2012 is a year most asset managers would like to forget. With the S&P returning 16% and Russell 2000 up 16.3%, on nothing but multiple expansion in a world where risk has been eliminated despite persistently declining revenues and cash flows, a whopping 88% of hedge funds, as well as some 65% of large-cap core, 80% of large cap value, and 67% of small-cap mutual funds underperformed the market, according to Goldman's David Kostin. The ongoing absolute outperformance of mutual funds over their 2 and 20 fee sucking hedge fund peers is notable, as this is the second or perhaps even third year in a row it has happened. And while the usual excuse that hedge funds are not supposed to beat the market but a benchmark, and generally protect capital from downside risk is valid, it is irrelevant if any downside risk (see ongoing rout in VIX and net position in the VIX futures COT update) is now actively managed by central banks both directly and indirectly, their HF LPs no longer see the world in that way. In fact as Bloomberg Market's February issue summarizes, some 635 hedge funds closed in 2012, 8.5% than a year earlier, despite a far stronger year for the general indices. The reason: LPs and MPs have simply had enough of holding on to underperformers and get swept up in the momentum of performance chasing, and the result is redemption requests into funds who may have had a positive benchmark year, but underperform relative to the S&P for two or more years, which nowadays is the vast majority of funds.
• Introduction – Gold’s Gains In All Fiat Currencies in 2012
• Much of Gold’s Gains in 2012 On 11% Price Gain in January 2012
• Japanese Yen Shows How Gold Protects From FX Devaluations
• Food Inflation Risk As Wheat and Soybeans Surge in Price
• Currency Wars and Competitive Currency Devaluations
• Gold Remains Historically and Academically Proven Safe Haven
• Conclusion – Gold in 2013
Presenting Dave Collum's now ubiquitous and all-encompassing annual review of markets and much, much more. From Baptists, Bankers, and Bootleggers to Capitalism, Corporate Debt, Government Corruption, and the Constitution, Dave provides a one-stop-shop summary of everything relevant this year (and how it will affect next year and beyond).
Back in May, Herbalife stock got monkeyhammered when one of the best performing hedge fund managers of the past few years, David Einhorn expressed a bearish thesis in the company. Today, the stock just got the double tap following no new information, but merely the second part of the Einhorn-Ackman-Loeb activist triangle (who most of the time operate as an informal cartel), as it plunged by over 10% when William Ackman, smarting from the hundreds of millions lost in JCPenney just piggybacked on Einhorn's thesis, as reported by CNBC, said he is short Herbalife, calling it a pyramid scheme, and saying he has done fundamental research for a year (it takes a year to read Einhorn's presentation?). Essentially, nothing new here. All we await now is that 13F chaser Whitney Tilson to finally jump on board what is becoming the world's biggest hedge fund short, and get a catalyst, any catalyst that scrambles the shorts into covering, and sends the stock in the triple digit range.
Gold bugs can’t understand how the public can be so unaware, how highly intelligent policy makers can be so immoral, and how the mainstream media can be so incurious. We can’t understand why more men and women in the investment business haven’t joined some of the more successful ones that have come around to precious metals and have taken substantial positions in them for their funds and personal accounts. Conventional financial asset selection guidelines for professional investors are becoming increasingly uneconomic and problematic. Current macroeconomic conditions leave little doubt as to why. A zero-bound rate structure across developed economies, heavy monetary policy intervention, guaranteed negative real returns of benchmark financial assets and cash, impossible discount cash flow models,cacophonous (and economically meaningless) fiscal political wrangling diverting attention from legitimate budget arithmetic ($800 billion over ten years when we’re running $1 trillion-plus annual deficits?), dubious short and intermediate-term prospects in already-emerged emerging economies, and non-trending financial markets, all suggest something has changed. Regardless of whether one is investing personally or as a fiduciary, conventional financial asset allocation models and procedures are obviously failing and the reason is simple: the currencies in which financial assets are denominated are gravely flawed.
