Via Hugh Hendry's Eclectica Fund December 2013 Letter to investors,
What if I were to tell you I was turning more bullish? Is that something you might be interested in?
We are macro investors. That means that we are constantly exposed to the shifting sands that the world's increasingly powerful gaggle of central bankers - and the capital flows they encourage - impose on global financial markets. However we tend to stick to our big (and often bearish) views, something that means our performance comes with hot and cold spells. The most recent one – and it doesn't take a genius to see this – has been cold. It hasn't been as bad as it could have been for the simple reason that we make big bets when we are doing well and small bets when we aren't. We allocate increasing amounts of capital to winning trades and cut losing trades rapidly. We've been cutting a lot recently. The good news is that this has minimised our drawdown. The even better news is that our returns have improved lately; it looks as if we are entering a hot spell, and we have begun to re-allocate significantly more risk capital to our endeavours.
So what makes me think we are heading hot at the moment? Let me tell you about the character of Bob Ryan, from the US cable TV show Entourage. The show chronicles the workings of Hollywood and Ryan is a legendary movie producer credited with a string of box office winners. His problem is that his success was rather a long time ago. So no one is certain of his skills anymore. His reaction is to make seemingly absurd promises – think along the lines of "...what if I were to tell you that this movie will cost peanuts to make, will earn you four Oscars and will gross $100m... is that something you might be interested in?" In some walks of life (well, mine anyway) such is the popularity of the show that the expression has entered the modern lexicon as a catchphrase for offering up fantastical, if not actually impossible, ideas. With that in mind, what if I were to tell you that I have adopted a tactically bullish outlook? Is that something you might be interested in?
Last bear standing? Not any more...
I know what you are thinking. You are thinking that the last bear is capitulating. It isn't a good sign. Maybe it is that simple. But I think it is a little more complicated. We, and I accept we aren't the first here, sense that US monetary officials may now be willing to subordinate the demands of their own economy to the perils confronting emerging market economies. If that is the case, the great peril is not that the Fed finally tightens monetary policy and US stock prices suddenly tumble from what are very obviously overpriced levels. Would that it were – our curmudgeonly portfolio structure (think dynamic volatility targeting and stop losses) works well with big stock market reversals. Instead the greater peril is that the current backdrop will turn out to mark a rapid acceleration in the ongoing move to the upside. A hint that this might be the case comes from looking back through the 113 years of price data for the Dow Jones Industrial Average. We have done this (so you don't have to), searching along the way for the comparable periods that fit most tightly to the last 500 trading days. What is clear is that periods of trading similar to the one we have seen over the last two years don't often seem to end quietly: they boom big time or they crash. Which is it to be this time? Looking at the markets of 1928, 1982 or even 1998, all of which have scarily similar looking historical charts to today's, we wonder if it won't be both. Starting with the boom bit.