I am in Argentina today, but still have found time to read a rather provocative speech by David Einhorn, who is President of Greenlight Capital, a "long-short value-oriented hedge fund", which he began in 1996. Einhorn has long been a critic of the current investment banking business, and today he discusses the problems with not only the proposed new government regulations (or lack thereof), but also the problems with the US debt and our currency valuations. It is a most thought-provoking and fun speech.
It is especially poignant as I sit in a country that has seen the ravages of hyper-inflation, talking with business leaders and investors who experienced the problems first hand and how they deal with it today. I will be writing about what I am learning this Friday I think. But now I have to run and give my third speech today. Have a good week!
Your very surprised to find Argentinean beef as good as that of Texas analyst,
Can the credit crisis get any worse? In this week's Outside the Box my London partner Niels Jensen shows that it indeed can. Banks, and mainly European banks, have large exposure to emerging market debt of all types through both sovereign, corporate and individual loans. Just as banks have had to write down large losses from the subprime crisis and other related problems, next will come a wave of potential losses from yet another source. Niels then goes on to give us a look the size and problems with hedge fund deleveraging. Altogether, this is a very interesting letter and one that is written from a non-US point of view that I think you will find instructive.
This week look at a short but very important piece by Bill Gross. He has my same concern about credit default swaps, but he puts a number to it. He thinks the cost to the world economic system could be in the $250 billion dollar range. Add that to the $250 billion in losses due to the subprime markets, and you are starting to talk real money. The Shadow Banking System is at the center of the problem. I trust you will find this of interest.
Bill Gross was just named Fixed Income Manager of the Year by Morningstar. He sits on the largest pile of bonds in the world at PIMCO and is their Managing Director.
But before we get to Gross's piece, let's look at these few paragraphs which set the scene for the problem in the CDS market from good friend Michael Lewitt of HCM:
"This brings us to the second and, in our view, greater concern raised by Mr. Seides, which is the financial strength (or weakness) of counterparties and their ability to post additional collateral when their positions move against them. This is undoubtedly going to be a growing concern as mortgage and other credit losses swell in 2008. The dirty little secret in the leveraged finance market is that many participants, including many CDS counterparties, are "weak hands." A "weak hand" is an investor whose capital base is subject to erosion due to losses or investor redemptions, such as a hedge fund. "Weak hands" are usually significant employers of leverage as well.
"It is a widely acknowledged fact that many of the participants in the CDS market are hedge funds whose capital is subject to the whims of performance-chasing investors. As the disappointing performance of some previous top performing hedge funds demonstrated last year, investment banks and other financial institutions that are counting on these counterparties to fulfill their part of the bargain in CDS contracts could be left holding the bag if the current credit environment continues to deteriorate, as many of us expect.
"A case in point was the collapse of Dublin-based Structured Credit Company (SCC) in December 2007, which is seeing its 12 trading partners lose about 95 percent of what they are owed, according to the Financial Times. SCC was just a couple of years old and was one of a new brand of Credit Derivative Product Companies (observation: these companies should use a "skull and crossbones" as their corporate logo). It had no credit rating (although HCM would not have been surprised to see it obtain one since the rating agencies were handing out ratings left and right during this period) and $200 million of capital on top of which it wrote $5 billion of credit default swaps. We will save our readers from doing the math ? that is 25-to-1 leverage (significantly less than many Structured Investment Vehicles, just to place this insanity in some kind of context). Low and behold, when the credit markets collapsed last summer and SCC was required to post additional collateral on its trades, there was ? to quote Gertrude Stein ? "no there there."
"Court documents show that collateral demands rose from $55 million to $438 million, but SCC ran out of funds after managing to post $175 million, and the game was up. Was such an outcome unforeseeable? Only for someone completely ignorant of the last 500 years of economic history, HCM supposes. SCC boasted, of course, that "we have stress-tested our capital to the ?nth' degree and believe that the platform we have is the most flexible and comprehensive you could have." Right. HCM would respectfully suggest that the only ones more misinformed than SCC itself were those who were lured into taking the other side of their trades and are now nursing $250 million of losses (and frankly it's shocking that the losses aren't much larger). Of course, these firms included some of the largest financial institutions in the world, so once again HCM finds itself scratching its head in amazement at the madness of crowds."
25 to 1 leverage and stress testing do not belong in the same sentence or marketing pitch. This type of ending for various funds is going to become all too common.
I get more questions about gold than other single topic. The fascination for the "barbarous relic" among my readers is clear. This week in Outside the Box we take a look at the gold market, its growth-to-date, and potential future investment opportunity. Doug Casey and David Galland of Casey Research provide an intriguing analysis of the gold market today.
I have known Doug and David a very long time. They take their research on gold stocks very seriously, and have been quite successful over the past years. While they are more bearish on the economy than I am, their analysis of the natural resource markets and gold stocks in particular has been spot on. In the mid-80's I wrote my first newsletter which focused on gold stocks. I sold it after about a few years as I became bearish on gold, but kept up the interest in the stocks.
But one thing I learned. If you are not on the ground talking to the men who are doing the work, getting into the behind the scenes facts, you are going to have a hard time making money even in a gold bull market. Doug is one of the few guys that truly knows what is going on in the market. He knows the difference between those who are serious about mining and those who are simply promoters.
If you are interested in specific gold stocks and gold stock investing, I really suggest you subscribe to Doug Casey's letter The International Speculator. They will send you his recent update which covers in-depth all the stocks he likes and a few he says to avoid. For more information on how to subscribe, please click here.
As long time readers know, I get a lot of newsletters sent to me from around the world. Many are from private sources. Among the best is the HCM Market Letter written by Michael Lewitt of Harch Capital in Florida. Michael is one smart guy with a deep understanding of the markets, especially the credit markets, and how they work. The firm manages domestic and offshore debt and equity hedge funds and separate accounts. I really look forward each month to getting Michael's insights. For this week's Outside the Box we will look at his letter from late last week which, given the continued drop in the dollar, is more pertinent than ever. He also touches on interest rates, the problems with Credit Default Swaps and oil. It is a wide-ranging essay and one that I think you will enjoy pondering.