Thursday, August 16, 2007

Carry Trade Unwinding

The "carry trade" is where investors borrow in low interest currencies and invest in currencies with high interest rates, pocketing the spread. The main low interest rate currency has been the Japanese Yen and one of the main high interest currencies the Australian Dollar (AUD). In recent months the Australian Dollar soared higher and higher and the Yen mostly lower. In the current financial crisis the process is reversing and the Aussie has fallen around 10 US cents from its peak. It's down 3.5 US cents overnight, which is a massive move in a currency:

This is having a massive impact on my net worth measured in US Dollars as around 2/3 of my net assets are in AUD related investments. At this point in the month my rate of return on investment is -9.7% and net worth has fallen $US 47,000 from last month. In AUD terms, though, the return is -1.6% and net worth is off only $A 12,000. In USD terms this is the worst drawdown since the big bear market in the early part of this decade. But in Australian Dollar terms it is nothing remarkable. I lost more in June 2006 for example: -3.3%.

I am sufferring some big losses on investments, however, especially in the Everest Brown and Babcock Hedge Fund of Funds (EBI.AX) and the management company (EBB.AX). The latter has halved from its peak. I really should have sold some when it was so overvalued. I guess irrational exuberance and a dislike of paying taxes overtook me.

As for the fund of funds itself - it trades as a closed end fund on the Australian Stock Exchange and so the stock price can trade at a discount to NAV which is only announced monthly. Undoubtedly some of the hedge funds in the portfolio have suffered losses in the current market conditions. But I doubt this justifies the steep fall in price relative to the end of July net asset value. NAV was $A4.06 on July 31st. Yesterday, the fund traded as low as $A2.48 before ending up.

Many people claim they wish to emulate Warren Buffett and buy like crazy when prices are below intrinsic values. I have been doing some of that in recent weeks but have been wary that prices could fall lower. So I haven't been "buying like crazy". It's hard in practice to actually put such a plan into action when the time comes.

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