With just a tad more than three weeks left in the year it is time to start focusing on what 2014 will likely bring. Of course, what really happens over the next twelve months is likely to be far different than what is currently expected but issuing prognostications, making conjectures and telling fortunes has always kept business brisk on Wall Street.
Nearly a year ago, we penned "Return = Cash + Beta + Alpha": in which we performed "An Inside Look At The World's Biggest And Most Successful "Beta" Hedge Fund. The fund in question was Bridgewater, and Bridgewater's performance was immaculate... until the summer when the sudden and dramatic rise in yields as a result of the Bernanke Taper experiment, blew up Bridgewater's returns for 2013 and at last check, at the end of June, was down 8% for the year. As further explained in ""Yield Speed Limits" And When Will "Risk Parity" Blow Up Again", an environment in which rates gap suddenly higher (and in the current kneejerk reaction market all moves are purely in the form of gaps as risk reprices from one quantum to another in milliseconds) is the last thing Ray Dalio's strategy wants. Be that as it may, and successful as Dalio's fund may have been until now, tonight James Montier of Jeremy Grantham's GMO takes none other than Bridgewater to task, in a letter in which among other things, he calls risk parity "just old snake oil in new bottles", and sums up his view about the strategy behind Bridgewater in the following equation:
Risk Parity = Wrong Measure of Risk + Leverage + Price Indifference = Bad Idea
and proceeds to skewer it: 'At a fundamental level, risk parity is the antithesis of everything that we at GMO hold dear. " Read on for his full critique.
"What keeps us up at night? Well I can’t speak for the others, having spoken too much already to please PIMCO’s marketing specialists, but I will give you some thoughts about what keeps Mohamed and me up at night. Mohamed, the creator of the “New Normal” characterization of our post-Lehman global economy, now focuses on the possibility of a” T junction” investment future where markets approach a time-uncertain inflection point, and then head either bubbly right or bubble-popping left due to the negative aspects of fiscal and monetary policies in a highly levered world. ... investors are all playing the same dangerous game that depends on a near perpetual policy of cheap financing and artificially low interest rates in a desperate gamble to promote growth. The Fed, the BOJ (certainly), the ECB and the BOE are setting the example for global markets, basically telling investors that they have no alternative than to invest in riskier assets or to lever high quality assets. “You have no other choice,” their policies insinuate.... Deep in the bowels of central banks research staffs must lay the unmodelable fear that zero-bound interest rates supporting Dow 16,000 stock prices will slowly lose momentum after the real economy fails to reach orbit, even with zero-bound yields and QE." - Bill Gross
If public pensions don't delay and start plugging their funding holes now, they will need to contribute just under $200 billion per year over the next 30 years, amounting to 1.2% of GDP and 8.8% of state and local tax revenues. If funds wait a decade, the impact per year explodes to $325 billion over 30 years and will "cost" 1.2% of GDP and 12.2% of tax revenues. But the most likely, and worst case scenario, is if pension funds do nothing at all, "let the machine run its course", then the economic damage is unquantifiable as low asset returns inevitably cause lower income through benefits after assets are fully depleted.
A week ago, we first reported that Bridgewater's Ray Dalio had finally thrown in the towel on his latest iteration of hope in the "Beautiful deleveraging", and realizing that a 3% yield is enough to grind the US economy to a halt, moved from the pro-inflation camp (someone tell David Rosenberg) back to buying bonds (i.e., deflation). This was music to Bill Gross' ears who in his latest letter, in which he notes in addition to everything else that while the Fed has to taper eventually, it doesn't actually ever have to raise rates, and writes: "The objective, Dalio writes, is to achieve a “beautiful deleveraging,” which assumes minimal defaults and an eventual return of investors’ willingness to take risk again. The beautiful deleveraging of course takes place at the expense of private market savers via financially repressed interest rates, but what the heck. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and if the Fed’s (and Dalio’s) objective is to grow normally again, then there is likely no more beautiful or deleveraging solution than one that is accomplished via abnormally low interest rates for a long, long time." How long one may ask? "the last time the U.S. economy was this highly levered (early 1940s) it took over 25 years of 10-year Treasury rates averaging 3% less than nominal GDP to accomplish a “beautiful deleveraging.” That would place the 10-year Treasury at close to 1% and the policy rate at 25 basis points until sometime around 2035!" In the early 1940s there was also a world war, but the bottom line is clear: lots and lots of central planning for a long time.
