Broyhill's Affinity Hedge Fund: Betting on Deflation (Q2 Letter) ~ market folly

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Broyhill's Affinity Hedge Fund: Betting on Deflation (Q2 Letter)

Broyhill started as a family office to manage Paul H. Broyhill's assets and has since evolved into a multifaceted investment firm. Their Affinity hedge fund was up 4.6% for June and was up 6.6% for the year at that time. We've touched on how the majority of hedge funds had a very rough second quarter performance wise. That said, not every hedgie out there as been battered down and Broyhill is evidence of that. So, how did they sidestep the volatility, you ask? They called in an old fashioned contrarian prescription to combat the market's sickness.

Their hedge fund has put on a contrarian bet on long-term treasuries (outlined via their ten reasons to buy bonds). Yet with a lack of inflationary signals as of late, maybe their bet isn't so contrarian after all. While hedge funds in general have had below average net long exposure, it was still evident that many funds were taking on more risk than they realized when May and June came around. The fact that most asset classes seemed to move in lockstep didn't help things either as everything seemed correlated to the downside. Everything but treasuries, that is.

Believe it or not, Broyhill had actually been short treasuries up until about March of this year. They then went long essentially as a hedge against deflation. Broyhill isn't the only one worried about deflation either. We just detailed how David Gerstenhaber's global macro hedge fund Argonaut Capital thinks deflation is the greater risk.

In recent commentary, Broyhill has reminded us that legendary hedge fund manager Michael Steinhardt coined the term 'variant perception' in which he focused on contrarian analysis and wagers by taking positions opposite those of consensus opinion. East Coast Asset Management recently highlighted the consensus versus variant perceptions in today's market as well. Broyhill has done the same as their bet on treasuries represents their highest conviction variant perception.

Christopher Pavese, the fund's Chief Investment Officer writes,

"Quite simply, we believe investors are worrying about the wrong type of 'flation' here and now. In the near term, the ongoing contraction in private sector credit - estimated by the OECD to reach 7% of the developed world's GDP or $3 trillion - combined with the threat of fresh credit strains ahead, should more than offset the long-term inflationary impact of increased government spending. The major point here is that most strategists today remain adamant bond bears, and after missing the call at four percent, it is near impossible for them to recommend buying treasuries yielding three percent!! We welcome Wall Street's hatred of government bonds and expect to hold our position at least until the consensus capitulates .... which looks to be a ways off given today's sentiment."

Here are the Affinity hedge fund's top ten longs:

1. iShares Barclays 20+ Year Treasury (TLT): 11.1% of assets
2. Vodafone (VOD): 3.2%
3. Wal-Mart (WMT): 3.2%
4. Kraft Foods (KFT): 3.1%
5. Humana (HUM): 3.0%
6. Nintendo (NTDOY): 2.9%
7. Market Vector Gold Miners (GDX): 2.8%
8. iShares Silver Trust (SLV): 2.8%
9. PowerShares US Dollar Index (UUP): 2.7%
10. Republic Airways (RJET): 2.7%

Keep in mind that we've previously detailed Broyhill's write-up of the bullish case for St. Joe Company (JOE) as well. So in addition to their hefty treasury position, it's clear that Broyhill has two other portfolio themes in play: high quality large caps, as well as precious metals exposure. For the latter, they've chosen to play silver and a bundle of gold miners. For the former, they've picked Vodafone (VOD), one of David Einhorn and hedge fund Greenlight Capital's largest holdings. Additionally, we've seen many hedgies favor Kraft (KFT), including Bill Ackman's Pershing Square.

Although they do not disclose specific positions, Broyhill's Affinity hedge fund has revealed its top sector short positions, including:

Education (5.2%) of assets
Global Financials (2.9%)
Business Equipment (2.9%)
Euro (2.7%)
Automotive (2.5%)
Appliances (1.9%)
Employment Services (1.8%)
Credit Rating Agencies (1.7%)
Global Resources (1.7%)
Recreational Vehicles (1.2%)

We'll continue to keep an eye on this hedge fund's successful wager on treasuries and embedded below is Broyhill's second quarter letter:

You can download a .pdf copy here.

For more on this deflationary wager, head to Broyhill's ten reasons to buy bonds as well as the thesis behind their bet on long-term treasuries. Additionally, more research from the hedge fund can be found in their bullish case for St. Joe (JOE).

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