Carole’s Short of Logic on “Brexit Disaster Capitalism”

In the wilder corners of Twitter, the remainiacs have a meta-conspiracy theory they call “Brexit Disaster Capitalism”, it has a number of components and is based on some far-fetched premises;

  • Brexit will be a disaster and lead to economic collapse.
  • Prominent rich Brexiteers know this, they intend to profit from it by selling short stocks high to buy back low after the disaster.
  • City tycoons and hedge fund managers financed the Brexit campaign to bring about the collapse from which they will profit massively whilst the rest of us suffer.

The fact that Jacob Rees-Mogg, for example, has an interest in a fund management firm is cited as proof. The latest incarnation and attempt to shore up the theory is based on the publicly-disclosed short interests of various fund managers who have given money to the Tories, Vote Leave or Boris Johnson’s campaigns. Carole Cadwalladr tweeted last night that they have aggregate short positions of some £4,563,350,000. Four and a half billion quid of shorts by Brexit-backing fund managers sounds like a huge amount. Except it isn’t in relative terms.

The UK stock market is capitalised at over £4 trillion, so that aggregate short position is equivalent to something like a tenth of 1% of the market. Nothing unusual. Long/short funds usually trade stock pairs, so the funds most likely won’t even be that short in net terms because a fund goes short one stock and hedges the position long another stock (hence the term “hedge* fund”). The profit (or loss) is from the difference in the stocks’ relative performances.

More obviously, these funds are overall net long the market, if these rapacious plutocrats were betting on disaster, why would they be positioned to profit massively when the broad stock market went up and lose when it went down? Publicly available data, for example, shows that the prominent Brexiteer donor Paul Marshall’s firm has £1.3 billion in short positions on the UK stock market. His firm manages some £30 billion of assets. Which suggests he is in reality geared to profit far more from rising than falling stock markets.

Incidentally, if the fund managers had been short since referendum night they would have lost their fortunes, given the FTSE is up over a 1000 points since the referendum. The whole “Brexit Disaster Capitalism” conspiracy theory does not make sense even if you accept the premise that Brexit will be a disaster. The hedge fund managers are long the market in the expectation stocks will continue to rise…

*The hedge might also be against derivatives or the relevant market index. To go short without hedge is to be nakedly short. A brave trade.

Strong July Growth as Recession Threat Dies

Threats of a recession in the UK have faded after the UK economy showed solid growth in July. Defying remainer expectations.

As the BBC’s Economics Editor, Faisal Islam, concedes, “strongly suggesting [a] return to growth in Q3, albeit Q3 hasn’t finished yet – so recession not looking likely”.

The 0.5% growth rate – driven greatly by construction growth – comes after a 0.2% contraction in the second quarter of the year, and marks the strongest month of growth since January. 0.3% growth is three times higher than predicted – expect more economic predictions to be defied over the coming months…

EU Exports Down Strongly, UK Exports Up Strongly

Remainers pointing to soft economic numbers in the UK should note that trade between euro-zone member states fell by 6.6% in June compared to the same period last year. That was the fastest such contraction since 2013. Exports from the eurozone to the rest of the world also dropped by 4.7%, the fastest rate since 2016. The EU can’t blame the fall in intra-bloc trade on China…

This is massively under-performing compared to exports of goods and services from the UK which grew 4.5% in June, the most since October 2016. Shipments of goods in particular surged 7.6%, driven by machinery & transport equipment. The euro looks over-valued…

Nonsense of the Disaster Capitalism Brexit Narrative

There is a belief popular with some Remainiacs that Brexit backing financiers – particularly those who donate to Brexit causes – are doing so to profit. Somehow they will make a killing when Brexit goes disastrously wrong and that is the reason why they are funding Brexit causes. The latest manifestation of this is that Crispin Odey is short* £300 million of shares in British companies, proof that he stands to make a killing when Brexit collapses the economy. Literally caught short!

Guido has not spoken to Odey for this article. It is however well known that he runs a long/short fund. A common strategy of such funds is to do pairs trades; a trader might go long Fed-Ex shares and short Royal Mail shares because he thinks Fed-Ex will do better than Royal Mail whether the general market goes up or down. If the market goes down he expects Royal Mail to go down more, if it goes up he expects Fed Ex to go up more. The difference between the moves – the spread – is where his profits or losses will be made. The difference in the shares’ relative performance.

