This investor's fund returned 15% in a bad year for stocks. He shares his playbook and bets for 2023
2022 was a bad year for stocks around the world: Both the S & P 500 and MSCI World index were down nearly 20% for the year. Yet one Asia veteran investor managed to return around 15% for his fund, the Asia Genesis Macro Fund. Singapore-based investor Chua Soon Hock, founder and chief investment officer at Asia Genesis Asset Management, tells CNBC Pro about his best trades last year that contributed to his fund's performance — and what he's betting on this year. He said markets are likely to trade in a range this year, meaning they're unlikely to rise or drop a lot. In such a scenario, traders need to be "contrarian," he said, describing the investing strategy of betting against market trends. Best and worst trades Chua relied on a lot of short selling to carry him through 2022. When an investor sells a stock "short," they borrow shares from a broker and sell them in hopes of buying the stock back later at a lower price . It's a tactic that works best when the broader market is hurting. Here are his short trades and how they performed. Shorting the Japanese yen against the U.S. dollar: That made 4.4% in profits for the year. Shorting US Treasury long bond futures initially in the first half of 2022, then turning long momentarily in the third quarter. This strategy netted gains of 2%. His long trades included U.S. stocks, which contributed 13% in gains, as well as trying to time the Hong Kong market's bottom. The latter was his worst trade — it lost 1.9%, he said. Other trades with gains included Japanese, Indian and Chinese stocks. What he's betting on in 2023 Chua told CNBC Pro he wants to keep last year's strategy of shorting the yen. He said the yen will likely weaken from the recent low of around 128 to 145 by the end of the year. The yen had strengthened after the the Bank of Japan in December unexpectedly widened its target range for 10-year Japanese government bond yields by tweaking its yield curve control policy. But the yen weakened again against the dollar in January after the Bank of Japan surprised markets by keeping its yield curve tolerance band and interest rates unchanged. But Chua says that ultimately, the country's central bank can't afford to adjust its policy too much. "I don't think even when Japan changes policy, there will be much change to the interest rate because they have to be very careful," he said. "The Bank of Japan has very little flexibility because they have such a huge debt which they need to finance." Chua also said there's value in short-duration Treasury bills of between three months to one year while long maturities of 10 years or longer are a "poor proposition." "So I think there's a higher chance that the T-bonds — 10-year, 20-year — will be weak. Prices should go down not because there's a lot of change in monetary policy," he said. "The bond market players are expecting a recession." He added that he expects investors will continue to see higher yields for the 10-year in particular.
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Fri, Mar 31 2023 - 1:30pm