Back in the second quarter of 2017, Bloomberg’s Joe Weisenthal suggested on Twitter
that going long assets that journalists flag as bubbles would make for a great exchange-traded fund.
Paul McNamara, who helps oversee $135 billion in assets as investment director at GAM Investments in London, took him up on it — in theory, anyway.
“I plugged a bunch of securities into the Bloomberg Terminal Portfolio function to test how easy it was to make money shorting stuff that ‘everybody knows’ is overvalued,” McNamara explained to MarketWatch on Tuesday.
The portfolio takes long positions in such “overvalued” favorites as Netflix
and, considering McNamara covers emerging markets, the “no-brainer” Argentine century bond.
How did it fare in 2017? As you can see, it surged by almost 80%:
Then 2018 came along, featuring the volatility blow-up and a gap lower for Tesla in the first half of the year. The fund gave back almost a quarter of its value.
With that double-digit drop in the rearview mirror, McNamara just posted an update on how the portfolio is doing so far this year:
Tesla has, indeed, paid off nicely for short sellers, of which there are many, but Netflix and bitcoin have more than made up for it.
All in all, McNamara’s “Bubble Portfolio” has been a winner since inception, having rallied 37% over the past two years.
Still, McNamara acknowledges that “you’d be nuts to buy any of this stuff here,” and that his-number crunching effort is “more defensive intellectual point-scoring by market insiders than an actual investment methodology.”
But if you must look for that contrarian play, he offered this tip
“‘Owned by passionate idiots’ is a much worse thing to short than something ‘owned by people who are leveraged and will face margin calls,’” McNamara said.