There are various reasons why not only we at Zero Hedge are big fans of Hugh Hendry. One of them of course is his uncanny ability to not only tell the truth, but to bash his competitors faces into it (as Joseph Stiglitz so vividly recalls), even if it means running squarely against the consensus. The other reason are self-aware statements such as this one via the FT today: "What I found was that when I speak in person, and especially when it’s television and timing is so acute, it gives the impression that I am cavalier and, if you will, full of myself,” says Mr Hendry, speaking by phone from his office in Bayswater, central London." Hendry was obviously discussing his self-imposed media blackout which unlike other prominent financiers is not being used for book sales promotion purposes but appears quite genuine. It also means he won't get to collect $200/appearance fees as a guest contributor on CNBC but we digress. "The danger when people look at that from a distance is that they try to align that with the guy that they’ve just given $50m or $75m to and it’s not the same person." iI is sad that none of the other talking muppet heads and "daily pundits" who appear on financial comedy TV to merely blow smoke up assorted holes and talk their books, don't share Hendry's revelations a little more often.
The global central bank market propping continues with the ECB following in the footsteps of the BOE and PBOC, and cutting its benchmark rate by 25 bps to 0.75%, and the deposit rate to 0%. EURUSD slides. In other news, today the BOE, PBOC and now ECB have all eased.... and ES is up a whopping 0.2%. Houston: we have a problem.
The past few years have produced an impression of the Chinese government that it is invincible, and it has miraculous control over the economic machine, that the slowdown is “intentionally” engineered by the government and everything within the economy is still very much under control. Unfortunately, most who use this argument to justify that the slowdown is not a big problem have all invariably forgotten that most economic slowdowns in recent memories started with central banks tightening monetary policy to control inflation and slow down the economy, and most, if not all, of the cases ended with recession that they did not want to get into. Many have also not realized how difficult it would be for China to relate its way out of a debt deflation. So how different China is in this regard is totally beyond our comprehension, and we are forced to suggest that the believers of China cult have gone delusional. As the economic slowdown becomes a reality and a hard landing unavoidable, more of the problems we have identified will surface. The cult will surely die within the next few years at most. The only questions are when it will finally die, and whether it will suffer a violent death or slow death.
Just because ZIRP is so 2009 (and will be until the end of central planning as the Fed can not afford to hike rates ever again), the ECB is now contemplating something far more drastic: charging depositors for the privilege of holding money. Enter NIRP, aka Negative Interest Rate Policy.
Classical Hendry moments.
There are deepening concerns in Switzerland about the debasement of the Swiss franc. The SNB has pegged the franc to the euro and is engaged in the same ultra loose monetary policies as the Federal Reserve, BOE and the ECB. The SNB won't allow the franc to rise above an arbitrary “ceiling” against the euro Walter Meier himself said on April 5 that the SNB is ready to buy foreign currencies in "unlimited quantities." Meier’s comments regarding the vastly depleted Swiss gold reserves came after Bayram Dincer, an analyst at LGT Capital Management in Pfaeffikon, Switzerland, called on the SNB to disclose where its gold is stored, in a letter published in the respected Swiss publication Finanz und Wirtschaft. Meier said that the SNB holds its physical gold reserves “domestically and internationally, with provisions for a crisis scenario being a main factor in the decision for this decentralized storage”. “The criteria for the storage countries are: appropriate regional diversification, exceptionally stable economic and political environments, immunity for central bank investments, access to a gold market where stocks could be liquidated if necessary,” he continued. He concluded by saying that “such a decentralized storage is still preferable to an exclusive storage in Switzerland. The listed factors can change over time and that’s why the central bank is reviewing and adapting the storage locations periodically.” The SNB’s monetary policies have been imprudent in recent years and their gold sales have lost the Swiss people a lot of money.
Today the ECB is expected to do absolutely nothing, although many have their hopes up that at the post announcement press conference Mario Draghi may possibly hint at some more easing (with what collateral we wonder, and with what Germany) to bring some spring into the step of a continent that has milked $1.3 trillion in 3 year repo/discount window borrowings for all their worth and then some. And instead if the ECB cuts its rate below the psychological barrier of 1% today, or at any time over the next several months, it will make Hugh Hendry once again that much richer. Recall as of November: "He’s made bets that he says will deliver a 40-to-1 return if the ECB cuts rates below 1% next year." Below is a full rundown of what to expect, and not to expected, from the former Goldmanite, now head of the central bank for the world's biggest economic region.
At The Milken Institute conference yesterday, Hugh Hendry delivered his usual eloquent and critical insights on the state of Europe. Beginning with the statement that "All of Europe has defaulted", the canny-wee-fella (translation: shrewd and cautious young chap) explained that "The political economy in Europe is such that the politicians chose to default on their spending obligations to their citizens in order to honor the pact with their financial creditors and so as time goes on, the politicians are being rejected." Between France's election of Mr. Hollande and Luxembourg's 'when times get tough you have to lie' Juncker, Hendry says the only inspiration for Europe is fiction as "you just can't make up how bad it is" as he goes on to discuss the precedent for a way forward, the grotesque distortions of fixed exchange rate regimes, why Wiemar happened, why the transfer union will never happen, Ayn Rand's reality, and fear politicians are feeling - ending with his view that "we are single-digit years away from the most profound market clearing moment".