With the star (and legend) of John Paulson long dead and buried, and his Disadvantage Minus fund an embarrassment, wrapped in a monkeyhammering, inside a humiliation, there are few "groupied" HF managers left. One of them is Dan Loeb, who still manages to generate positive Alpha regardless of how Beta does, another one used to be William Ackman (not so much anymore, especially not with the whole JCP fiasco), some others are David Tepper, Seth Klarman, and a few others, but nobody has quite the persistent clout and following of young master, and poker maestro, David Einhorn, and his fund Greenlight. Below we breakdown his latest just released 13F, which as a reminder shows, his holdings as of September 30. Key changes: Einhorn cut his holdings in Best Buy, Carefusion, Compuware, Expedia, Hess and UnitedHealth, and started new, small, positions in Yahoo, Babcock and Wilcox, Aecon and Knight Capital. More importantly, he cut his top position, Apple, by nearly 30% from 1.45 million to 1.09 million shares, cut modestly his second biggest position Seagate, added materially to GM, making it his third position, added to Cigna at #4 and added modestly to the GDX Gold Miners ETF. Sad to say, unless he has changed his portfolio dramatically since September 30, Einhorn is likely not doing too hot, especially in the last week or two.
While the topic of the Japanese purchase of the contested [Senkaku|Diaoyu] Islands may have receded from the front pages of global media for lack of any major recent developments, the issue is still quite ripe in the minds of over 1 billion Chinese (and several hundred million Japanese, not to mention the executives of Japanese car and electronics makers who have seen a cliff-like collapse in purchases of their products by Chinese consumers in the past month). However, just because it is out of sight, does not mean it is out of mind, the front page of the official Chinese Daily is out with a big piece titled "China says no concession on territorial sovereignty" in which it makes it abundantly clear that Japan will have no choice but to back down in what China continues to consider an "aggressive" invasion of its territorial sovereignty. And to avoid any confision. Xinhua clarifies that if "anyone wants to challenge China's bottom line on the issue of sovereignty, China will have no alternative but to respond forcefully so as to remove disturbance and obstacles and move steadily on the path of peaceful development."
"We have just spent 15 years learning that a policy of creating asset bubbles is a bad idea, so it is hard to imagine why the Fed wants to create another one. But perhaps the more basic question is: How fruitful is the wealth effect? Is the additional spending that these volatile paper profits are intended to induce overwhelmed by the lost consumption of the many savers who are deprived of steady, recurring interest income? We have asked several well-known economists who publicly support the Fed’s policy and found that they don’t have good answers. If Chairman Bernanke is setting distant and hard-to-achieve benchmarks for when he would reverse course, it is possibly because he understands that it may never come to that. Sooner or later, we will enter another recession. It could come from normal cyclicality, or it could come from an exogenous shock. Either way, when it comes, it is very likely we will enter it prior to the Fed having ‘normalized’ monetary policy, and we’ll have a large fiscal deficit to boot. What tools will the Fed and the Congress have at that point? If the Fed is willing to deploy this new set of desperate measures in these frustrating, but non-desperate times, what will it do then? We don’t know, but a large allocation to gold still seems like a very good idea."
Everyone's favorite outspoken critic of everything that is broken, Hugh Hendry, is currently speaking at The Economist's Buttonwood gathering. Watch him contemplate macro and micro issues live in the webcast below. And for desert, everyone's favorite poker player, David Einhorn will follow Hendry.
The head of industrial and precious metals trading at Barclays, Cengiz Belentepe, has told Bloomberg that investors are selling their investments in gold ETFs and opting for the safety of allocated physical gold.
Barlcay’s Belentepe said “the question is whether the pace of buying has slowed, or whether the people have become a bit more sophisticated in recognizing the costs and liabilities.”
Imagine if in 2007, Ben Bernanke, Mervyn King, Jean Claude Trichet et al, had actually possessed the analytical foresight to see what was coming, organised a meeting with the world's media and explained how, using their collective wisdom, they would solve the problem.
"There's going to be a massive global crisis, but there's no need to worry. We're just going to print money."
"Is that it?"
How would most people have reacted then? We think they would have laughed out loud. Why are so many of us reacting differently now? The nature of markets is that they periodically forget the lessons of history. Confidence in the status quo seems as entrenched now as it was in 2007 but Gold appears to be exhibiting 'Giffen-like' behavior where, instead of falling, demand is rising as prices rise.
