已到了大幅涨落的时候。无论是涨是跌,交易员们都应当有所准备。

Bloomberg
AIG股票当天开盘价格不到40美元,在15分钟内就攀升至41美元,随后又上升到42美元上方。T3总裁斯佩林(Marc Sperling)看着自己面前的6个电脑显示器说,这支股票会涨到45美元,美国各地的交易员都在密切注意它。

瑞德勒说,AIG股票当天上涨21%,T3的交易员收获颇丰。8月5日以来,被大多数分析师认为风险很高的AIG股票上涨了两倍以上。瑞德勒说,交易员们整个夏天的收入全靠它了。

美国政府为避免市场崩溃而对一些规模最大的金融机构展开救助已有一年,如今投机者正借这些公司实现暴利。今年8月,受政府保护的两家抵押贷款巨头房利美(Fannie Mae)和房地美(Freddie Mac)的股价从0.6美元左右反弹至2美元。没有得到政府救助而崩溃的雷曼兄弟(Lehman Brothers)目前正处于破产程序,其股价近几周从0.05美元上涨至0.2美元。

AIG堪称其中最大的赌场。过去7周,AIG普通股在13美元-55美元之间波动,周二飙升54美元上方,随后收于45.8美元。

这种不同寻常的价格行为戏剧性地展示了美国政府救助AIG的一个意外结果。去年9月16日,美国政府以850亿美元贷款换取了AIG80%的股权,以优先股的形式持有,不上市交易,以此支撑起这个摇摇欲坠的公司。政府允许AIG其余的20%资产(数百万股普通股)继续公开交易。

一些分析师宣称负债累累的AIG的普通股基本上已经不值钱了。许多采用买进并持有策略的投资者抛售该股。这使得AIG普通股(截止周二价值62亿美元)在短线交易员之间交易最为活跃,这些交易员根据市场趋势买卖股票,相互做高风险的期权交易。他们通常会用借贷的资金交易,从而放大收益或损失。

像T3的交易员这类的专业短线交易员最近主导了AIG股价的波动。但知情人士说,高盛集团(Goldman Sachs Group Inc.)和摩根大通(J.P.Morgan Chase & Co.)在上涨阶段也持有AIG股票。AllianceBernstein LP和Davis Selected Advisers等基金管理机构的文件显示,这些机构在上涨过程中也一度持有AIG股票。

AIG普通股的涨跌对纳税人没有影响。因为政府所持有的优先股不能交易。政府只有在AIG通过出售资产或实现盈利偿还债务时收回大部分投资。虽然普通股上涨通常反映出一家公司的整体价值预期增长,但对于AIG来说,它必须归还大约800亿美元,然后普通股股东才能分享利润。

位于新泽西州的短线交易公司Soldier Capital LLC有26名成员,其负责人赫雷拉(Alex Herrera)一直在买卖AIG股票。曾为纽约证券交易所场内交易员的赫雷拉说,他通过公司借入交易资金,通常以10万股为单位进行交易,做出15倍于自己投资组合规模的押注。

过去一个月中的几天,AIG股票交易量一度超过1.3亿股,几乎相当于现有普通股的总量,而8月初该股日交易量不到1,000万股。40岁的赫雷拉说,Soldier Capital这类公司的交易操作是该股交易量如此巨大的一个原因。

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