Hedge fund performance continues to be weak so far in 2014 and this week was no different as long/short funds found to their dismay that trading on rational thought and fundamental analysis was for losers. However, global macro strategies are doing the worst of all as carry trades unwind, sanctions create inflows, and geopolitical chaos creates nonsense from sense. The best performing hedge fund strategy… buying-the-most-shorted is beaten only by Bonds.. and in first place of all assets – Gold.
When it comes to returns, 2013 will be best remembered as the fifth consecutive year in which the S&P 500, lead by Chief Risk Officer and Portfolio Manager Ben Bernanke (replaced by Janet Yellen in 2014 following a bumper 30%+ year), outperformed over 90% of all hedge funds, which as the recent beta blow up has shown, have virtually no original “alpha” ideas, and all merely piggyback on the same high beta “greater fool”, hedge fund hotel trades and/or lever on beta as much as their Prime Broker will allow them (in many cases quite a lot).
And yet, hedge fund investors were perfectly happy to keep handing over 20% of their upside and paying a 2% management fee when they could have generated the same returns for free by simply buying the SPY ETF.
According to a just released ranking by Institutional Investor magazine, The 25 top earners of 2013 raked in a total of $21.15 billion. That’s roughly 50 percent more than the 25 best-paid managers reaped in each of the previous two years. Four managers earned more than $1 billion, while a fifth just missed that distinction. To qualify for the list, a manager needed to have earned at least $300 million in 2013, or 50 percent more than the 2013 cutoff.
“The amount of experience he has is ridiculous,” says former JPM prop trader Galuti, adding “- in a positive way,” as he explains why former Clinton Commerce secretary (and Obama chief of staff) Bill Daley has joined the small Swiss-based hedge fund. The revolving door of favors continues as Daley, who The FT reports will be based in Chicago and oversee US expansion (as well as provide macroeconomic and political advice), joins an ever-growing number of former Obama administration officials to have taken jobs in the financial sector.
As The FT reports, Bill Daley, the former White House chief of staff, is to join the hedge fund Argentière Capital, which was founded last year by leaders of JPMorgan’s disbanded proprietary trading division.
Mr Daley, who was also Commerce Secretary under President Bill Clinton, joins a number of former Obama administration officials to have taken jobs in the financial sector.
He will be based in Chicago and help spearhead the fund’s US expansion, as well as provide macroeconomic and political advice.
Readers may recall an ugly story that broke earlier this summer, when New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman rebuked the news/business information firm Thomson Reuters for selling access to key economic survey data two seconds early to high-frequency algorithmic traders. The story strongly suggested that some Thomson Reuters customers were using their two-second head start (an eternity in the modern world of computerized trading) to front-run the markets.
“The early release of market-moving survey data undermines fair play in the markets,” Schneiderman said, back in the second week of July. Thomson Reuters suspended the practice of selling two-second head starts after Schneiderman insisted upon a change. Still, the firm defiantly refused to declare the change permanent and insisted that it had the right to “legally distribute non-governmental data” to “fee-paying subscribers.”
“And if you need to sell, why are you selling at the worst time of day? Why are you selling in Asian time, which is always the thinnest section of trading? Why don’t you wait for London and Chicago to take over?
And the answer is very obvious: These markets are clearly and blatantly being manipulated. The people doing it have clear price objectives. My guess is they want to see a print below $1,300 (on gold) before they are done. That will allow people (trading for the bullion banks) to make profits on their shorts.
There were many casualties following Friday’s 4% gold rout, but none were hurt more than one-time hedge fund idol John Paulson, who according to estimates, lost more than $300 million of his own money in one day.