Whether this also means that the fund is bearish on overall growth, bullish on deflation, and very bullish that in the Taper is not only off the table but there is potential for even more easing by the Fed, is unknown. What is known is that once the piggyback crew jumps on the Bridgewater bandwagon, which is now saying rates will drop (ostensibly leading to the end of the Great Rotation and perhaps the start of the Great Unrotation out of stocks and into bonds), expect to see some substantial price realignment between the two main assets classes: stocks and bonds.
July 23 - Gold $1335.10 down $1.30 - Silver $20.25 down 25 cents "GET AFTER THEIR ASS!" … A Texas Football Coach GO GATA!
The name Robert Khuzami is well-known to Zero Hedge readers: the former top SEC enforcer is perhaps best known not for what he did (judging by how many Wall Street bank executives ended up in jail following the Great Financial Crisis, very little), but for what he didn't - namely pursue any action against his former employer, Deutsche Bank, where he was a general counsel and where under his watch Greg Lippmann was "shorting your house." The reason, among others, extensive deferred comp linked to DB stock as we reported all the way back in May 2010. But Bob didn't care about what he did, or didn't do at the SEC - he was much more interested in what he would do after he left the regulator, which he did in January of this year. Because Bob, courtesy of his DB days, realized the massive paycheck potential of a revolving door job at the head of the government's enforcement unit. Sure enough, as the NYT reports, he has capitalized on just that following a $5 million a year contract (with a 2 year guarantee) with legal behemoth Kirkland & Ellis where he will be a partner and "will represent some of the same corporations that the S.E.C. oversees."
- Fashionable 'Risk Parity' Funds Hit Hard (WSJ)
- No 1997 Asian Crisis Return as China Trembles (BBG)
- Greece Faces Collapse of Second Key Privatization (FT)
- China Bad-Loan Alarm Sounded by Record Bank Spread Jump (BBG)
- Iranian official signals no scaling back in nuclear activity (Reuters)
- Asmussen Says Any QE Discussions at ECB Not Policy Relevant (BBG)
- Flat Japanese consumer prices aid Kuroda (FT)
- Vietnam Devalues Dong for First Time Since ’11 to Boost Reserves (BBG)
- World Bank Sees ‘Vulnerable’ Food System on Climate Change (BBG)
- Fed big-hitters seek to quash QE fears (FT)
- EU Leaders Set to Slow Support for Ailing Banks (BBG)
- Here come the rolling blackouts: Obama takes on power plant emissions as part of climate plan (Reuters)
- Walking Back Bernanke Wished on Too Much Information (BBG)
- As previewed last week: Bridgewater "All Weather" is Mostly Cloudy, down 8% YTD (Reuters)
- U.S. Said to Explore Possible China Role in Snowden Leaks (BBG)
- Coeure Says No Doubt ECB Loose Monetary Policy Exit Distant (Bloomberg)... so a "recovery", but not at all
- U.S. steps up pressure on Russia as Snowden stays free (Reuters)
- Texas' Next Big Oil Rush: New Pipelines Ferrying Landlocked Crude Expected to Boost Gulf Coast Refiners (WSJ)
- Singapore Offsets Bankers as Vacancies Fall (BBG)
- Asian Stocks Fall as China Sinks Deeper Into Bear Market (BBG), European Stocks Rally With Bonds as Metals Advance (BBG)
- Qatar emir hands power to son, no word on prime minister (Reuters)
Economic conditions in Italy are as depressed as they've been since the end of WWII, the economy is still contracting, Italy's banks are in terrible shape, private sector lending is very strained, and the ECB's policy is not resolving the problems. As is typical in countries enduring this level of economic pain, the political situation is starting to get pretty chaotic. Bersani, the top vote getter in the recent elections, has been unable to form a government, new elections this year are increasingiy likely, and recent polling suggests a dead heat among Bersani, Berlusconi and the anti-establishment party of Grillo. Surge in support for Grillo creates a risk because it is not entirely clear what he would do if he came to power. He has made a clear promise to put the euro to a vote and generally thinks that the European fiscal and monetary policies have been a bad deal for Italy. Obviously, an attempt to revisit those policies by a country as systemically important as Italy could destabilize things fast, and the risk of a radical outcome is growing. And over the past few months there are indications of that risk getting priced in and putting pressure on Italy, particularly on its banking system. Italian banking spreads are up; there has been a modest pullback in banks' wholesale funding, a modest increase in their ECB borrowing and no bond issuance.
