Betting on Big Rise in Yields?


Submitted by Leo Kolivakis, publisher of Pension Pulse.

Henny Sender of the FT reports that top hedge funds bet on big rise in yields:

recent rise in long-term US interest rates comes as good news for
several leading hedge fund managers, including John Paulson, who have
positioned their trading books to benefit from higher yields on US
Treasury securities.


Mr Paulson, who
made big gains earlier this decade by betting against the subprime
mortgage market and whose firm, Paulson & Co, manages $33bn, has
said he believes that government stimulus efforts would inevitably lead
to higher inflation and a corresponding rise in rates.


“It will
be difficult for the government to withdraw the economic stimulus,” Mr
Paulson said in a speech. “An increase in the monetary base leads to an
increase in the money supply, which leads to inflation.”

prices fall as yields rise, and Mr Paulson told the Financial Times
last week that he has been hoping to benefit in the Treasury market by
buying options that would become profitable if rates headed higher.
TPG-Axon’s Dinakar Singh has been making similar options trades,
according to a person familiar with the matter.

Julian Robertson,
the hedge fund manager, has pursued a related strategy, hoping to
benefit from a bigger difference between short-term and long-term
interest rates, known as a steeper yield curve, a person familiar with
his trades said.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury, which hit a
crisis low of 2.055 per cent last year, has moved from 3.2 per cent
last month to 3.75 per cent on Tuesday.

Hedge fund managers,
however, have been hesitant to engage in short sales of Treasury bonds
to profit from the rising yields – and falling prices – because of the
Federal Reserve’s heavy involvement in the market. This has led some to
buy options – dubbed “high strike receivers” – that would enable them
to profit from sharply higher Treasury yields, hedge fund managers say.
These trades, which are relatively cheap to execute because they are so
out of the money, are based on the thesis that yields could hit 7 or 8
per cent.

“If they are right, and the world ends, they will make
a fortune,” said one fund manager who is sceptical of the idea. “If
they are wrong, they haven’t lost much.”

Some traders are
cautious because many peers lost large sums betting that rates would
rise in Japan in the 1990s – as yields fell to less than half a
percentage point. The trade was termed the “black widow” because it left so many victims.

understood the extent of deflation and economic weakness in Japan,”
said Dino Kos of Portales Partners, a research consultancy, who was
then a Fed official. “More money was lost on that trade than on any
other single trade. Everyone piled in when rates were at 3 per cent and
then at 2.5 per cent and then at 2 per cent.”

is it time to place big bets on rising yields? I could easily see a
backup in yields in the near term as economic reports surprise to the
upside, but I don’t believe that bonds have entered a long-term secular
bear market. I think the hedgies are right, best to play interest rate
directional calls though options.

Also, given the increase in
liability-driven investing by pension funds worried about their funding
status, there is an upper cap on bond yields. I don’t know what the
exact magic number is, but at a certain level (say 7%), you’ll have
pensions scambling to lock in rates. Bond bears tend to ignore this
when predicting doom and gloom on bonds. All they do is focus on the
“pending collapse” of the US dollar, which won’t happen .