I finally cracked 100% on the trading performance – a private goal for the past few years. Purple is me, blue line is Australian stocks, yellow and green are the US and the UK.

27 month performance Michael Frazis

It’s been a bad period for a number of hedge fund heroes. Einhorn hasn’t made money in about a decade, despite his fresh-faced appearances boldly plugging such uniquely intelligent trades as long dated call options on Greek banks (lol). Ackman’s arrogance (‘I’ll donate all the profits on this trade to charity’) was justly and rightly punished. Paulson got everything wrong for maybe the fifth year in a row.

Since he paid himself a 3.5 billion dollar bonus one year he’s got almost everything wrong. Gold, oil, pharma, stock picks… You could have made a fortune just taking the opposite side of his bets. It’s incredible bad these guys really are at picking stocks. And these are the good ones.
As in most parts of life it’s better to be known as a brilliant investor than to actually be one.

Nobody has any business investing in hedge funds, though I’m about to set one up so I should probably stop saying that.

Anyway, pride goeth etc, though I like to think I’ve been sufficiently chastened by the market to last a lifetime. I’ve lost every cent to my name twice, and nearly everything a third time.

At least now in dollar terms I am very much ahead. It took four years to make back everything I lost in 2011 when all my option trades went sour a couple of weeks before finals.

Then I had a fraction of the capital and my trades were more than ten times the size they are now. The good news is I haven’t worried about the markets since and don’t even check them most days so it was probably worth it. Back then, most of the stocks I picked went fantastically but I lost money. These days I can’t catch a trick on the stock selection but the portfolio has been printing coin. Go figure.

Time to put more cash behind these trades.

Don’t be hasty

1. Xivvie has prone true to form and is up about 400% since I sold my entire position at around $8 last year, proving once again stop losses are the devil’s work and have no place in anyone’s strategy. Whoops.

XIV 1 year

On the flipside, the world has proven remarkably good at knocking down risk markets, so there’ll almost certainly be another chance to pile back in, though if we have a few years like 2003-2006 (likely) I’ll probably have to watch one of my favourite plays quadruple again from the sidelines.

Typically the lack of market volatility over the past year is the exact opposite of what (dare I say) everyone was predicting a year ago. Even lil Kim hasn’t been able to shake things around. The commentators gleefully stating that the Korean markets are at ‘four month lows’ completely miss the point: big picture there’s barely been a ripple.

10 year KOSPI

(Kospi, Korea’s market index)

Fortunately, having watching XIV and it’s ETF cousins for some time now (of particular interest ZIV – it’s like a smoother version using futures further down the curve that inherently jump around less than the front end) and actually read their legal docs, at least I now have a firm strategy and some level of confidence to put on a position that, in my weak defence, I just didn’t have this time last year.

2. While I’d prefer it didn’t, that sort of opportunity may come relatively soon. There’s hints of the now-typical mid year slow-down in the US, Eurozone statistics are somehow managing to worsen, and there are signs wherever you look that market exposure is at extremes. This all suggests the annual Sell in May and Go Away collapse might happen once again, for what must be something like the fourth year in a row now.

Eurozone unemployment:

Eurozone unemployment 2013

3. Meanwhile the broad road-map has been playing out according to plan. The Eurozone hasn’t collapsed as the pundits predicted, and it will take far more than economic statistics to shake it now. Meanwhile the shale story played out more or less as expected, and while this hasn’t resulted in the fall in crude I was expecting, I think downward pressure is a relatively safe bet over the next few years.

Pressure on commodity prices will likely be the theme of the next couple of years, and you don’t need to be an expert to guess what impact the wave of supply will have on commodities like iron ore.

The second and third order impacts are harder and more interesting to ascertain. Most likely prices will stay low (as will inflation statistics) and those who need cheap fuel and cheap raw materials will benefit. Perhaps steel makers will finally have their time in the sun, and some of the pressure on airlines, shipping and transport companies will be alleviated.

4. To be honest though, considering the run so far, to be long in this market is not a clever move. Better to be patient and wait for a real opportunity. If you were set at much lower levels last year, or better yet, at any point in the four years preceding, that’s a different story, but this bandwagon is not for jumping.

Enough with the boring recap.

Next post: Anarchy and Bubblecrap