Unstructured Finance

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GMF @HedgeWorld West, World Bank/IMF and Financial & Risk Summit Toronto 2014

(Updates with guest photos and new links).

Join our special coverage Oct. 6-10 in the Global Markets Forum as we hit the road, from the West Coast to Washington to the Great White North.

GMF will be live next week from the HedgeWorld West conference in Half Moon Bay, California, where we’ll be blogging insight from speakers including Peter Thiel, former San Francisco 49ers great Steve Young and other panelists' viewpoints on the most important investment themes, allocation strategies, reputation risk management ideas and more.

 

 

Eric Burl, COO, Man Investments USA

Eric Burl, COO, Man Investments USA

Our LiveChat guests at HedgeWorld West include Jay Gould, founder of the California Hedge Fund Association, on Monday; Rachel Minard, CEO of Minard Capital on Tuesday; and Eric Burl, COO of Man Investments, on Wednesday discussing the evolving global investor. If you have questions for them, be sure to join us in the GMF to post your questions and comment.

Follow GMF’s conference coverage and post questions live via our twitter feed @ReutersGMF as well, where we’ll post comments from other HedgeWorld panelists. They include: 

    Peter Algert, Founder and CIO, Algert Global Adrian Fairbourn, Managing Partner, Exception Capital Nancy Davis, Founder & CIO, Quadratic Capital R. Kipp deVeer, CEO, Ares Capital Judy Posnikoff, Managing Partner, PAAMCO Caroline Lovelace, Founding Partner, Pine Street Alternative Asset Management Cleo Chang, Chief Investment Officer, Wilshire Funds Management Brian Igoe, CIO, Rainin Group Mark Guinney, Managing Partner, The Presidio Group

In a preview of the HedgeWorld West conference, Rachel Minard said what matters most to investors today is "not so much what something is

Rachel Minard, CEO of Minard Capital

Rachel Minard, CEO of Minard Capital

called but what is its behavior," she told the forum. "What investment instruments are being used -- what is the ROI relative to cost, liquidity, volatility, market exposure, price/rates and is this the most "efficient" method by which to achieve return. What's great from our perspective is the meritocracy of the business today -- the proof necessary to validate the effective and sustainable ROI of any fund or investment strategy."

Jim Chanos, bad news bear, urges market prudence

Prominent short-seller Jim Chanos is probably one of the last true “bad news bears” you will find on Wall Street these days, save for Jim Grant and Nouriel Roubini. Almost everywhere you turn, money managers still are bullish on U.S. equities going into 2014 even after the Standard & Poor’s 500’s 27 percent returns year-to-date and the Nasdaq is back to levels not seen since the height of the dot-com bubble in 1999.

“We’re back to a glass half-full environment as opposed to a glass half-empty environment,” Chanos told Reuters during a wide ranging hour-long discussion two weeks ago. “If you’re the typical investor, it’s probably time to be a little bit more cautious.”

Chanos, president and founder of Kynikos Associates, admittedly knows it has been a humbling year for his cohort, with some short only funds even closing up shop.

Money manager titans who can’t wait until 2014

The year can’t end fast enough for some of the world’s biggest investors.

Bill Gross, who many like to consider the King of Bonds, lost one of his prized titles last week when his PIMCO Total Return Fund was stripped of its status as the world’s largest mutual fund because of lagging performance and a swamp of investor redemptions.

The PIMCO Total Return Fund — somewhat of a benchmark for many bond fund managers — had outflows of $4.4 billion in October, marking the fund’s sixth straight month of investor withdrawals, and lowered its assets to $248 billion, according to Morningstar.

Ackman’s Penney-sized revenge?

It’s hard to say that Bill Ackman came out of the J.C. Penney debacle looking good. But in one regard the hedge fund manager did score a minor victory: he and his Pershing Square Capital Management sold their shares before the bloodbath began in the ailing retailer’s stock.

In hindsight, the $12.90 a share price that Pershing Square sold its 18 percent stake in Penney to Citigroup doesn’t look so bad compared to the $8.73 a share price the stock closed at on Tuesday. There was much made in the press about the $473 million loss Ackman’s fund was saddled with after the hedge fund manager’s push to remake Penney into an upscale retailer failed. The criticism was justified as even Ackman conceded he isn’t great at retail.

But Ackman’s quick late August exit from the stock after first blistering the company’s board for taking too long to find a permanent CEO doesn’t look as bad in retrospect. Forbes’ Nathan Vardi even went so far a few days ago to write that Ackman’s decision to bolt on Penney looks like a “brilliant” decision.

For U.S. equities, the bull market still has years to go

I recently chatted with veteran technical analyst Ralph Acampora,  a director at  Geneva-based Altaira Ltd.,  about secular bull trends in the U.S. stock market. A real secular bull market can last decades, and he sees this equity market uptrend as similar to the long-term bull markets in the 1960′s and, more obviously on technical charts, the 1990′s.   He pointed out that bull-and-bear trend measures and other short-term sentiment readings can change week to week, confusing some participants about the market’s longer-term path.  Acampora laid out the psychology behind sentiment in a secular bull market, which has three long phases. It starts with fear of the bear market at the stock market’s bottom. At the March 2009 low,  everyone was worried about further declines and losing money. The mood was characterized by fear and disbelief.  In reaction, the first buyers in a classic bull market gravitate toward quality stocks. They lead equities higher, because no one wants to take risk.  Investors say, “I’ll never do that again,”  about buying junk. They only want high quality, high-yielding stocks. That’s Phase 1. It began in 2009 and lasted until now.

