Life – or rather losses – come at you fast, especially if you listen to Bridgewater’s investing advice.
It was just two weeks ago, with the S&P at all time highs, that Ray Dalio told a fawning Davos audience to go all in stocks: “We are in this Goldilocks period right now. Inflation isn’t a problem. Growth is good, everything is pretty good with a big jolt of stimulation coming from changes in tax laws. If you’re holding cash, you’re going to feel pretty stupid.“
Two weeks later, if you held cash, you felt pretty smart after the biggest Dow Jones point crash in history and the biggest VIX surge on record.
Of course, in the interim period we learned that far from adding to Bridgewater’s positions, the world’s biggest hedge fund was actively adding to its shorts, and as Bloomberg reported on Friday, Bridgewater now has at least $13.1 billion in European Union shorts, quadrupling the $3.2 billion short from last week, and over 18 times more than the fund’s original position last October.
Fast forward to today when Dalio’s cheerful optimism is a distant memory and according to an FT interview with Bob Prince, co-chief investment officer at Bridgewater, last week’s market turbulence, which helped trigger record outflows from global stock funds, was set to continue.
“There had been a lot of complacency built up in markets over a long time, so we don’t think this shakeout will be over in a matter of days,” Mr Prince, who runs Bridgewater’s $160bn of investments alongside the fund’s founder Ray Dalio, said in an interview. “We’ll probably have a much bigger shakeout coming.“
But, but… just two weeks ago Bob’s boss was urging to double down on the complacency, or risk “feeling pretty stupid.”
Delightful irony aside, this is what else Prince told the FT: “Last year equity markets had a free run. But this year we are going from central banks contemplating tightening policy to actually doing it,” Mr Prince said. “We will have more volatility as we are entering a new macroeconomic environment.”
Whatever the reason behind last week’s “short-vol” unwind, Prince predicted that “the broader economic backdrop was setting the stage for more turbulence later this year.“
While Mr Prince doubted inflation would become a real problem, he expected central banks to start draining the global economy of some of the trillions of dollars they have pumped into the financial system in recent years — further challenging the post-crisis bull market.
We are curious just which principle of Ray Dalio it was to recommend one thing and just a few days later to turn around and pitch the exact opposite.
Prince’s interview is available at the FT after the jump.
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