Both shares could go up, so long as Fed-Ex goes up more the trader profits. Sometimes long/short funds will short a stock versus the general market. If the market goes up more than the shorted stock, they profit. The reason the financial press knows Odey is short £300 million of shares is that funds have to make regulatory declarations of short interests. They do not have to declare their long interests. However we know that Odey has billions under management. It is therefore very likely that his firm is net long the UK stock market given he has only £300 million in declared shorts. Not a position you take if you expect disaster.

Odey is often reported as having made millions from the referendum. Guido is sure Crispin is happy for potential investors to think that. However the facts are that his Swan Long/Short Equity fund lost 42.1% in 2016 and 21.8% in 2017. It has only just started clawing back losses by some 39.7% in 2018, leaving it well down since the referendum. So much for profiting from Brexit…

*Shorting is when you borrow and sell shares in the hope of buying them back later at a lower price.

So Much for Downing Street’s “TARP Moment”

Do you remember when Downing Street briefed the media that the defeat of the meaningful vote would produce a “TARP Moment”, and that markets crashing would push panicking MPs to vote for the PM’s deal the second time round? Just as the US congress agreed the bail-out only after markets crashed in a second vote. The theory was that the pound and equities would slide as investors priced in the likelihood of Britain leaving the European Union without a deal in March 2019. Scared of being blamed, rebel MPs would fall into line. Sterling finished the day where it started and if firm this morning, the FTSE 100 is basically flat as well. So much for Downing Street’s insight into market dynamics.

Market players clearly now expect a softer Brexit. Which suggests Downing Street has totally failed to convince observers to believe that a WTO terms Brexit is really a likely outcome…

Peston Tweet Taken at Face Value Costs Currency Traders

Peston earlier tweeted that the ERG were falling in behind May’s deal. Just a warning to Guido’s friends in the foreign exchange game. Please take Peston’s insights into the Conservative Party with a bag of salt…

Bloomberg, who should know better, reported Peston’s tweet as if it was a verified ITV News story. The newswire flashed it out across their terminals. Millions changed hands, boom and bust within minutes resulted…

UK Services PMI Jumps to 55.1

Services sector activity in the UK economy extended its rebound in the month of June, and surprised markets to the upside, services PMI jumped to 55.1 in June versus a 54.0 reading booked in June. Markets expected 54.0 last month. The survey data indicate that the economy likely grew by 0.4% in the second quarter, up from 0.2% in the opening quarter of 2018. Sterling rose against the euro on the back of the news.

Tory Ex-Minister is Working for Oligarch Named as Corrupt by Russian Opposition Leader

Former Tory MP and tree-hugging Energy & Climate Change minister Greg Barker has had a difficult start to 2018. As we previously reported in November, Russophile Lord Barker of Battle’s primary role as chairman of En+ Group was to add a veneer of respectability to reassure the City as the Russian energy and aluminium producer listed on the London Stock Exchange. Once the LSE accepted the listing, Barker must have thought his main struggles were over…

Slightly concerning then that Barker’s boss, Oleg Deripaska, is now under the cosh on several fronts. At the end of January Deripaska was named on the US Treasury list of oligarchs linked to the Russian government. Deripaska owns over 70% of En+ and is also the subject of a letter to the SFO from the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, calling for an anti-corruption investigation into his affairs after he was filmed on a yacht with Sergei Prikhodko, Russia’s deputy PM. The yacht trip only added to the intrigue around Deripaska’s links to Manafort and the Trump campaign, especially with new allegations of more meetings on the US elections surfacing…

This is likely not M’lud Barker’s biggest headache. Both MI6 and officials in Washington are angry that the float went ahead, as most of the funds raised went straight to the state-owned Russian bank VTB, which is under both EU and US sanctions. Having secured a bridgehead on the LSE, En+ is rumoured to be gearing up to raise another $1 billion from investors. While happy for its oligarchs to raise money in London, Russia seems less pleased about the presence of ex-KGB officials in Salisbury. Barker, a close pal of ex-PM David Cameron, must be wondering how to salvage this one…

2017: The Year ‘Experts’ Were Completely Confounded

Among all the predictions of doom and recession the remainers and economists got wrong they were right about one in 2016 – the pound did fall 15% after the vote. This was not unexpected, Leave backing donors like hedge fund manager Crispin Odey figured that out and traded accordingly. The pound was widely seen as over-valued.

