Hedge Funds: Very Short 10 Year Treasuries ~ market folly

Monday, May 3, 2010

Hedge Funds: Very Short 10 Year Treasuries

Societe Generale is out with the latest edition of their hedge fund watch and in it we see that they've found hedge funds to have the "shortest position ever on bonds." That language is slightly misleading as they've only been tracking these exposure levels since 2005, but still. The fact that hedge funds have more than 270,000 short contracts on the 10 year treasury bond certainly speaks volumes. This comes a few weeks after SocGen initially published research that hedgies were net short 10yr Treasuries. It's very evident that hedge funds are concerned about inflation and the impending Federal Reserve rate hike (whenever it may eventually come). As we've covered numerous times in the past, many hedge funds have put on curve steepener trades in order to play this.

As you'll see from the chart below, hedgies certainly are short bonds:

In their research, SocGen also found that hedge funds still had large short positions in 30 year treasuries as well. They've been net short all year to the degree of around 100,000 contracts on average. So, they are certainly short the 10 year to a larger degree than the 30 year. Retail traders/investors who want to piggyback this play can short the exchange traded fund IEF for the 10 year and TLT for the 30 year. And as always, keep in mind that this should not be construed as a recommendation to buy/sell various securities.

Societe Generale's other main conclusion regarding hedge fund exposure levels was that hedgies are "strong net sellers of the yen (50,000 contracts net short)." Additionally, we see that hedge funds are buying US dollars in spades against all the other major currencies. This falls in line with what we've seen recently as hedge funds were aggressively short the yen. Interestingly enough, after re-shorting the euro recently, we now see that short positions on the euro have been reduced over the past few weeks. If you don't have access to forex markets, you can play the yen via exchange traded fund FXY. You can also play the US dollar via UUP and the euro via FXE.

Lastly, turning to equities, we see that their research comes to similar conclusions as the Bank of America research we typically cover. In that report, we saw that the smart money was selling equities. SocGen confirms this writing, "even though index price is rising, the percentage of non commercial positions on total open interest on the S&P 500 has decreased significantly." Their research shows that hedge funds are now net sellers of the S&P 500 while still slightly net long the Nasdaq.

Embedded below is Societe Generale's latest hedge fund watch document:

You can download a .pdf here.

So, the trend remains in tact. Hedge funds are pushing the limits on a steep yield curve as this is certainly a crowded trade. Hedgies are massively short the 10 year treasury but also have quite a trade against the 30 year treasury as well. While some agree that inflation is not a near-term problem and instead is a long-term concern, it's very apparent that hedge funds anticipate interest rates to rise in the future. For more on the latest hedge fund exposure levels, head to our post on how hedgies are selling equities.

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