Our analysis of the physical gold market shows that central banks have most likely been a massive unreported supplier of physical gold, and strongly implies that their gold reserves are negligible today. If Frank Veneroso’s conclusions were even close to accurate back in 1998 (and we believe they were), when coupled with the 2,300 tonne net change in annual demand we can easily identify above, it can only lead to the conclusion that a large portion of the Western central banks’ stated 23,000 tonnes of gold reserves are merely a paper entry on their balance sheets – completely un-backed by anything tangible other than an IOU from whatever counterparty leased it from them in years past. At this stage of the game, we don’t believe these central banks will be able to get their gold back without extreme difficulty, especially if it turns out the gold has left their countries entirely. We can also only wonder how much gold within the central bank system has been ‘rehypothecated’ in the process, since the central banks in question seem so reluctant to divulge any meaningful details on their reserves in a way that would shed light on the various “swaps” and “loans” they imply to be participating in. We might also suggest that if a proper audit of Western central bank gold reserves was ever launched, as per Ron Paul’s recent proposal to audit the US Federal Reserve, the proverbial cat would be let out of the bag – with explosive implications for the gold price.... We realize that some readers may scoff at any analysis of the gold market that hints at “conspiracy”. We’re not talking about conspiracy here however, we’re talking about stupidity. After all, Western central banks are probably under the impression that the gold they’ve swapped and/or lent out is still legally theirs, which technically it may be. But if what we are proposing turns out to be true, and those reserves are not physically theirs; not physically in their possession… then all bets are off regarding the future of our monetary system.
- Ringing endorsement: Lithuania to Adopt Euro When Europe Is Ready, Kubilius Says (Bloomberg)
- Credit Agricole net plunges 67% on losses in Greece and a writedown of its stake in Intesa Sanpaolo SpA (Bloomberg)
- Europe finally starting to smell the coffee: ECB Urging Weaker Basel Liquidity Rule on Crisis Concerns (Bloomberg)
- Japan Cuts Economic Assessment (Reuters)
- France’s Leclerc Stores to Sell Fuel at Cost, Chairman Says (Bloomberg)
- China Eyes Ways to Broaden Yuan’s Use (WSJ)
- Berlin and Paris forge union over crisis (FT)
- Brezhnev Bonds Haunt Putin as Investors Hunt $785 Billion (Bloomberg)
- Republicans showcase Romney as storm clouds convention (Reuters)
- ECB official seeks to ease bond fears (FT)
- German at European Central Bank at Odds With Country’s Policy Makers (NYT)
Yesterday, Jens Weidmann called it a "drug addiction"; for the past 4 years we have called it sheer insanity (and other less polite words). Whatever one calls it, it is obvious that using monetary policy to delay the need for real (not theatrical) fiscal policy involvement that sees to restore debt credibility (i.e., deleverage) does nothing to fix the underlying problems, and merely provides an ever briefer respite from the symptoms of insolvency without ever addressing the underlying cause. Today, even Bank of America has realized this fundamental Catch 22 that is now the paradox at the heart of what remains of capital markets: more easing serves to appease politicians, who see no need to change any of their broken policies, in the process requiring even more QE in the future, and so on, until this always ending in tears game of extend and pretend comes to a sudden and violent end.
George Soros more than doubled his shares in the SPDR gold trust ETF. He increased his position in SPDR Gold to $137.3 million in the second quarter from $52 million previously. SEC filing for the second quarter showed Soros Fund Management more than doubled its investment in the SPDR Gold Trust from 319,550 shares to 884,400 shares at the end of June. In September 2010 (see chart), Soros called gold "the ultimate bubble" and largely dumped his stake in the ETF before gold recorded annual gains in 2010 and 2011 and rose to a nominal high of $1,920.30 per ounce in September. There was speculation at the time that he may have sold the SPDR trust in order to own far safer allocated gold bars. Another billionaire investor respected for his financial acumen is John Paulson and Paulson & Co increased its holdings by 26% by purchasing an additional 4.53 million shares of the SPDR Gold Trust to bring entire holding to 21.8 million shares. It was the first time Paulson & Co had increased its position in the SPDR Gold Trust since the first quarter of 2009, when the investment firm initially acquired 31.5 million shares. It means that Paulson's $21 billion hedge fund now has more than 44% of the company's assets allocated to gold.