Macro Tsimmis

intelligently hedged investment

1Q10 Intelledgement Macro Strategy Investment Portfolio Report

Posted by intelledgement on Wed, 14 Apr 10

Summary of Intelledgement’s model macro strategy model investment portfolio performance as of 31 March 2010:

Position   Bought   Shares Paid Cost Now Value Change     YTD         ROI       CAGR  
FXI 03-Jan-07 243 37.15 9,035.45 42.10 10,719.81 -0.36% -0.36% 18.64% 5.40%
IFN 03-Jan-07 196 45.90 9,004.40 31.54 9,180.64 1.83% 1.83% 1.96% 0.60%
DBA 13-Mar-08 235 42.50 9,995.50 24.22 5,691.70 -8.40% -8.40% -43.06% -24.04%
TBT 21-Jan-09 233 42.84 9,989.72 48.69 11,344.77 -2.39% -2.39% 13.56% 11.30%
EWM 21-Jul-09 1,062 9.41 10,001.42 11.68 12,554.96 9.85% 9.85% 25.53% 38.86%
EWZ 3-Aug-09 165 60.39 9,972.35 73.64 12,531.42 -1.30% -1.30% 25.66% 41.57%
IYW 29-Sep-09 208 51.86 10,794.88 58.39 12,168.42 1.58% 1.48% 12.72% 27.00%
cash 31,206.28 51,763.29
Overall 31-Dec-06 100,000.00 125,955.00 -0.58% -0.58% 25.96% 7.37%
Macro HF 31-Dec-06 100,000.00 119,357.61 1.68% 1.68% 19.36% 5.60%
S&P 500 31-Dec-06 1,418.30 1,169.43 4.87% 4.87% -17.55% -5.77%

Position = security the portfolio owns
Bought = date position acquired
Shares = number of shares the portfolio owns
Paid = price per share when purchased
Cost = total paid (price per share multiplied by # shrs plus commission)
Now = price per share as of date of report
Value = what it is worth as of the date of report (price per share multiplied by # shrs plus value of dividends)
Change = on a percentage basis, change since last report (not applicable for positions new since last report)
YTD (Year-to-Date) = on a percentage basis, change since the previous year-end price
ROI (Return-on-Investment) = on a percentage basis, the performance of this security since purchase
CAGR (Compounded Annual Growth Rate) = annualized ROI for this position since purchase (to help compare apples to apples)

Notes: The benchmark for the Intelledgement Macro Strategy Investment Portfolio (IMSIP) is the Greenwich Alternative Investments Global Macro Hedge Fund Index, which historically (1988 to 2009 inclusively) provides a CAGR of around 14.0%. For comparison’s sake, we also show the S&P 500 index, which since January 1950 has produced a CAGR of around 7.3%. Note that for our portfolio’s positions, dividends are added back into the value of the pertinent security and not included in the “cash” total (this gives a more complete picture of the ROI for dividend-paying securities). Also, the “Cost” figures include a standard $8 commission and there is a 1% rate of interest on the listed cash balance.

Transactions: We had another quiet quarter, with only a couple of sales:

Performance Review: An indifferent quarter for IMSIP, as we were down 1%, while the S&P 500  was up 5% and the macro hedge funds up 2%.Tactically, despite our deep skepticism about the validity of the continued strong market rally, we remain mildly bullish here. Our emerging market ETFs overall were slightly up: Malaysia (EWM, +10%), India (IFN, +2%), and China (FXI, flat), and Brazil (EWZ, -1%). As mentioned previously, we sold our gold and silver commodity ETFs—prematurely in the event, as both ended the quarter higher than they were 9 Feb when we sold—but our remaining commodity play, agriculture, was down (DBA, -8%). The US Technology ETF (IYW) was up 1% for us; if it continues to lag the NASDAQ index—which was up 4% in the quarter—we will likely trade it in. Our one short position, the UltraShort Lehman 20+Year Treasury ETF (TBT), which goes up when the value of long-term treasuries decline, as they tend to do when long-term interest rates rise, was down 2% and rates remained stubbornly low during the quarter despite torrents of fresh debt offerings by the U.S. Treasury.

Overall, we are now 44 points ahead of the market in terms of total return-on-investment: +26% for us and -18% for the S&P 500 in the three years and three months since the inception of the IMSIP at the end of 2006. We are seven points ahead of our benchmark, the GAI Global Macro Hedge Fund Index, +26% to +19%. In terms of compounded annual growth rate, after three years IMSIP is +7%, the GAI hedgies are at +6%, and the S&P 500 is -6%.

