Having a laugh at the hedgies

Well, I know I should not be doing this, but I have had a lot of pleasure over the years in making fun of the pronouncements of hedge fund managers, given the poor results that many of them have achieved, despite their outlandish fees – it is no surprise to me that Warren Buffett is comfortably winning his bet that a simple index fund will outperform the average hedge fund over ten years. There are exceptions to the nonsense-speaking rule, of course, and some, like Martin Taylor and Hugh Sloane, who talk a lot of sense. But as a general rule it pays to take the wild and seemingly always confident pronouncements of hedge fund managers with a large pinch of salt. For an insight into what today’s leading lights in hedge fund land are saying, try this report from a recent hedge fund gathering, as reported by the excellent Zero Hedge website. (One participant’s revealing aside: “It’s harder to make money without a beta tailwind” – i.e when markets aren’t rising, which is exactly what critics of hedge funds rightly point out is what hedge funds promise but rarely deliver). However I loved veteran hedgie Leon Cooperman’s riposte to the “coming China collapse” stance adopted by many of his high profile peers. “China growth has been slowing for 6-7 years. In 2014 we were hung up on Ebola, and then 2015 on Greece, I think China is overblown but I defer to these gentlemen who know more than I do. In 1992 Barton Biggs took me out for dinner. He said to short JGBs.[Japanese Government Bonds]. That was 25 years ago. These things take a while to unfold! I think the bubble is in fixed income. Equities aren’t even a standard deviation away from historical averages. Buying government bonds, on the other hand, is like walking into a room, seeing a rattlesnake and kicking it to see if it’s alive. Don’t do it. Bad idea”.