The pessimism on the pound continued into 2017, HSBC predicted it would hit parity with the €uro, Remain backing investment bank Morgan Stanley toppped that with a prediction that the € would surge past parity to be worth £1.02. Brexit-backing economist Roger Bootle’s firm Capital Economics stuck their neck out at the same time and said the £ would finish at €1.13. The pound ended the year at €1.12…

Goldman Sachs’ CEO Lloyd Blankfein has been outspoken against Brexit, his firm forecast sterling would fall from $1.25 to $1.14 in 2017. In fact, it has risen to $1.35. Goldmans also forecast  that the 10-year gilt yields that determine government borrowing costs would rise from 1.28% to 1.65%. They fell to 1.19%…

We were told that banks would leave the City last year, there has been no such exodus, London still has more international banks than any other financial centre in the world. We were told that foreign investors would shuna UK poised to Brexit, yet inward Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) hit a record high in 2017, dwarfing all other EU countries. The experts were absolutely wrong.

These same Remain supporting investment banks and international institutions are now predicting that Britain’s GDP will plummet outside the EU. Ironically official figures have just been revised up putting UK GDP growth up with Germany. UK and French GDP has been neck and neck for years, France is actually ahead currently. Guido will wager that in a decade the UK’s GDP will actually be greater than that of France. Any takers among economic experts? 

From Husky Hugging to Coal Mining

Greg Barker, now m’Lord Barker of Battle, Cameron’s husky hugging companion and former swivel-eyed Energy & Climate Change minister, has found a use for his experience gained in Government. Long a fan of Russian billionaires, Barker is the newly-appointed chairman of EN+, a Russian energy and aluminium conglomerate controlled by oligarch Oleg Deripaska. Barker’s first job is to bring a veneer of respectability to the energy company as it floats on the LSE. He’ll have his work cut out…

EN+’s owner is certainly close to the Kremlin: wikileaked US diplomatic cables described Deripaska as one of “the two or three oligarchs Putin turns to on a regular basis”, while the US still refuses to give him a visa due to his links to organised crimeDeripaska’s dealings with Manafort won’t help his cause…

More troubling are EN+’s ties to VTB Bank, the Russian lender that has been sanctioned by the US and EU since the Russian invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea in 2014. As the Spectator pointed out:

EN+ says it intends to use the ‘primary proceeds’ of the share offering ‘to repay a portion of its debt’ – which is owed largely to Russian banks such as VTB (also an EN+ shareholder) that helped bail out Deripaska’s businesses with Kremlin support after the 2008 crash, and are currently subject to US and EU sanctions. So London investors’ money will be flowing back into Putin’s other-wise ostracised banking system. 

With sanctions still in place on VTB and Russia, Barker has to convince investors that this deal does not violate sanctions. He’ll have an even harder time explaining to Cameron why he’s working around sanctions his own government helped put in place…

Aside from all that, take a moment to reflect on the sheer cynicism of a husky hugging Climate Change hyping minister becoming Chairman of a coal-mining to aluminum smelting conglomerate. One Tory grandee told Guido that Barker “must be short of cash.” 

Goldman Sacks Pound Bear

Goldman’s top currency-market strategist Robin Brooks left the bank last month. Goldman Sachs was advising its clients that its “top trade” for 2017 was to short the British pound against the US dollar. It has now reversed its recommendation.

In a research note published yesterday the bank offered a mea culpa and recommended clients sell dollars to buy pounds. At one point earlier this year people were talking about the £ going to parity with the $, it is now at $1.28. Hard to know how the Remainers will spin this…

UK GDP Beats Predictions and Exports Up… Again!

