2013 has not been kind to Hugh Hendry, whose Eclectica Absolute Macro fund has posted an unchanged performance year to date, broadly underperforming (alongside the bulk of the hedge fund community) the market. Below are his most recent macro thoughts, his holdings (few changes most notable of which is the closure of the Yen short), and his take on how Bernanke "infamously marched his troops to the top of the hill only to march them down again, one moment promising tapering, the next, unlimited accommodation."
The storm that caused chaos across financial markets since May should not dissipate any time soon. As such, we retain a short bias towards China and an outright short in EM currencies. If world trade remains weak and local inflation keeps on gaining momentum, the currencies of several EM countries (ex-China) may remain under pressure. Such weakness may be exacerbated by tightening liquidity.
"This year we have pursued five macro themes: long the US dollar, short China, long Japanese equities, long low variance equities and long interest rate contracts at the short end of G10 fixed income markets... The invisible regime of low volatility and low correlations that had been so supportive of risk markets for at least the last year started to become unhinged."
Succinctly summarizing the positive and negative news, data, and market events of the week...
"We continue to maintain a long equity risk exposure through companies least exposed to the business cycle, whilst favouring receiving rates in developed countries most prone to a loss of economic momentum as other countries, notably Japan, weaken their currencies through the pursuit of QE. We also retain a structural long position in the US dollar and remain long yen assets [currency hedged] via the Japanese stock market.... One of our core investment themes remains the fight against deflation launched by Japanese authorities through QE of historic proportions. We believe that such radical QE creates the perfect recipe for a weaker yen and booming Japanese equities. The Nikkei rallied by 11.8% in yen terms in April 2013, the best monthly return since December 2009, and has now gained 61% from the November 2012 low. Against this background, the Fund recorded a gain of 30 bps from Japanese equities."
Aside from being core long gold and oil on the basis of an ongoing global reflation effort by the myopic central bankers of the world; Eclectica's Hugh Hendry is long consumer Staples (as he explains - for a conservative investor, there is little choice but safest, least volatile, most liquid consumer non-discretionary blue chips), long USD (cleanest dirty shirt), long Japanese equities (extreme reflation efforts), and is long the short end of the curve in various sovereign bonds around the world (once again on the basis that weaker data combined with central bank intervention means this duration will benefit). Critically, the outspoken Scot notes that Japan's monetary pivot towards QE will not create economic growth out of nothing. Instead it seeks to redistribute global GDP in a manner that favors Japan versus the rest of the world. This is the last thing the global economy needs right now. His base view remains that there will be more central bank intervention, more debasement, that a sound money core is key, and taking advantage of liquidity flows in the meantime can be profitable.
There were many casualties following Friday's 4% gold rout, but none were hurt more than one-time hedge fund idol John Paulson, who according to estimates, lost more than $300 million of his own money in one day. Per Bloomberg: "Paulson has roughly $9.5 billion invested across his hedge funds, of which about 85 percent is invested in gold share classes. Gold dropped 4.1 percent today, shaving about $328 million from his net worth on this bet alone." This is merely the latest insult to what has otherwise been a 3 year-long injury for Paulson and his few remaining investors, whose very inappropriately named Advantage Plus is among the bottom 10 hedge funds for the third year in a row. Yet despite being a one-hit wonder thanks to one lucrative idea (long ABX CDS) generated by one of his former employees (Pelegrini), Paulson still has been lucky enough to somehow amass a $10 billion personal fortune which can have a $300 million downswing in one day, even if it is in an asset class which eventually will go only one way - up. Unless, of course, like so many other fly by night billionaires, Paulson too hasn't somehow managed to lever up all his equity into numerous other downstream ventures, and where a $300 million blow up leads to margin calls and other terminal liquidity outcomes.
Last October, among the various statements by Hugh Hendry at the annual Buttonwood gathering was this blurb by the man who is otherwise a big fan of physical gold: "I am long gold and I am short gold mining equities. There is no rationale for owning gold mining equities. It is as close as you get to insanity. The risk premium goes up when the gold price goes up. Societies are more envious of your gold at $3000 than at $300." Vivid imagery aside, he was spot on as the GDX tumbled 30% since then. Yet with the gold miners now universally abhorred and hated by virtually everyone, has the time come to take advantage of the capitulation? That is the question posed by John Goltermann of Obermeyer Asset Management, a firm better known for its deeply skeptical view toward Apple express as part of its April 2012 letter, and which also ended up being spot on. Goltermann says: "Whatever the reason, the underperformance of the mining shares in the last 18 months has been significant. At this point, because of the price divergence, the valuation disparity, and general capitulating sentiment, there doesn’t seem to be a case for selling mining shares. Given the valuations, we are evaluating whether it is appropriate to add to the position. The negative sentiment towards gold could continue for a time, but as economist Herbert Stein cautions, “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.” When price divergences like this occur, they usually self-correct. In the interim, there is a strong case that gold mining stocks are cheap and that much bad news is priced in." Then again, as Hendry said, it may just as well be insanity.
Several weeks ago, when sharing his latest outlook at the Economist's Buttonwood gathering, Hugh Hendry had this to say about gold miners: "I am long gold and I am short gold mining equities. There is no rationale for owning gold mining equities. It is as close as you get to insanity. The risk premium goes up when the gold price goes up. Societies are more envious of your gold at $3000 than at $300. And there is no valuation argument that protects you against the risk of confiscation.” For those confused, what he means is quite simple: the higher the price of gold goes, the greater the temptation of those extracting it (usually mined in various locales where worker satisfaction with labor conditions is less than stellar - see recent events in South Africa) to strike and demand higher wages (i.e., lower EPS), or of host government to nationalize it. The end outcome is a collapse in the extracting miner's cash flows and profitability, if not outright liquidation. The paradox is that the fewer actual global miners in operation, the better for the price of the actual hard commodity, as less supply means lower price, means greater probability of more miners suffering the same fate, means even higher gold price and so on. But back to the topic of gold miners. Below, for those still confused, is a simple story courtesy of the BBC in 10 pictures, summarizing the bitter dispute over Kyrgyzstan's gold production.
Hugh Hendry: "I Have No Idea Where The Stock Market Is Going To Be"... But "I Am Long Gold And Short The S&P"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 10/25/2012 14:51 -0400
Hugh Hendry: "I have resigned from the professional undertaking of coin flipping. I am not here to tell you where gold’s going to be. I have no idea. That’s my existentialism. I am a student of uncertainty, I have no idea where the stock market is going to be. So when I am creating trades in my portfolio for my clients, I am agnostic. I just want to enhance the probability that I make money come what may."
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.
Frustrated with the know-it-all bullish 'experts' on the Chinese economy lambasting wise boots-on-the-ground deep-thinkers such as Hugh Hendry and Albert Edwards; Marc Faber (who discussed this in detail in the clip we presented here) today set about correcting some of that vacuous chatter on China's dominance (with all its current stuffed inventory). Noting that the Chinese stock market is not exactly pointing to the growth everyone is relying on (and we add since the MAR09 lows it is only fractionally better than Spain), Faber brings up one chart (courtesy of The Bank Credit Analyst) to rule them all. Alongside the mega-bubbles of: Gold in 1970s, the Nikkei in the 80s, and the Nasdaq in the 90s, Iron Ore prices since the start of 2000 have them all beat - and recently (as we noted here) have begun to roll over.
Riots, chaos, mayhem—these are not the earmarks of a contented society... But can the stock market go up anyway??
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.