 

 

Phase 2  is characterized by trust and belief, and is led by secondary stocks.  Since June 24, the Russell 2000 launched an advance, climbing straight up.  Acampora said a lot of small- and mid-cap stocks are making new highs, whereas some Dow Jones blue chips  are beginning to move  sideways.

 

“People are now starting to believe  that the world’s not coming to an end. They feel a bit more comfortable. Instead of just Procter & Gamble, a Dow stock, they’ll maybe buy Colgate, which does the same thing, but it’s not as high a quality,” Acampora said. C0lgate, a secondary stock, is representative of the changing portfolio mixes that are happening  now. “It’s shifting right now.  I’m saying that between March of 2009 and July 2013 that was phase 1 and we’re now walking into phase 2.” The third and final bull market phase is marked by complacency and greed.  ”That’s predominantly speculative junk. That’s your bubble,”  and is years away.

Ray Dalio’s all seeing reputation takes a hit

There are storm clouds on the horizon at Ray Dalio’s $150 billion Bridgewater Associates.

Yeah, excuse the weather imagery but it’s hard to resist given the sudden sharp reversal of fortunes with Bridgewater’s $70 billon All Weather portfolio. As Jenn Ablan and Katya Wachtel first reported, the portfolio that Dalio has long marketed to pension funds as an innovative investment strategy for navigating storm markets, isn’t doing so well in this stormy market.

The fund, as of last Friday, was down 6% for the month and down 8% for the year.

Natural (at) selection

The answer to the moderator’s question was a resounding: yes. The question, asked to several credit hedge fund managers during a conference on Thursday, was: did you make money last year? In fact, the managers from Pine River, BlueMountain, Cerberus and Brevan Howard made a lot. But 2013 is not going to be so easy, they said.

Hedge funds that specialize in credit, especially those who focus on mortgage-backed securities (MBS), blasted past their stock market competitors in 2012. One of those traders, Steve Kuhn, was on stage for the aforementioned credit panel at Absolute Return’s Spring Symposium. Kuhn, a portfolio manager for Pine River Capital Management, saw his fixed income fund rise 35 percent last year.

Kuhn doesn’t see a repeat of those monster returns in 2013. It’s all about security selection this year, he said and that that selection process is going to require a lot of work. It’s a view we reported in early March, and one that Scott Stelzer, a CMBS specialist for Cerberus Capital Management and David Warren, the CEO of DW Investment Management and CIO for a Brevan Howard credit fund also echoed at the conference in mid-town Manhattan.

Hedge funds stockpiled Citi, axed Apple in Q4

More research was published today showing that the honeymoon is over for American hedge fund managers and technology giant Apple. The iPhone maker was one of the top two most sold stocks by hedge funds in the fourth quarter, according to an analysis of regulatory filings by Bank of America. (The other stock was  Tyco International).

This industry-wide ditching of Apple came as AIG  replaced the iPhone maker as hedge fund land’s most loved top-10 stock holding in Q4. It was the first time Apple had been knocked out of pole position in three years. For a list of some of the big names that ditched Apple, see this story by Aaron Pressman.

Meanwhile, BofA analysts found that the top two stocks purchased by hedge funds in the three months to December were  Facebook and Citigroup. The AIG and Citi buys were part of a larger move into financials by hedge funds in the fourth quarter, the BofA Hedge Fund Monitor report showed, and away from technology companies.

Ray Dalio went into this year even more bullish than we thought

By Matthew Goldstein

Hedge fund titan Ray Dalio is really bullish on stocks and all things risky–at least he was in early January.

A few weeks ago, our competitors at Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal did a good job reporting on Dalio’s macro market thesis for 2013 when they got a transcript of an investor call (Bloomberg) and a sneak peak at Bridgewater Associates’ year-end report to investors (WSJ). But after taking my own recent look at Bridgewater’s year-end investor note–book is probably a better description for the 300-page plus bound treatise–you realize that bullish just doesn’t describe Bridgewater’s stance going in 2013.

Here’s a sampler of some of Bridgewater’s comments to investors:

“Cash in the developed world is a terrible asset.” “We would be short cash of all the major developed currencies” And this: “Bonds will be a lousy investment but cash will be worse.”

from MacroScope:

SEC has power to ban high-frequency trading, congressman says

Not everyone agrees that using high-speed machines to trade stocks in less time than it takes the average person to blink is a bad thing, but the people who do might be heartened by the letter a congressman sent the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday.

Rep. Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who has waged a decades-long struggle against computerized trading sent the SEC a hint: The power to curb high-frequency trading has been within its grasp all along.

In his letter, Markey described a law he co-sponsored in 1989 to increase the agency’s power to regulate computerized trading, a precursor to HFT that employed computer programs to make trading decisions without the participation of conscious humans. The law lets the SEC “limit practices which result in extraordinary levels of volatility,” according to Markey’s citation.

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