Analysis: The market doggedly continues to accentuate the positive, up yet another 5% in the quarter, while volatility—a good fear indicator, which set a new all-time high in 4Q08—declined for the fifth straight quarter, actually reaching the historical average. While the U.S. unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.7% in March—which was good compared to the steady increases in 2009—there was actually job growth (+162,000 non-farm jobs). Corporate profits were strong again in 1Q10 and consumer spending—evidently powered by the Energizer bunny—somehow continues to outstrip gains in personal income month-after-month:“Personal income increased $1.2 billion, or less than 0.1 percent, and…[p]ersonal consumption expenditures (PCE) increased $34.7 billion, or 0.3 percent,” in February, according to the latest Bureau of Economic Analysis data. Inflation and interest rates (except for credit card debt) remain low, and the stock market has now recovered 75% since the March 2009 low (S&P 500 666.79 on 6 Mar 09).

As we continue to point out, we got into this situation by overspending, borrowing beyond our means, and speculating on bubble-valued assets. In previous reports, we have lamented that the U. S. government’s attempts to solve our problems have generally made things worse, whilst creating the temporary illusion that things are getting better. We recently came across a presentation by Dylan Ratigan of MSNBC that does a good job illuminating this sad situation, which Mr. Ratigan ascribes to evil intent (presented below in two parts):

We expect there are some bad actors but in general, it is our belief that most of what has happened is due to ignorance and unintended consequences. Mr. Ratigan is spot on in lamenting that most members of Congress have no clue how our financial system functions…but in that lack, they well reflect the populace at large. Our political leaders surely intended well, for example, when they mandated that mortgage loans be made available to folks who previously did not qualify back in 1999, and the Fed fed the housing bubble in the 2000s by keeping interest rates low. Get more folks owning their own homes, stimulate the economy, what’s not to like? But the resulting poisonous stew of insidious incentives for everyone involved to act in their own short-term best interests—inveigling folks to overpay for properties they couldn’t afford in the first place with the expectation that with prices sure to keep rising, they could sell to the greater fool for a profit—then packaging the resultant mortgage-backed securities, mislabeling them a high-grade with the connivance of the ratings agencies and selling them to credible financial institutions, etcetera, etcetera. Just about everyone behaved short-sightedly with little if any regard for systemic risk; there is plenty of blame to go around.

Where we do agree with Mr. Ratigan is with respect to his criticism of what is happening—or, in some cases, not happening—now: the continued attempt to reflate values back up to tulip bulb mania levels, the continued assumption of the debts of so-called “too-big-to-fail” institutions by the government, the failure to pass meaningful reforms such as sundering the cozy relationship between ratings agencies and the institutions who create the equities to be rated—as insane as this sounds, currently the former are paid by the latter—and creating an exchange for credit default swaps and other esoteric financial instruments to ensure transparency and facilitate the self-governing influence of market forces—not to mention creating a mechanism for dismantling big failed financial institutions in an orderly way and holding their leadership personally accountable for their failures which would better align their interests with that of the owners and society as a whole.

For that matter, why are we bailing these failed institutions out by assuming their debts? And why are we undertaking additional obligations such as health care and dubious stimulus programs on top of the existing deficits plus the imminent demographic-driven shortfalls in entitlements funding? Why are we focused on heath insurance and cap-and-trade when the real threat to our way of life is our failure to understand and address our financial failings?

Conclusion: Sadly but surely, we remain confident that the worst is yet to come. However, we cheerfully admit we have no idea when. Perception is reality, and so long as the market perceives that things are hunky dory—as it manifestly does now—it is a greater risk to capital to fight it (go short) than to go with the flow.

Accordingly, as of 1 April, we continue to hold five long emerging market ETFs in the portfolio: China (FXI), India (IFN), Brasil (EWX), Malaysia (EWM), and US high tech (IYW which we consider an emerging market play as some two-thirds of the revenue of the companies comprising the ETF are ex-USA derived). Most of these would go—and be replaced by inverse index ETFs (that go up when the market goes down) if and when things get dicey again.

We also still have one long commodity play and a short on treasuries as hedges against the decline of the dollar: the agriculture ETF (DBA) and the inverse long-term Treasury bonds ETF (TBT). The dollar actually was stronger last quarter, and we sold our gold and silver ETFs in anticipation that a flight-to-safety reaction to the European sovereign debt crisis would buttress it even more, and deflate commodity prices. That did not happen and we are not likely to remain so unhedged against a dollar decline for a lengthy period because the longer we sit on a bench in the station, the greater that chance that train will leave without us.

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