Bill Gross, who recommended shorting the Chinese stock market last month before it plunged, didn’t actually do the trade.
The Shenzhen Composite Index has fallen 38 percent since the famed Janus Capital Group Inc. money manager recommended shorting it last month. Gross chose instead to wager against both the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index and emerging market currencies that would be affected by falling stocks in China. Those trades have worked, he said.
Gross has made two prescient calls on the markets this year, while missing profits from both of them. In April, he recommended the “short of a lifetime” against the German bund and failed to profit even as his prediction came to fruition. He later acknowledged that his forecast was “well-timed but not necessarily well-executed.”
“I was trying to stick to my knitting, and China wasn’t really my knitting,” Gross said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “Having been unrewarded, I guess, on the German bund, I decided to let the public know, but to pursue my standard knitting, which has worked pretty well for the last month-and-a-half. I’m making it back and I’m sort of happy.”
The Shenzhen index had surged more than 100 percent this year through June 3, as China’s stock market benchmark had the world’s biggest rally amid a flood of initial public offerings and record amounts of new investors. The markets have tumbled in the past month, and government support measures are failing to allay concern that investors who borrowed to buy shares will keep unwinding those trades at a record pace.
The best way to bet against Chinese stocks would have been the Deutsche X-trackers Harvest CSI 300 China A-Shares exchange- traded fund, Gross said. He also had sold credit-default swaps tied to China about five months ago, which have widened 15 basis points, he said. He hasn’t traded out of the position because “these days, you’ve got to be careful in terms of liquidity, he said.
‘‘Woulda coulda shoulda,’’ he said. ‘‘Obviously I wish I’d shorted a bunch of shares but that’s the bane of the portfolio manager: never happy.”
In a Bloomberg Television interview, Gross said that shorting an exchange with 60 percent to 70 percent of its stocks frozen “is a dangerous and delicate thing. What we did do and have done is take advantage of other markets that would be affected by China.”