Money managers under the microscope
from Global Investing:
Anyone worried about Greece and the potential impact of the euro debt crisis on the world economy should have a chat with Jim O'Neill. O'Neill, the head of Goldman Sachs Asset Management ten years ago coined the BRIC acronym to describe the four biggest emerging economies and perhaps understandably, he is not too perturbed by the outcome of the Greek crisis. Speaking at a recent conference, the man who is often called Mr BRIC, pointed out that China's economy is growing by $1 trillion a year and that means it is adding the equivalent of a Greece every 4 months. And what if the market turns its guns on Italy, a far larger economy than Greece? Italy's economy was surpassed in size last year by Brazil, another of the BRICs, O'Neill counters, adding:
"How Italy plays out will be important but people should not exaggerate its global importance. In the next 12 months the four BRICs will create the equivalent of another Italy."
Emerging economies are cooling now after years of turbo-charged growth. But according to O'Neill, even then they are growing enough to allow the global economy to expand at 4-4.5 percent, a faster clip than much of the past 30 years. Trade data for last year will soon show that Germany for the first time exported more goods to the four BRICs than to neighbouring France, he said.
"Post-crisis, these countries will be our passport out of this mess."
But there has to be a payoff for this kind of increased financial clout, he warns. Developing countries are increasingly disgruntled about the the richer world's strangehold on global policies via the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank and most have responded coolly to the call for additional funds for the IMF which is fighting to stem the euro zone malaise. An attempt last year to install a representative of the developing world at the helm of the IMF for the first time ever fell apart, with Europe retaining the position. But emerging countries could make a bid for the World Bank chief's position this year, a position traditionally held by a U.S. citizen. O'Neill said the West had to bow to the new reality:
With the euro zone facing a fiscal deficit nightmare, passive bond investors have been forced to think hard about whether following a simple market cap-weighted benchmark is a good idea. Traditional bond indices have the biggest weighting to the largest borrower — so investors end up lending more money to those desperate to borrow it.
“Passive investing in a traditional sense in fixed income doesn’t make a lot of sense,” said Paul Abberley, CEO of Aviva Investors UK. “The market caps of equities broadly correlate with underlying economic growth but it doesn’t work that way with bonds. For example, you would have been steadily increasing your exposure to Greece as they borrowed more and more.”
News and views on the funds sector from Reuters and elsewhere:
Pru faces shareholder revolt over Asian deal - Reuters
Goldman Sachs traders face U.S. Senate - Telegraph
News and views on the fund sector from Reuters and elsewhere:
Interesting report in the Telegraph that debt-laden Greece may have to turn to hedge funds for support in its next dollar bond issue.
Having effectively tried to exclude them from recent issues, a u-turn looks likely if it wants to raise anything like what it hopes, the paper says.
News and views on the fund industry from Reuters and elsewhere:
Greece set for U-turn on hedge fund policy – Telegraph
Managers buoyed by first-quarter credit market surge – MarketWatch
This week’s Reuters Hedge Fund and Private Equity Summit gave us some new insights into how hedge funds are betting on Greece’s debt crisis and their attitude to talk that politicians and regulators may clamp down on their activities.
According to Cheyne Capital, for instance, buying Greek CDS is an “old trade” that many hedge funds have moved out of. Many have instead moved to short bets on the euro, as the single currency comes under pressure from the debt of some southern European countries.