Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Biggs Boosts Bullish Bets on Stocks to 90% Net Long

I have high regard for Barton Biggs --- and find it interesting how quickly he has moved in and out of long equity positions as his assesssment of relevant economic and political factors has changed from week to week.

Bloomberg News Article
By Inyoung Hwang and Tom Keene - Mar 20, 2012

Barton Biggs, the hedge-fund manager who increased bets on equities before the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rallied this year, is getting more bullish.

“I’ve been gradually increasing and I’m up to 90 percent now,” said Biggs, referring to the proportion of his fund that benefits from higher share prices. He spoke in a radio interview today on “Bloomberg Surveillance” with Tom Keene. “There is an awful lot of money that is out of stocks and in very low-yielding fixed-income instruments. I think the odds are that money is going to migrate back.”

Biggs, the founder of the Traxis Partners LP, said last month that his net-long position, a gauge of bullish versus bearish investments, in stocks is about 75 percent, up from 65 percent in January. His optimism fluctuated along with the market, with at least eight changes in the past six months, according to interviews with Bloomberg.

The S&P 500 (SPX) has rallied 11 percent this year and is on pace for the best first quarter since 1998 amid better-than-estimated economic reports and confidence that Europe’s debt crisis won’t derail the global recovery. The index was 9.9 percent below its October 2007 record of 1,565.15 yesterday. It trades at about 14.5 times reported earnings, the highest valuation level since July, while still below the average since 1954 of 16.4.

The benchmark gauge for U.S. equities fell 0.5 percent to 1,402.44 at 10:10 a.m. New York time today.

Net-Long Positions

Biggs reduced the net-long position in the Traxis Global Equity Macro Fund to about 40 percent at the end of September before increasing it to 65 percent on Oct. 17 and 80 percent on Oct. 31, according to interviews with Bloomberg. On Nov. 21, he said he cut the level to less than 40 percent. On Dec. 2, he said he boosted it to about 60 percent.

Biggs said on Dec. 12 that he was investing in U.S. and Asian stocks. He said at the time that equities might rise or fall 20 percent because of concern about budget negotiations and Europe. The S&P 500 rose 14 percent from that day through yesterday, while the MSCI All-Country Asia Pacific Index advanced 11 percent.

He sees risk to the markets from tensions in the Middle East. If Israel were to “take a shot” at Iran, it “would be very, very serious for the world economy and would cause a double dip,” Biggs said today.

“The ‘gloom crew’ is looking over their shoulders at what’s happened, and it certainly isn’t a perfect world,” he said.

Biggs said today that while the problems in Europe haven’t been solved, he is encouraged by the quality of the leadership at the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and in Italy.