Long before "The Big Short's" Michael Burry was a household name for his insight into the upcoming subprime crisis of 2006-2007, there were many others among them John Paulson, Kyle Bass, and Corriente Advisors' Mark Hart. Just like Bass, Mark is another Texas-based hedge fund manager who correctly predicted, and profited from, the subprime crisis. He is also an expert on China, and in fact, just last month in the aftermath of the recent Chinese devaluation which roiled markets, he said that "China should weaken its currency by more than 50 percent this year."
In fact, it was Hart who (alongside ex-PBOC advisor Yi Yongding) first proposed the idea of the one-off devaluation that promptly afterwards become the conventional expectation for this weekend's G-20 summit in Shangai. To wit:
Hart believes that the Chinese crawling devaluation is an error as it carries with its the latent threat of much more devaluation in the future, thus encouraging even more outflows, which in turn forces China to sell even more reserves, which destabilizes the economy even further, forcing even more devaluation and so on.
Instead, a one-off devaluation would allow policy makers to “draw a line in the sand” at a more appropriate level for the yuan, easing pressure on China’s foreign-exchange reserves and removing an incentive for capital outflows, according to Hart, who’s been betting against the currency since at least 2011. He adds that China should devalue before its $3.3 trillion hoard of reserves shrinks much further, he said, because the country can still convince markets it’s acting from a position of strength.
According to Hart, while a devaluation this year would be “jarring” and may initially accelerate capital outflows, it would ultimately put China in a stronger position. He said the country could explain the move by saying it would put the yuan at a level more reflective of market forces and allow the currency to catch up with declines in international peers.
As we said one month ago, "Hart is correct, and China will have to pick one option: either a sharp devaluation, or failing that, debt defaults: the current course of gradual CNY debasement will only results in an acceleration in capital outflows until ultimately China's $3 trillion rainy day fund is whittled away to nothing (and as a reminder, according to some estimate just a little over $1 trillion in it is actually liquid assets)."
And while we explained that Hart's "devaluation" trade consists of buying Yuan puts, according to a recent interview he gave to Raoul Pal RealVision, he has also put another trade on alongside his FX deval: buying bitcoin.
The same reason we gave back on September 2, 2015 when Bitcoin was trading at $215 in a post titled "China Scrambles To Enforce Capital Controls (Which Is Great News For Bitcoin)" and long before the topic of China's capital controls, and their circumvention, became a routine topic of conversation. As we explained simply, with Chinese capital controls increasingly more strict, the local population, which was nearly $25 trillion in deposits in local banks, will rush to transfer these massive amount of savings offshore, and will end up using bitcoin to do it. This is specifically what we said:
... while China is doing everything in its power to not give the impression that it is panicking, the truth is that it is one viral capital outflow report away from an outright scramble to enforce the most draconian capital controls in its history, which - as every Cypriot and Greek knows by now - is a self-defeating exercise and assures an ever accelerating decline in the currency, which authorities are trying to both keep stable while also devaluing at a pace of their choosing. Said pace never quite works out.
So what happens then: well, China's propensity for gold is well-known. We would not be surprised to see a surge of gold imports into China, only instead of going to the traditional Commodity Financing Deals we have written extensively about before, where gold is merely a commodity used to fund domestic carry trades, it ends up in domestic households. However, while gold has historically been the best store of value in history and has outlasted every currency known to man, it is problematic when it comes to transferring funds in and out of a nation - it tends to show up quite distinctly on X-rays.
Which is why we would not be surprised to see another push higher in the value of bitcoin: it was earlier this summer when the digital currency, which can bypass capital controls and national borders with the click of a button, surged on Grexit concerns and fears a Drachma return would crush the savings of an entire nation. Since then, BTC has dropped (in no small part as a result of the previously documented "forking" with Bitcoin XT), however if a few hundred million Chinese decide that the time has come to use bitcoin as the capital controls bypassing currency of choice, and decide to invest even a tiny fraction of the $22 trillion in Chinese deposits in bitcoin (whose total market cap at last check was just over $3 billion), sit back and watch as we witness the second coming of the bitcoin bubble, one which could make the previous all time highs in the digital currency, seems like a low print.
Yes, bitcoin may be slowly but surely leaving the domain of the libertarian fringe, but in exchange it is about to be embraced as the most lucrative and commercial "blockchained" way to capitalize on what may soon become the largest capital outflow in history...
Two months later the value of bitcoin rose by more than 100%, but what was delightfully amusing to us was attempts by the self-appointed guardians of monetary wisdom to explain the move not as one of Chinese capital flight but because of some tiny, alleged Chinese Ponzi scheme. Apparently in the mainstream media if one can't predict what happens, one tries to explain why something happened... and gets that wrong too. Because if bitcoin's surge was only due to some two-bit Russian scammer exposed four months ago, it would be back at $215 if not lower, instead of trading at $432 as of this moment.
What really happened is what we said happened, and here is Mark Hart confirming precisely that. Here is the excerpt from an interview he gave to Raoul Pal's RealVision:
Bitcoin is interesting to me as a route for capital flight. I am not opining on the long-term viability of bitcoin - I do think there is something there - but I am long bitcoin specifically to capture capital flight from China.
Sounds quite identical to what said 6 months ago. Full clip below:
But this is where it gets really interesting: if one wants to bet on a massive Chinese devaluation (which is coming, the only question is when) one can simply short the Yuan as so many hedge funds have done in the past 2 months only to find that by "fighting the PBOC" they are gambling not only with their AUM, but their professional careers due to not only the unlimited downside of their trades, but to the substantial leverage involved in such FX trades.
Furthermore, relentless interventions by a belligerent Chinese central bank in recent weeks have shown that even as the Yuan will ultimately devalue, and dramatically at that, the PBOC will do everything in its power to crush the "hated" speculators, among whom such brand names as George Soros, along the way by inspiring sudden, violent and massive surges in the currency, in the vein of the Bank of Japan circa 2011.
So what is one trade that can be put on to bet on further Chinese devaluation (or outright economic collapse) with limited downside, with unlimited upside, and one which is guaranteed to be profitable if and when the local Chinese depositor herd gets out of Yuan en masse after the next 10%, 20%, 50% or more devaluation and rushes into bitcoin? Simple: do precisely what we said in September, and precisely what Corriente's Mark Hart is saying now: buy bitcoin, because once the Chinese buying frenzy is unleashed, and $25 trillion in deposits scramble to be packed into a product with a $6.5 billion current market cap (but only when the price of a bitcoin is $430; the market cap does rise to $25 trillion if every bitcoin is worth $1.6 million) one thing will happen: the price of bitcoin will soar exponentially.