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Ascend Capital LLC is a San Francisco-based hedge fund that was founded in 1999, and Benjamin David Slavet has been serving as the CFO of the fund since 2005. Slavet joined the fund in September 2001. Prior to joining Ascend Capital, Slavet served as a senior manager at KPMG between 1992 and 2000. Slavet graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1992 and is a CPA.

Ascend Capital had a 13F portfolio of approximately $2.7 billion as of March 31, 2011. Below is a list of Ascend’s trading activity as of first quarter 2011:

Security

Ticker

Value (x$1000)

Activity

Return

Blackrock Inc

BLK

$46,460

-50%

-2.8%

Seagate Technology

STX

$29,280

-36%

14.5%

Celanese Corp Del

CE

$57,374

-34%

23.0%

United Technologies

UTX

$25,456

-31%

6.5%

Kellogg Co

K

$26,990

-15%

2.9%

Time Warner Cable

TWC

$35,670

-13%

10.6%

M G I C Investment

MTG

$25,195

13%

-29.3%

Comcast Corp New

CMCSK

$161,379

22%

4.8%

Chemtura Corp

CHMT

$40,894

61%

9.2%

N I I Holdings Inc

NIHD

$42,109

66%

4.5%

Lucent Technol

ALU

$29,624

74%

1.0%

Tenet Healthcare

THC

$26,075

118%

-17.4%

Air Products&Chem

APD

$107,033

141%

7.9%

Republic Services

RSG

$67,111

148%

4.6%

Avnet Inc

AVT

$29,119

152%

-4.3%

Huntsman Corp

HUN

$36,751

840%

14.9%

Bank Of America

BAC

$93,310

New

-19.9%

Metlife Inc

MET

$83,869

New

-3.8%

N Y S E Euronext

NYX

$41,181

New

-9.7%

Unum Group

UNM

$40,152

New

-1.6%

Prudential Financial

PRU

$39,491

New

3.0%

Baidu Inc

BIDU

$37,472

New

6.5%

Valassis Comm

VCI

$35,070

New

5.0%

Xerox Corp

XRX

$30,716

New

-1.6%

Molex Inc

MOLXA

$29,049

New

8.4%

L D K Solar Co Ltd

LDK

$28,557

New

-43.8%

Jpmorgan Chase

JPM

$27,659

New

-11.1%

American Express

AXP

$26,836

New

17.9%

C M E Group Inc

CME

$26,238

New

-2.7%

Emerson Electric Co

EMR

$25,417

New

-2.5%

Ascend has made some good bets and bad bets, which at the end of the day, cancel each other out on the overall basis. It sold around 50% of its BLK holdings (about 234K shares) in the first quarter of 2011. Out of the securities that Ascend sold, BLK is the only security that has generated a negative return since the end of 1Q2011. The other securities that Ascend decided to trim off its holdings have all made positive returns – some as high as 23% - since March 31st.

Neverthless, since Ascend did not completely sell its holdings, it still benefited from the rally to a smaller extent. STX is probably one of the regrets for Ascend as the stock generated a 15% return since the end of March. Edward Lampert’s ESL Investments has probably benefited most from the rally as it had increased its holdings by more than 100% in the first quarter of 2011. The trim off in CE was even a worse bet for Ascend as the stock brought in a lucrative 23% since March 31. Tom Claugus’ GMT Capital was among the very few that was bullish for CE in the first quarter of 2011 and it sure is also among the very few that has enjoyed the index-beating return.

Ascend took a bullish stand on financial stocks during the first quarter of 2011, investing more than $200 million in a variety of stocks and most of which are new holdings. Unluckily, the financial stocks Ascend picked mostly had negative returns, with the exception of AXP.

One of the best bets for Ascend was HUN, as it increased its holdings by 840% during the first quarter and the stock generated 15% since March 31. Ascend was not the only bullish fund for HUN, as it was accompanied by John Lykouretzos’ Hoplite Capital and Doug Silverman’s Senator Investment Group. In terms of percentage loss, Ascend got hurt most by LDK, as the stock lost 44% in value since the end of March.

Overall, Ascend showed a lackluster performance of less than 1% return since the end of March. The good bets it made were mostly cancelled out by the bad ones. However, we like the long-term performance and believe investors may benefit by focusing on these top stock picks.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

Source: Ascend Capital's Favorite Stock Picks