UK GDP growth for the fourth quarter of 2016 has been revised higher this morning to +0.7%, higher than the expected +0.6%. The Office for National Statistics revealed export growth of 4.1%, which alongside a fall in imports of 0.4% means net trade added 1.3% to growth. Brexit Britain’s boom continues to defy the ‘experts’…

Brexit Inflation and Interest Rate Signals

carney-cpi

The Bank of England’s inflation target is 2.0% – with the fall in the pound inflation is set to overshoot to between 2.5% and 4.5% depending which rune reading economist you believe. When the 2% target is missed by 1% or more Carney has to write to the Chancellor explaining why he has missed his target. He’s been writing those letters for most of his term…

Inflation has now crept up to 1% after knocking along at zero for a while. Even at the extreme end of forecasts inflation will not reach the levels seen before the great taming of inflation in the 80s. (Unless the QE unwinding is a disaster, which is not impossible.) Having read many papers on the subject Guido is none the wiser as to how the world’s Central Banks can go cold turkey from the QE opiate without a very bad come down. In any event, at these levels interest rate policy is now symbolic, market loan rates are increasingly detached from base rates. Firms are not going to make or break investment decisions because base rates are 0.25% or 0.5%.* May is right that we need to see rates rising, to head off inflation and to boost confidence.

Nothing would more clearly signal that the Brexit apocalypse is not upon us than the Bank raising base rates. Normalisation of monetary policy has to happen. Or at least the Bank should signal the beginning of normalisation…

*Fans of reflexivity and paradox will contemplate the post-referendum rate cut with joy. Carney implies it boosted the economy, critics say it was unnecessary. Did it boost confidence that the Bank of England was ready to do whatever or was it a way for Carney to claim credit for his gloomy predictions not coming true?

Investment Bank Moves Jobs to Britain

jobs-leaving-eu2

The Dutch investment banking giant ING is moving as many as 60 trading jobs to London from both Amsterdam and Brussels. The €44 billion firm is cutting 11% of its global workforce and chose London, the financial capital of the world, as the destination for a chunk of its European workforce. This is all despite George Osborne claiming financial services would be hit and 400,000 service sector jobs would be at risk if we voted to leave. It turns out financial jobs are at risk. In the EU…

City Boys Staying in London

surprise

Mark Carney is up in front of the Treasury Select Committee this afternoon where he is going to have to explain why he cut rates and re-started QE prematurely to Jacob Rees Mogg, who thinks “He acted too early in my view. There was not sufficient evidence at that point that further monetary stimulus was needed and there are adverse consequences of abnormally low interest rates as well as beneficial consequences.” As the Citigroup surprise index (above) shows, most City expert economists got it wrong on a Brexit recession. In the last week alone Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan and Credit Suisse have reverse-ferreted on their Brexit recession predictions. None have accepted Guido’s £1,000 wager offer…

fundmanagers-staying

On a similar theme it is worth reading the Centre for Policy Studies analysis out today on the pros and cons of Brexit for the financial services. Just as the consensus on a Brexit recession was misplaced (even Remain campaign financing investment bank JP Morgan has now conceded they were wrong) so too will the “City will lose out to Paris / Frankfurt / Dublin” consensus soon dissolve.  The above chart from Prequin shows that not many Masters of the Universe are keen to enjoy the Frankfurt nightlife…

What the City does want is “passporting”, assurance that the Square Mile’s firms will still be able to trade across the EU. The majority of the City’s exports in financial services (60%) go to countries outside the EU – not surprising when not one of the top 10 financial centres is in the EU. China and India are already choosing to do their capital market transactions in London, these are the growth markets of the future. In reality it is likely that if “passporting” obstacles were to be deliberately constructed, they could if necessary be circumvented by booking trades through EU based subsidaries. Zurich is the biggest financial centre on mainland Europe, it has bilateral deals with the EU, the City will want the same…  

PMI Data Shows UK Brexit Fear Has Receded

pmi

Today we saw surprising PMI data released in the US and UK. The UK surprised on the upside with a 53.3 reading, the US surprised on the downside with a 49.4 reading. The €urozone average is 51.7. That puts post-Brexit Britain in gold medal place on the PMI podium…

It is important to understand that the PMI is a survey and reflects the attitude of purchasing managers to the economy and market conditions. Last month UK PMI came in negative and the headlines in the remainstream media were apocalyptic. The reality is business and purchasing managers’ outlook was probably subjectively influenced by George Osborne’s irresponsible “Project Fear” propaganda that the UK would go into immediate recession, require an emergency budget and be attacked by zombies. None of which it now transpires was really true, however it did spook people.

