In the world of giant bond funds, imitation of trades just may be the sincerest form of flattery.
Just two days after DoubleLine’s Jeff Gundlach told Bloomberg and CNBC that he was taking profits in high risk assets, including corporate profits, building a buffer and loading up on VIX as a surge in volatility was his “highest conviction trade” (and correctly so, as just one day later VIX soared from 10 to 17), that “other” bond titan, Pimco said it was doing precisely the same.
Speaking to Reuters, Pimco’s chief investment officer, Dan Ivascyn, said on Friday that his firm which which oversees more than $1.6 trillion of assets “has built up an above-average cash position firmwide and has held S&P put options as geopolitical and military risks mount.“
The former should not come as a surprise: three weeks ago we reported that according to Bank of America, the cash allocation among the bank’s high net worth private clients (i.e. rich retail investors) had fallen to the lowest on record as institutions were liquidating stocks to increasingly more euphoria retail investors, which obviously meant that those on the other side of the trade – in this case selling institutions like Pimco – were building up their cash reserves, because contrary to CNBC’s constantly erroneous reporting on the topic for nearly a decade, there is no such thing as “cash on the sidelines” and every time someone buys a stock or any other risk assets, someone else sells it and pockets cash proceeds.
What was a surprise, however, is that PIMCO had been actively hedging for a sharp market drop by loading up on puts. And while it is unclear if its trade profile was as aggressive as that of Gundlach, PIMCO’s admission that it was prepared for a drop comes as a surprise at a time when major institutions are leery of providing a glimpse into their investing philosophy.
Ivascyn said that Pimco has been a holder of put options on the Standard & Poor’s 500 “as the VIX remains historically low.” The CIO said that, also like Gundlach, Pimco “has been taking profits in high-valued corporate credits and built cash balances for when better opportunities arise.”
What was even more surprising is how concerned the investing chief of the world’s formerly largest bond fund sounded:
“We’re getting liquidity higher,” Ivascyn told Reuters in a phone interview. “If we see actual military altercation, markets can go a lot lower. And at the same time, volatility has been so low for so long that it doesn’t take much for markets to get worked up.”
Echoing yesterday’s warning made by Bridgewater’s Ray Dalio, the PIMCO CIO said that although the market has yet to panic, “you will certainly see panic if all of this turns into a sustained military encounter.“
And if the “sustained military encounter” turns into an all out nuclear war? Well then nobody knows: as the WSJ humorously writes this morning, “analysts are trying to work out what happens to the markets they cover in the event of an all-out nuclear war.”
Here’s an idea: BTFAONW?