Thursday, July 24, 2008

The "hedgie" playbook

Was to short the financials, and go back in the oils.

The oils look to have hit a spot where they can bounce. And the financials, hit a place where they could be sold.

And quick! That was the playbook, and the S&P Financials fell almost 7% today.

The supposed catalyst was Bill Gross of Pimco and his August letter concerning housing:

Yet housing, unlike other asset classes, carries with it an aura more like a bad dream than a fairy tale. Unlike the frog that when kissed turns into a handsome prince, housing can morph a froglike economy into something resembling Godzilla. That is because it is the most levered asset class and the one held by more “investor” citizens than any other. U.S. homes are market valued at over 20 trillion dollars with nearly half of the value supported by mortgage finance of one sort or another. At first blush that appears to be reasonably levered, but at the margin, homes purchased in 2004 and beyond are now at risk of turning upside down – negative equity – and there are some 25 million or so of those. The “upsidedownness” in many cases results in foreclosures, or outright abandonment and most certainly serves as an example of what not to do for millions of twenty-somethings or new citizens choosing between homeownership and renting. The dominoes fall month-by-month, forcing prices ever lower as shown in Chart 1 provided by Case-Shiller. An asset deflation in turn becomes a debt deflation, as subprimes, alt-As, and finally prime mortgages surrender to the seemingly inevitable tide. PIMCO estimates a total of 5 trillion dollars of mortgage loans are in risky asset categories and that nearly 1 trillion dollars of cumulative losses will finally mark the gravestone of this housing bubble. The problem with writing off 1 trillion dollars from the finance industry’s cumulative balance sheet is that if not matched by capital raising, it necessitates a sale of assets, a reduction in lending or both that in turn begins to affect economic growth, creating what Mohamed El-Erian fears as a “negative feedback loop.”

I suppose that letter would do the trick!

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