- Obama to meet with Goldman's Blankfein, other CEOs Tuesday (Reuters)
- Chinese Firms Shrug at Rising Debt (WSJ)
- McGraw-Hill, S&P Sued by U.S. Over Mortgage-Bond Ratings (BBG)... but not Moody's or Fitch
- Dime a Dozen: Dollar Stores Pinched by Rapid Expansion (WSJ)
- Dell Board Said to Vote Monday Night on $24 Billion LBO (BBG)
- BOJ Governor Shirakawa to step down on March 19 (Reuters)
- Alberta may offer more to smooth way for Keystone (Reuters)
- Facebook Is Said to Create Mobile Location-Tracking App (BBG)
- Barclays takes another $1.6 billion hit for mis-selling (Reuters)
- Apple App Advantage Eroded as Google Narrows IPhone Lead (BBG)
- Texas School-Finance System Unconstitutional, Judge Rules (BBG)
- World Risks ‘Perfect Storm’ on Capital Flows, Carstens Says (BBG)
Everyone knows that for the better part of the past year Apple was the world's biggest company by market cap. Most also know that AAPL aggressively uses all legal tax loopholes to pay as little State and Federal tax as possible, despite being one of the world's most profitable companies. Many know, courtesy of our exclusive from September, that Apple also is the holding company for Braeburn Capital: a firm which with a few exceptions, also happens to be among the world's largest hedge funds, whose function is to manage Apple's massive cash hoard with virtually zero reporting requirements, and whose obligation is to make sure that AAPL's cash gets laundered legally and efficiently in a way that complies with prerogative #1: avoid paying taxes. What few if any know, is that as part of its cash management obligations, Braeburn, and AAPL by extension, has conducted a mindboggling $600 billion worth of gross notional trades in just the past four years, consisting of buying and selling assorted unknown securities, or some $250 billion in 2012 alone: a grand total which represents some $1 billion per working day on average, and which puts the net turnover of some 99% of all hedge funds to shame! Finally, what nobody knows, except for the recipients of course, is just how much in trade commissions AAPL has paid on these hundreds of billions in trades to the brokering banks, many (or maybe all) of which may have found this commission revenue facilitating AAPL having a "Buy" recommendation: a rating shared by 52, or 83% of the raters, despite the company's wiping out of one year in capital gains in a few short months.
"Return = Cash + Beta + Alpha": An Inside Look At The World's Biggest And Most Successful "Beta" Hedge FundSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/23/2013 21:31 -0500
Some time ago when we looked at the the performance of the world's largest and best returning hedge fund, Ray Dalio's Bridgewater, it had some $138 billion in assets. This number subsequently rose by $4 billion to $142 billion a week ago, however one thing remained the same: on a dollar for dollar basis, it is still the best performing and largest hedge fund of the past 20 years, and one which also has a remarkably low standard deviation of returns to boast. This is known to most people. What is less known, however, is that the two funds that comprise the entity known as "Bridgewater" serve two distinct purposes: while the Pure Alpha fund is, as its name implies, a chaser of alpha, or the 'tactical', active return component of an investment, the All Weather fund has a simple "beta isolate and capture" premise, and seeks to generate a modestly better return than the market using a mixture of equity and bonds investments and leverage. Ironically, as we foretold back in 2009, in the age of ZIRP, virtually every "actively managed" hedge fund would soon become not more than a massively levered beta chaser however charging an "alpha" fund's 2 and 20 fee structure. At least Ray Dalio is honest about where the return comes from without hiding behind meaningless concepts and lugubrious econospeak drollery. Courtesy of "The All Weather Story: How Bridgewater created the All Weather investment strategy, the foundation of the "risk parity" movement" everyone else can learn that answer too.
In a world where "3 and 50" funds are revealed to be nothing but expert network-boosted Armstrong clones, performing great until exposed for having been boosted to the brim with stimulants, in this case inside information, or where even serious players are caught in ego pissing contests over who is right and who is wrong over a given stock (Herbalife comes to mind) it becomes almost difficult to find true alpha generators, which outperform the market not due to non-public, material information. Yet they still do exist, and probably the best example of one, continues to be Ray Dalio's Bridgewater, a fact which is not lost on us, or the bulk of the sophisticated asset allocators out there. As per the firm's latest monthly update, the hedge fund's total AUM has risen to a mind-blowing $142.1 billion - a record for any hedge fund anywhere, of which $60.8 billion is allocated to Pure Alpha, the firm's active strategy.