Per Bloomberg: “Paulson has roughly $9.5 billion invested across his hedge funds, of which about 85 percent is invested in gold share classes. Gold dropped 4.1 percent today, shaving about $328 million from his net worth on this bet alone.” This is merely the latest insult to what has otherwise been a 3 year-long injury for Paulson and his few remaining investors, whose very inappropriately named Advantage Plus is among the bottom 10 hedge funds for the third year in a row. Yet despite being a one-hit wonder thanks to one lucrative idea (long ABX CDS) generated by one of his former employees (Pelegrini), Paulson still has been lucky enough to somehow amass a $10 billion personal fortune which can have a $300 million downswing in one day, even if it is in an asset class which eventually will go only one way – up. Unless, of course, like so many other fly by night billionaires, Paulson too hasn’t somehow managed to lever up all his equity into numerous other downstream ventures, and where a $300 million blow up leads to margin calls and other terminal liquidity outcomes.
“The recent decline in gold prices has not changed our long-term thesis,” John Reade, a partner and gold strategist at Paulson & Co., said in an e-mailed statement. “We started investing in gold at $900 in April 2009 and while it’s down from its peak to $1500, it’s up considerably from our cost.”
In this interview with investor Kyle Bass from Day 1 at AmeriCatalyst 6th of November 2011, in Austin, Texas, Bass discloses his discussion about the economic crisis with a senior from the Obama Administration. According to Kyle Bass the basic solution coming from this senior was: “We’re Just Going to Kill the Dollar”.
Killing the US Dollar in this context means keep printing more US Dollars in order to weaken the dollar to make exports cheaper through inflation. Massive inflation might be the answer for the Obama Administration, but in the process your purchasing power will be destroyed. And because the US Dollar is the world’s reserve currency the eventual impact of inflation would have an impact that would reach far beyond those holding US Dollar assets.
Thousands of paper currencies has come and gone over the years and there is no question if the dollar, or the euro for that sake, will have its value go to zero; the question is when?
Forget Ackman, Einhorn, Bass, And Hendry. There is only one name in the world of equity market performance in 2012 – Rachel Fox, of ‘Desperate Housewives’ fame. With a 30%-plus performance, the day-trading debutante has turned from actress to activist as she day-trades her way through the day. The 16-year-old actress who made 338 trades last year, based mostly on technicals, “”…fell in love with the idea and the concept of being able to just buy something, have it go up, or have it go down, depending on which way you bet it and have it make you money. I thought, oh, my, gosh, that’s amazing, and so easy, I have to do this.” If ever there was a sign of the extreme bubble that central planning has re-created for us – it has to be this. Her advice: “you have to really just trade on your own instincts and not just be like, oh, this person says this is great, let me just go for it.” LOL, OMG, IKR ;-( Our advice: next time readers are discussing stock tips with a random employee of Hustler Club, Scores or Spearmint Rhino – don’t just stare, listen! Said ‘random employee’ is almost certainly outpeforming the “smart money”, and the broader market, by a wide margin. Thank you Ben.
As stocks have risen in recent years, the big hedge funds and the “too big to fail” banks have used borrowed money to make absolutely enormous profits. But when you use debt to potentially multiply your profits, you also create the possibility that your losses will be multiplied if the markets turn against you. When the next stock market crash happens, and the gigantic pyramid of risk, debt and leverage on Wall Street comes tumbling down, will highly leveraged banks such as Goldman Sachs ask the federal government to bail them out? The use of leverage is one of the greatest threats to our financial system, and yet most Americans do not even really understand what it is. The following is a basic definition of leverage from Investopedia: “The use of various financial instruments or borrowed capital, such as margin, to increase the potential return of an investment.” Leverage allows firms to make much larger bets in the financial markets than they otherwise would be able to, and at this point Goldman Sachs and the big hedge funds are pushing leverage to ridiculous extremes. When the financial markets go up and they win on those bets, they can win very big. For example, revenues at Goldman Sachs increased by about 30 percent in 2012 and Goldman stock has soared by more than 40 percent over the past 12 months. Those are eye-popping numbers. But leverage is a double-edged sword. When the markets turn, Goldman Sachs and many of these large hedge funds could be facing astronomical losses.
