Happy belated birthday to the stock market!
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On March 9 the current bull market turned 8 years old, that is, prices have continued to rise without at least a 20% decline at any point for the last eight years.That impressive climb makes this bull market the second longest in history, only behind the bull market that lasted 113 months, between October 1990 and March 2000.
The advanced age of this bull market makes investors antsy, driving them to wonder “just when is the next recession?”When there’s uncertainty of this nature it can be unsettling, but one thing that helps is to look to the stalwarts of the investing community andcheck out what they are doing.
Luckily it’s easier than you think to figure out what investment geniuses are up to. Institutional investment managerswith more than $100 million in assets are required by law to disclose their holdings in what’s known as a 13F filing.We can dig through these public records to take a closer look at the portfolios of some rock-star managers, and perhaps get a clue as to what we should do with our money.
The man best known for “breaking the Bank of England” is worth billions of dollars and runs Soros Fund Management. He earned his billions by betting against the sterling in 1992, able to read the regulatory missteps of government officials and acting accordingly. There may be no one better at reading macro-trends in the market than George Soros.
Soros’ fund has more than $25 billion in assets under management and we have information about his holdings, as of Dec 31, 2016. This should give us a sense of where he thinks the market is headed.
Here are his top 10 holdings by amount invested.
As you can see, the top holding is a $616 million stake in Liberty Broadband Corp, an internet service provider. The rest of the top 10 is rounded out by a number of corporate bond holdings and interestingly, large put options on the S&P 500 and the iShares 7-10 Year Treasury Bond ETF.
A put option is a contract that an investor can enter into, where they get the right to sell a certain investment they own at a pre-agreed price within a certain time frame. Basically it’s a way to hedge your bets. Imagine there are two investors. One things the market is going to continue going up and you think the market is going to tank. If you think the US market is going to tank and is at $2500, then you can get a put option that allows you to sell your shares at $2700 to the other investor at any time in the next six months. You pay a fee for the privilege but if your hunch is right, then you run away a winner.
This is really telling. Currently, based on his top 10 holdings, Soros seems to be positioned very defensively. He’s got a lot of money invested in corporate bonds rather than in equities; at the same time he is hedging his bets by holding put options on the overall U.S. market as well as Treasury Bonds.
If you hold a number of puts on the US market you probably hold the belief that there’s a decline in the future. Likewise holding puts on Treasury Bonds would indicate that Soros believes that bonds will be hit as well.
Clearly this famous investor is positioning his fund in such a way to indicate that he believes a shake-up is eminent. We might do well to heed the warnings of an investor whose ability to forecast global markets earned him massive returns and recognition.