Wednesday, 23 December 2015
That's a wrap.
So here were some calls I put out last year for 2015. And it's time to appraise.
- Trends in equities and bonds will end. This is the year of the whip.
I think we can score that as a categoric HIT
- Though general equity indices will see a path of general sidewayness with high volatility there will be large sectoral oscillations.
Again a HIT. SPX closing much where it started in the general scheme of things (even China's SHComp outperformed it by 12% over the year) with sectoral plays having been massive.
- Because of the above, funds will start to move from index trackers towards discretionary as the point above means that GOOD discretionary starts to perform.
MISS. Looking back on it there was a self-inforcing escape clause in it. GOOD discretionary has been good, or it wasn't good. The problem is that discretionary in general has been pretty bad. But then so have most indices. So I am a bit lost on this one.
- Discretionary macro will find they are short of portfolio managers as they have mostly been replaced by quants who are absolutely brilliant at working out value in their space but unfortunately don’t have a clue as to how someone else’s space effects their space, especially if it hasn’t happened before.
MISS, though I’ll claim an assist as Discretionary Macro have indeed found themselves short of portfolio managers but that should have been caveated by ‘GOOD' portfolio managers as performances have been pretty abysmal. The quants are still dominating the world and the discretionary macro has at best had a ‘year of living dangerously’ or at worst completely screwed it up.
- Macro hedge funds that have sold their souls to pension funds and real money investors will feel like straight jacketed loons peering out at freedom from the confines of their asylum as the risk rules imposed upon them by their new masters of dull money mean that they can’t participate in the way they would really like to. Or stay in when under pressure.
Not sure - Funds have found the combination of lack lustre performance within the confines of rules implied by their investors egregiously restraining, or, ok , their performance was just rubbish but many have decided to hand back investor money and go it alone with just their own. Bluecrest a case in point, but a number of macro funds have hit the headlines this year, handing money back or closing.
- Fast swings will seek out and eat at the edges of risk boundaries. Much as lions will take down the wildebeest on the edge of the heard, funds that can’t move fast enough or are too restricted by process will under-perform as their positions are taken away from them in a steady stream of stop losses on both sides of the market.
HIT - Hard to tell now how much the whipsaw destroyed returns through stop losses being triggered without the agility to get back in in time for bounces, but 2015 has certainly been the year of the whip and stop loss. Either you took them and missed the re-entry or didn’t and wished you had.
2016 - I've been looking at trade recommendations from some houses and the complexity of some of them e.g. GS’s ‘Stay long a basket of 48 non-commodity exporters and short a basket of 50 EM banks stocks’ has me thinking that no one really has any confidence in anything at the moment. The idea that a year that has left many confounded ends with an outlook that is also bathed in confoundedness is not really to be unexpected. As a general rule, forecasts are normally an extrapolation of current mood.
If I was to be completely true to my faith, now would be the time to go for some big calls that sit outside confused tweaks of yield curves or spreads of things that are pretty much reliant on good fortune than real cleverness. I don't want to be fooled by complexity. It may look clever, it may sound clever, it may even be funny, but it can still lose you money as fast as betting that Trump would be out of the running by now.
But I don’t have any brave calls other than thinking that 2016 may see the following
-People will think that the Fed will hike faster than currently discounted, discount that, and then the Fed end up trailing market expectation again.
-The UK and GBP will take a hit as the rest of the world wake up to the fact that the ‘leave EU’ vote is going to be a very close run thing. I would love the UK to join NAFTA instead. If Turkey can be considered part of Europe then why not UK part of the North American continent.
-Europe will continue to politically melt like a lump of fat on a hot plate - From the bottom. The only hope is that economies grow fast enough to defuse nationalistic unrest. Greece will become an issue again in June.
-China will be just fine but relations with the west will continue to cool politically.
-Something will happen in the oil markets to see prices rise, the breath holding contest between marginal producers is going to see drownings. Or someone forcibly goes in to turn the taps off in Saudi.
-ECB will continue to trade Oil. ( i.e. energy and commodity price inputs will be the main sway to EU inflation and ECB will follow the swinging watch chain, hypnotised)
-Iran becomes more of a friend to the west putting further pressure on Saudi Arabia.
-Saudi Arabia will come under someone’s cosh in general. Too many points of interest coincide at Saudi Arabia.
- The West reduce sanctions against Moscow. I don’t know what will be the catalyst, but something will thaw relations.
- Equities will have a shake down at the beginning of the year and there will be the usual 'EM is going to collapse' call (seems a regular feature of Januaries) but then you scoop them up with both hands. Probably on the 19th Jan.
- Banks will continue to morph into old fashioned post offices as they are squeezed between regulation and Fintech. The intelligent output of Universities is now going to where it always should have gone, science, engineering and creativity.
- Inflation will be back. Great for deflating debt but only as long as real rates stay negative while inflation rises otherwise the cost of servicing debt could wipe out borrowers before their debt levels denude through inflation.
I am not going to put any trades on until something sticks. And I dont mean to fur.
Now finally, here are some things I would LIKE to see happen in 2016, but are, unfortunately not very likely.
- Amazon is found to be run by creatures that otherwise occupy the 'Tripods' in 'War of the Worlds' as I gather the way they treat humans is similar.
- SKY TV go bust.
- The road works on the M3 will be finished, or at least finished before the world is engulfed by the sun as part of its natural evolution towards a red giant.
- People will fix your computer rather than telling you how to do it.
- Trump and Putin meet in a cagefight - on the basis that two men enter and hopefully neither leave.
- Politicians are fined for every proven untruth they tell. Check your stats folks...
- Banks will work with retail so that all transactions automatically attach an invoice to your online bank statement which is automatically downloaded into accounting systems.
- A large blank swathe of Syria is secured by international forces and new cities rebuilt to rehouse all the fleeing refugees. Better to rehouse on their own land than in foreign countries.
- A new ‘thing’ is invited that becomes the must have essential item for the whole world, kick starting economies (large TVs, phones and cars have run their course)
- Battery energy density break through.
- Someone events a new class of antibiotic.
- Scotland gains independence whether they like it or not.
- Peak Political Correctness occurs when my offence at your offence causes stalemate in the Ombudspersons judgepersonst
- People reading from 2000yr old books stop trying to change my life.