The following chart, from the Balyasny Asset Management Q3 letter to investors, show just that: the magic of hedge fund leverage in the New Normal.
Specifically, it shows that while BAM's AUM from 2010 until Q3 2013 has increased only modestly (light blue), it is the dark blue bar portion that shows just how much "purchasing power", i.e., allocation, has been deployed by the fund, thanks to the good graces of its Prime Brokers, who have allowed it expand its leverage from 100% to nearly 500%! Compare this to the peak leverage in the old normal which was roughly half: yes, that was at a time when the so-called credit bubble exploded. It has now doubled.
During our soft-close period over the last two years, we have doubled the size of our allocations and our balance sheet while keeping AUM roughly the same. Our plan is to accept only enough new capital to allow us to keep our assets / notional dollars allocated ratio at 1 to 5.
We find that portfolio managers on average utilize about 70-80% of their maximum allocations – so $1 of assets to $5 in notional allocated dollars typically results in our target gross leverage of 3.5-4x. We will be very disciplined with this so please let us know as early as possible if you are interested in increasing your allocation next year.
Of course, when one is levered nearly 5x, being "very disciplined" is usually a good idea.
But who would be on the hook should things turn south, and the massive leverage blows up in the face of Balyasny and its LPs? Not Balyasny of course, but the Prime Brokers who provided the fund with 5x leverage. Prime Brokers who just happen to be the same TBTF banks that were bailed out last time around, and which will have to be bailed out once again as soon as the Bernanke levitation finally ends.
But most importantly, the chart shows quite clearly that without any new equity injections in the market, the one and only source of incremental "capital" injected into risk assets is, you guessed it, debt.