Headlines last month when PMI came in negative were about a dramatic downturn, the FT warned of stagnation and the Indy breathlessly reported the “UK economy shrinking at fastest rate since financial crisis”. Guido doubts we’ll see headlines as dramatically positive tomorrow.

The Bank of England subsequently cut interest rates in a symbolic and probably unnecessary gesture – from 0.5% to 0.25% – a difference which will not animate the economy in any meaningful way. Does today’s PMI number mean Britain’s GDP will conversely now surge? Not really. Not least because China, emerging markets and the €urozone all have economic problems. Brexit is a small factor in the global situation compared to the €uro debt crisis and China’s economic problems, never mind the ever imminent Italian banking crisis…

London Lands 30 Billion Rupee “Masala Bond”

hdfc uk india

India’s first offshore rupee-denominated bond was listed on the London Stock Exchange today. The investment – known as a “masala” bond – was issued by India’s largest bank HDFC, whose chairman Deepak Parekh praised London’s “wide range of financial instruments” and “unshakable trust from international investors.”

“While we did explore other markets for listing, the responsiveness and efficiency with which the officials at the UKLA and London Stock Exchange responded to our urgent requirements was remarkable.”

HDFC’s decision to place the 30 billion rupee / £341 million bond on the British market was preceded by the Chinese government earlier this year, who issued the first ever Yuan bond outside of China (worth £300 million) in May. Last week, the German stock exchange (Deutsche Börse) voted overwhelmingly in favour of merging with the London Stock Exchange, hoping to make it the world’s largest market. Both India and China are listed within the top 20 GDP growth rates in the world, and form part of Guido’s post-Brexit trade map. It cements London’s place as the financial capital of the world – Paris and Frankfurt didn’t have a hope. Even the arch-Remainiacs over at Bloomberg are grudgingly admitting it’s good post-Brexit news…

Everybody’s Investing in Brexit Britain

dbg uk gsk city airport

Three huge businesses have announced major UK investments in the space of 24 hours – in some cases contrary to what their officials claimed prior to the referendum vote. GlaxoSmithKline has announced £275 million of fresh investment, London’s City Airport is getting a £344 million expansion, and Deutsche Börse’s shareholders overwhelmingly approved its merger with the London Stock Exchange. A vote endorsing London as the enduring financial capital of the world post-Brexit…

All three firms contributed to Project Fear. GSK CEO Sir Andrew Witty signed a letter to the Observer in May that claimed “Leaving the EU would bring added complexity and uncertainty, which is bad for business and research.” London City Airport’s CEO Declan Collier claimed Brexit would  “undermine the free flow of trade and travel.” The Financial Times warned of “advisers familiar” with the Stock Exchange merger claiming the day after the vote “The deal is dead. The German’s won’t allow it.” Willkommen in Großbritannien!

“Government Sachs” Hires EU’s Barroso

goldman-sachs-eu

Goldman Sachs has continued hugging the EU commission tight, after financing the anti-Brexit Remain campaign and spending millions lobbying Brussels, the aggressive Wall Street firm remains careful to keep in with the Eurocrats. Known as “Government Sachs” by those who mock the firm’s habit of hiring and providing US government officials, it is clinging tight to the EU bureaucracy post-Brexit. It has hired the former head of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso to be an advisor and non-executive chairman of Goldman Sachs International. These kind of hires provide lucrative connections to power and come to be very profitable in times of political crisis…

In September 2008 Peter Sutherland, also a former Irish EU commissioner, was Chairman of Goldman Sachs International when he strongly advised the naively led Irish government to buy up bank bond debts at the Irish taxpayer’s expense, for a total cost of some €85 billion or 37% of GDP, the highest per capita cost of the credit crisis in Europe. Sutherland’s advice will have saved Goldman Sachs billions in losses on the firm’s bond holdings. It will take the Irish people generations to pay off the debts Goldman Sachs advised their politicians to take on…

Europe’s Biggest Investor: Brexit Good for EU

allianz+brexit

Mohamed El-Erian was CEO of Pimco, a legend in the investing world who is now the Chief Economic Adviser to Allianz, the world’s largest insurance and financial services group which is also the largest company in Europe according to Forbes.[…] Read the rest

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