Hugh Hendry is back with a bang after a two year hiatus with what so many have been clamoring for, for so long - another must read letter from one of the true (if completely unsung) visionary investors of our time: "I have not written to you at any great length since the winter of 2010. This is largely because not much has happened to change our views. We still see the global economy as grotesquely distorted by the presence of fixed exchange rates, the unraveling of which is creating financial anarchy, just as it did in the 1920s and 1930s. Back then the relevant fixes were around the gold standard. Today it is the dual fixed pricing regimes of the euro countries and of the dollar/renminbi peg."
Unlike some of the more noteworthy fund managers who appear on our TV screens all too often, Hugh Hendry seems to have been head-down hard at work. The appropriately named Eclectica fund that he manages has had a stupendous year as The FT reports his 'China Short' fund is up over 52% for the year. We discussed his already-solid performance back in September, when he was up a mere 40% YTD following an exceptional month in September. Given the difficulties of shorting Chinese firms directly, the deeply contrarian manager who makes no apologies for his view of a 1920's Japan-like crash in China is clearly doing something right. His positions in Japanese entities with large Chinese exposures makes great sense and the fact that he has kept outperforming this quarter even as Japanese credit has rallied back quite impressively, from spike wides in September and October, seems testament to our TV-Appearance-to-Performance anti-correlation thesis.
You know the old drill – China and Asia produce, the US consumes. They cycle their greenbacks back over this way, finance our debt, we buy more of their stuff, and the beat goes on. This model officially stopped with the launch of QE2, Hendry says, as the US officially started rejecting the globalization that had made the global economy hum (perhaps largely at the expense of US employment and manufacturing). With QE2, dollars were printed and exported – along with inflation – to Asia. This led to the countries in Asia – and Europe, too – raising rates to combat inflation. The result, he says, is that global economic growth has essentially ground to a halt. So what’s next? A crash, of course. All this and much more, but probably most notably, we learn that Hendry's has made bets that he says will deliver a 40-to-1 return if the ECB cuts rates below 1% next year. More inside.
After today's ridiculous move in the market, which brings back memories of either August 2007, March 2008, the reaction after the Tarp vote (the successful one), August 2011, when the market gyrated by 400 points on a daily basis, and many more bear market rallies, we hope to restores some semblance of normalcy by presenting the following series of clips all from Hugh Hendry speechs at the LSE's Alternative Investments Conference earlier this year. Must watch, because when everyone loses their mind, listening to some common sense is the best remedy.
The man who singlehandedly took "I would recommend you panic" and made it into one of the catch phrases of the year (if not decade), and who has recently been in a self-imposed media blackout, had a rare media appearance when late last week he appeared on the BBC show The Bottom Line Evan together with Guy Berruyer, chief executive of global business software supplier Sage Group; and internet entrepreneur Brent Hoberman, founder of online interior decoration business mydeco.com. Obviously we were mostly interested in what Hugh would say, and luckily he did say quite a lot, if nothing too shocking for those familiar with his generally cheery outlook on the world. Among the snazzy soundbites was his explanation that the UK is not in a recession, but a depression, something Zero Hedge has been saying about the entire, never mind England, for the past 2.5 years, and the proceeds to give the rational breakdown of the Greek situation, which as everyone knows is that it is purely due to political power grabbing and banker greed and financial innovation allowing the masking of reality. As for the outcome, we all know it: Greece defaults, creditors take major haircuts, speculators get blamed, etc.
It has been a while since we heard anything about everyone's favorite contrarian and most outspoken hedge fund manager, Hugh Hendry, and probably for a good reason. As everyone else was complaining about their performance (and P&L) collapsing, blaming it on everything from the weather, to Bernanke's diet, to fundmanetals and technicals, Hugh Hendry was raking it in and is now up 38.65% YTD, with a stunning +22.5% in August alone (or pretty much mirroring the collapse at Paulson & Co) and another 11% in September! As the FT reports, Hugh Hendry's Eclectica fund has "has soared in value over the past two months as global markets have plummeted and industry peers have suffered damaging losses." Hendry's opinion on China is no secret, with an indicative snippet being that he anticipates a 1920's Japan-like crash in China. And as was reported previously, based on his recent trade of buying up lost of Japan CDS of companies exposed to China, his outperformance is no suprise. Expect to hear much more about Hendry as the media gets tired of paraphrasing sob stories and actually focuses on the (very few) winners from the most recent market blow out, confirming that contrarian, non-lemming approaches to investing still do pay off.
Hugh Hendry proposes a very simple thought experiment to all those (apparently the Fed) who believe that QE2 can end: who will drive global growth if the suddenly marginal economy, that would be the US for some ungodly reason, contracts, which it already is, and will do so even more once rates start rising. Sorry, but unlike last time China is not here to pick up the slack. And it appears that China will not be stepping in to fill the growth void, read inflation, (read Jasmine revolution) which can only lead to more social unrest.