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.
The markets are already pricing in the near certainty of a quarter-point rise from the Bank of England by May with another increase expected before October. But perhaps not wanting to be left out, the zealous guardians of Europe’s monetary system, who measure inflation rates across the 17-country bloc to the second decimal point, have recently raised their rhetoric to such an extent that investors are openly speculating that in spite of the continent’s tight fiscal policy European rates are now likely to rise before the end of summer. As they say in the land of macro investing, the cycle isn’t over until the Europeans lift rates. Just don’t bet on money staying tight for long. - Hugh Hendry
It seems that it was just yesterday that everyone's favorite outspoken Eclectica manager, Hugh Hendry, was advising that the best course of action is panicking. It appears his message was not lost on one Ashton Kutcher. Per the HuffPo: "Ashton Kutcher is in hard training for the apocalypse, but this no big screen role: he's afraid that armageddon is coming.....Kutcher is stocking up on guns and spending hours and hours running the canyons near his home, pushed on by visions of being chased by wild boar. He's also taking daily bikram yoga sessions, and learning Krav Maga, a deadly Israeli combat technique taught to high-powered special ops. All of my physical fitness regimen is completely tailored around the end of day. I stay fit for no other reason than to save the people I care about." And so survivalism has just gone mainstream...and copycat cool. Good luck trying to find stockpiles of MRE rations, freeze dried beans, and ammo going forward.
This evening's must read report comes from Hugh Hendry, arguably the most creative and free-thinking money manager in the world, of The Eclectica Fund.
Hugh Hendry Interview With King World News: "If Inflation Is A Monetary Phenomenon, Hyperinflation Is A Political Phenomenon"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 09/28/2010 15:27 -0400
In which we learn that that outspoken iconoclast has now taken on a $2 billion short position in Japanese credit, although presumably not cash-based as Ecclectica is well under that in AUM. For those who wish to recreate this position synthetically, we refer you to Dylan Grice's ATM swaption in the 10Y10Y forward which is the cheapest way to follow in Hugh's footsteps, and, ahem, may we remind you of Takefuji's recent bankruptcy...). His bet is in essence a gamble against the "China will never fail" bandwagon: "I am just intrigued as to the optionality, as to the profits that could be made, should that revert. And because it's deemed to be impossible, the trade is actually asymmetric. By golly if I am right, I can make a lot of money." Another topic is the already much discussed malinvestment in China, which was the centerpiece of the argument between Hendry and Faber from some time ago (link for clip). But back to what actual things Hugh is doing, he gives the following specifics: "I am shorting 10 year industrial corporate debt with 1% yield. Should this ricochet, which began in America, should the west be grappling with fears of recession, it goes to Asia, it goes to China, and I do not believe they have the vitality and consumption to pull the global economy out." And just in case there is any doubt how Hendry view the endgame, here it is:"At these immense levels of yen strength, Japan is bankrupt. And when it's bankrupt it has given up hope, and there is huge political legitimacy to then do quantitative easing, which leads to the debauchery of the system." In other words: the nuclear response of monetary debasement is certainly coming. We won't spoil what Hendry says on gold (suffice to add the following quote: "We will see a joint meltup in US Treasrys and gold") - for his insights on where the metal will go, for a shoutout to all Zero Hedge Hugh Hendry fans, and for much more, listen to the whole interview.
It is no longer fun being a hedge fund manager - first, up until the recent POMO-based rally in stocks, HFs were down for the year, and what is far worse, they were underperforming the broader market - a death sentence for pretty much every hedge fund, as this is proof a fund can not extract alpha and thus has no reason to collect 2 and 20. While the recent ramp in the market is welcome by all bulls, the question remains just how leveraged into the latest beta rally hedge funds have been. If after the nearly 10% rise in the past 2 weeks any individual HFs are still underperforming the market, it is a near certain "lights out." To everyone else: congratulations - you just bought yourself another 3 months of breathing room. Better hope the Fed makes good on its QE promises one day soon. In the meantime, Bloomberg Matthew Lynn and Ecclectica's Hugh Hendry both confirm that in these days of instantaneous liquidity demands, and cheap strategy replicators in the form of ETFs which provide the same beta capture as hedge funds, at a fraction of the price, it is only going to get worse and worse for the once high flying community. In fact, Hugh Hendry goes as far as suggesting that 10 years from now 80% of all hedge funds will be gone. Our personal view is that the target will be reached in a far shorter time frame.