II’s Top 10: The Most Popular Stories of 2013

From the near impossibility of beating the market to our annual ranking of U.S. equity analysts, here are the articles that captured readers’ attention.


As the curtain comes down on 2013, we look back at the stories that earned the most page views in the past 12 months:

1.Beating the Market Has Become Nearly Impossible,” by Julie Segal. With research showing that fewer and fewer investment managers deliver superior performance after expenses, Senior Writer Segal asks a provocative question: Is alpha dead? Her reporting is a must-read in a year when few managers succeeded in beating the nearly 30 percent rise in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index.

2.Ian Bremmer and Nouriel Roubini Unveil the New Abnormal,” by Ian Bremmer and Nouriel Roubini. Just when investors were gaining confidence in the global economic recovery, analysts Bremmer and Roubini warn that the world remained as vulnerable as ever to economic, political and financial crises. “The wise investor,” they write, “is prepared to be surprised.”

3.Wisconsin’s Public Pension Works to Spread the Cheddar,” by Frances Denmark. Senior Writer Denmark shows how Wisconsin’s unique practice of having retirees share in the ups — and downs — of the markets has created one of the best-funded public pension systems in the U.S., and one that could serve as a model for other states, like neighboring Illinois, that are in need of pension reform.

4.Blackstone Group’s GSO Capital: Lenders of Last Resort,” by Julie Segal. The financial crisis was a boon for distressed-debt specialists, and few have capitalized on it as well as GSO Capital Partners. Segal shows how the firm, founded by former Drexel Burnham Lambert executives Bennett Goodman, Douglas Ostrover and Tripp Smith, has grown its assets more than fivefold since being acquired by Blackstone in 2008, and has become a key provider of capital to corporate America.

5.Hedge Fund Manager John Burbank’s Investment Alchemy,” by Jan Alexander. What do you get when you combine macrotrader and hedge fund founder John Burbank III with a team of quants led by former State Street Global Advisors portfolio manager Tim Garry? The answer, reports Senior Writer Jan Alexander, is a nearly $4 billion hedge fund firm, Passport Capital, that has managed to smooth the bumps of market volatility and deliver strong risk-adjusted returns.

6.The 2013 Hedge Fund Rising Stars,” by Imogen Rose-Smith. Our annual list of the best up-and-coming talent in the hedge fund industry puts a spotlight on a diverse cast of winners, including a former Iraq War combat veteran who is a director of investor relations at London-based Capula Investment Management and a Hong Kong–born analyst-turned-fund-manager who’s leading the diversification of San Jose, California’s pension fund into hedge funds.

7.The 2013 Tech 50: Masters of a Volatile Universe,” by Jeffrey Kutler. Our annual ranking of the leaders in financial technology underscores the growing importance of social media in the industry.

8.Understanding Apple Requires an Analysis of Fundamentals and Psychology,” by Vitaliy Katsenelson. Speculation about the outlook for Apple was almost an industry of its own in 2013, which was not surprising considering the sharp fall and subsequent rebound in the stock price of the world’s most-valuable company. In his Inefficient Markets column, Contributor Katsenelson contends that investors need to separately weigh the psychology toward Apple, which can be mercurial, and the company’s fundamentals, which he says will rely more and more on the broader Apple ecosystem as competitors offer increasingly appealing smartphones and tablets of their own.

9.Analysts Beware! A Machine Has Its Eye on Your Job,” by S.L. Mintz. The combination of big data and powerful algorithms is enabling firms to crunch sales data, valuation metrics and even Twitter sentiment for investment signals. Contributor Mintz shows how computer analytics are giving flesh-and-blood analysts a run for the money.

10.Fed Delay Spurs Market Disarray,” by Thomas W. Johnson. In a year in which markets swung wildly based on whether participants thought the Federal Reserve Board would or wouldn’t taper its bond purchases, we identified the U.S. research analysts whom investors rely upon to steer a path through the volatility.