Position = symbol of the security for each position
Purchased = date position acquired (for long positions) or sold (for short positions)
Shares = number of shares long or short in the portfolio
Paid = price per share
Cost = what portfolio paid (including commission); note for short sales, the portfolio gains cash
Now = price per share as of the date of the report
Value = what it is worth as of the date of the report (# shrs multiplied by price per share plus—or minus for short positions—the value of dividends)
Change = Change since last report (not applicable for positions new since last report)
Year-to-Date = Change since 31 Dec 07
Return on Investment = on a percentage basis, the performance of this security since purchase
Compounded Annual Growth Rate = annualized ROI for this position since purchase (to help compare apples to apples)
Notes: The benchmark for the ISOP is the Greenwich Alternative Investments Global Hedge Fund Index, which historically (1988 to 2007 inclusively) provides a CAGR of around 15.1%. For comparison’s sake, we also show the NASDAQ index, which over the same time frame has yielded a CAGR of around 10.1%. Note that for the portfolio, 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 2% rate of interest on the listed cash balance.
Transactions: The ISOP was a bedrock of stability this month; with the market going totally insane in terms of volatility, we felt constrained to make only one transaction…and that was essentially a move to bring the port more into congruence with the way it used to be, in that we replaced our Wachovia (WB) short position (covered last month) with a short position in the stock of the company that acquired WB, viz. Wells Fargo (WFC). A big contrast from last month, when we had a portfolio-record 14 transactions in moving to a net short stance. Speaking of our shorts, we did cheerfully pay out several dividends for our financial services and retailing stocks (when you are short a stock that pays a dividend, you have to pony it up).
- 3 Oct—paid out BBY dividend of $0.14/shr
- 8 Oct—paid out MA dividend of $0.15/shr
- 9 Oct—Sold short 73 WFC for $33.06/shr
- 23 Oct—paid out GS dividend of $0.35/shr
Comments: LOL you might think that the amount of effort that goes into managing portfolios in a month with one transaction would be a lot less than the effort expended in a 14-transaction month…but when the market is going insane and repricing everything from day-to-day, just about the same degree of close attention is required, regardless of whether or not anything is being bought or sold. On average, the NASDAQ goes up about 10% a year…well there were two DAYS in October where the NASDAQ index was up 10%+…and this in a month were overall, the index was down 18%, the two gigantic up days notwithstanding.
The level of volatility this month was positively staggering. Normally, the index changes (up or down) an average of about 0.5% each day. The average daily change in October: ±3.7%…more than seven times normal!
Obviously, when the level of systemic risk is high, the potential variation in the value of any given company is extremely high, depending. For example, if the economy recovers, then Best Buy (BBY)—which we are short—is worth, say, $15+ billion. But if we fall into a depression where no one can afford to buy big flat screen TVs, then maybe they go out of business. Pretty big range in valuation! Add to that the complexities of the economy, and the impossibility of instantly and accurately calculating the impact of the latest government actions, the inevitable result is a wildly gyrating consensus.
Be that as it may, when the dust settled, we were +8%, the hedgies were -6%, and the NASDAQ was, as we said, -18%. A great month for the good guys! Overall after 22 months of operations, the ISOP is now +148% compared with -6% for the hedgies and -29% for the NASDAQ.
It was a bull market for news this month. On 3 October, W signed the bank bailout bill (after rejecting it last month, the House took another vote after some fig leaves were applied and enough Republicans changed their votes to “yes” to pass it). Also on 3 October, Wells Fargo (WFC) outbid Citigroup (C) for our former short, Wachovia (WB). On 6 October with the market tanking, the Fed announced an emergency $900 billion in short-term loans to banks (this is in addition to TARP funds). On 7 October with the market tanking still more, the Fed announced an emergency move to lend $1.3 trillion to non-financial services companies. On 8 October with the market still on the express elevator headed for the sub-basement, the Fed cut interest rates in a move coordinated with other prominent central banks including those of China, the ECB, the UK, and Switzerland. Overall, the S&P 500 dropped 18.2% for the week ending 10 October, its worst week ever. On 14 October, the US Treasury announced distribution of $250 billion of the TARP funds in the form of loans to several large banks, including our shorts Bank of America (BAC), Goldman Sachs (GS), and Wells Fargo (WFC) as well as C and others. On 21 October, the Fed announced another emergency short-term loan program, this time to money market mutual funds, which had stopped lending to banks in the wake of a huge wave of redemptions.
The fix is clearly in, with Democrats in Congress and working hand-in-glove with the Republican Secretary of the Treasury and Republican appointee Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke to “stablize” the current broken-down system. It appears that none of the broken financial services companies—not even AIG, Freddie Mac (FRE), or Fannie Mae (FNM), who are in the worst shape—will be allowed to fail so long as the Fed’s printing presses are still able to pump out funds to loan them to “tide them over.” W has practically turned invisible during the crisis but evidently has no objections (if any opinions whatsoever). Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic party nominee for President, has pretty carefully avoided saying much of anything, but on 1 October he voted for the bailout (as did his running mate, Senator Joe Biden). The GOP standard bearer, Senator John McCain, has been somewhat more vocal and way more incoherent; in the event, he, too, voted for the bailout on 1 October. We believe this approach is both morally wrong—bailing out wealthy bankers with taxpayer money—and shortsighted, in that it will only delay the day of reckoning and ensure both that the eventual nadir will be lower and the recovery therefrom harder and longer.
Speaking of hard, that it was for our portfolio, as ever single equity was down in October. (WFC, which we are short, was up between the day we bought it—9 October at the open—and the end of the month but we obviously sold it short too late because it was down overall for the month.) Fortunately, we are now short eight positions and long only six so on balance, a down market is a good thing for our portfolio. Among the long positions, our two biotech companies (VRTX down 21% and NBIX down 12%), our gold miner (GSS down 42%), and our relatively new retailer (CAB down 34%) were no help whatsover.
We also own DUG, which is an ETF that is supposed to move twice the inverse of the price of oil…well crude was down sharply in October, but on extremely volatile trading, and DUG somehow managed to lose 5%, declining more on the days that the price of oil increased sharply that it gained on the days oil declined. We need to keep this one on a short leash as it is evidently poorly designed and not behaving as we expected it to.
Aside from the aforementioned WFC, we were very happy with the performance of our shorts. Our real estate short (BZH) was down 62%! The other financials shorts were all down sharply (BAC -31%, GS -28%, and HBC -27%). All three retail-related shorts were down big (BBY -28%, MA -17% and WMT -7%).
Clearly, the risk of a serious downturn continues to be significant here, and consequently we remain net short.