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The Morning Brief: Lampert Soldiers On With Sears; Vornado Dumps JC Penney Shares

Hedge fund investor Edward Lampert personally acquired about 1.24 million shares of Sears Holdings for $44.36 apiece, according to a regulatory filing Tuesday. Lampert, who serves as Sears chairman and CEO and already a 10% shareholder himself, disclosed Monday that he bought the shares from his hedge fund and Sears’ majority owner, ESL Investments, on March 4, with about $55 million of his private funds. Shares of the struggling retailer surged 5.57 percent, to close at $46.53.

Shares of JC Penney plunged more than 10.6 percent after Vornado Realty Trust sold nearly half its stake in the struggling retailer, according to a report. Vornado, whose chairman Steven Roth sits on JC Penney’s board, was the second largest investor behind William Ackman’s Pershing Square Capital Management.

The day after energy company Hess announced a series of measures designed to boost stock value, Paul Singer’s Elliott Associates, which is planning a proxy fight at the upcoming annual meeting, was unimpressed. On March 4 Hess proposed a slate of six new board members and said it plans to exit certain businesses as part of its transformation into becoming a pure play exploration and production company. “Hess’s announcement is incomplete and it lacks accountability,” Elliott said in a regulatory filing. “For a company that has hidden, for 17 years, behind an entrenched board, unfocused strategy, opaque disclosure, and flagrant disregard for its obligations to shareholders, today’s promises are neither credible nor sufficient.” Shares of Hess gained 1.42 percent at the $69.82 close Tuesday.

Another day, another hedge fund performance index is released. The new data is called Dow Jones Credit Suisse Core Hedge Fund Index, which reported a loss of 0.28 percent in February. The index said five of the seven index component strategies reported negative results for the month. For the year, however, the index is up 1.32 percent. All seven components are in the black for the first two months, led by long-short equity, which is up 2.52 percent after a slight profit in February.

The insider trading trial of former SAC Capital Management portfolio manager Mathew Martoma has been pushed back by three months to give his legal team more time to go through millions of pages of documents. U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe scheduled another hearing for June 5, when he said he will set a date for the trial.

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