Greek Government Bonds (GGBs) jumped by over 12% today to over EUR40 – by far the highest post-PSI – as fast money floods the limited size illquid market to front-run the Greek buyback. Every day that goes by means less and less benefit for the Greek people as the discounted price of buying back the debt – with all of the money that Greece doesn’t have, goes up. This is a perfect example of greater-fool-theory at work as everyone knows that if this price gets too high, the Greek government (via Troika) will (should) reneg on the buyback which will cause GGB prices to plunge back towards zero. What many misunderstand is that the buyback crystalizes the losses for banks that currently carry this worthless paper on their books at Par and garner the carry (and accruals) and thus in true European fashion, the unintended consequence of this action lines the pockets of fast-money hedge funds along for the short-ride and drains any pretense of capital from the Greek banking system.
Below are some of the key highlights from Kyle Bass’ latest, and as usual, must read letter:
On central banks and the final round of global monetary debasement:
Central bankers are feverishly attempting to create their own new world: a utopia in which debts are never restructured, and there are no consequences for fiscal profligacy, i.e. no atonement for prior sins. They have created Potemkin villages on a Jurassic scale. The sum total of the volatility they are attempting to suppress will be less than the eventual volatility encountered when their schemes stop working. Most refer to comments like this as heresy against the orthodoxy of economic thought. We have a hard time understanding how the current situation ends any way other than a massive loss of wealth and purchasing power through default, inflation or both. Continue reading »
One of the best presentations at this year’s Economist Buttonwood gathering (which is still being live-streamed here), was, as usually happens, Hugh Hendry. The contrarian Scotsman, who describes his style as one where he “positions ourselves outside the accepted belief system”, managed to say in 15 minutes what takes most pundits hours, and that’s without the appendices, charts, long-winded essays, and graphs. Because when it comes to conveying ideas, simplicity always wins, and few are as good at speaking in simple, logical terms, as Hugh Hendry. Continue reading »
A week after the second most populous hedge fund hotel, Google, blew up, it is now time for good ole’ Hotel Caaplefornia itself. The HF holders table below is presented without comment (as we have said all there is to say many times). Remember: orderly, cool, calm, collected single file procession through the tight exit: and nobody panic!
Hayman Capital’s Kyle Bass is back and cutting through the caustic bullshit that surrounds every waking moment in this kick-the-can world. Dispelling the myth of our ‘deleveraging’ virtue, with global debt having grown from $80tn to over $200tn in the last ten years alone (a 10.7% CAGR) and the frightening reality of central bank balance sheet growth of 16% per annum, Bass concludes (rightly) that “you can’t do this for very long” as governments infinitely leverage and central banks have begun the endgame of open-ended money-printing. Addressing the question of timing, Bass notes that while Europe and Japan are ‘perceived’ to be ‘staying together’ there are in fact devastating losses occurring (ask Greek bond-holders) and he firmly believes that “Germany will never go joint-and-several with the rest of Europe.” The world sits at a place it has never been before in peace-time – as far as global debt balances and deficits – and that is why the global investing playbook is so hard. He goes on to address the US fiscal debacle, Japan, hyper-levered economies, delayed inflationary outcomes, and worries that the cost-push (lower GDP, higher CPI) prints are just beginning in Europe.
As a fiduciary, and something all investors should consider – “Given what we see coming, our job is not to lose money!”
On Fiscal Cliff: Won’t happen – politicians won’t fix anything.
On the CBO Budget crisis: As a non-partisan third-party ‘accountant’, “I can’t fix it!”
On Inflation: “It takes time – but it’s coming”
On Housing – he doesn’t believe housing will go up but has stabilized. “Everyone who ever thought of buying a house, has bought a house” and we need to flush the inventory – which wil take a few years.
On Trading The End of the World: Use Convexity – which is grossly concentrated in Japan
Own anything that is nailed down – productive assets!