HYBRID VIGOR VOL 2 ISSUE 30: Tripped Up

Talk about a pain in the ass. My wife and I picked up our daughters from summer camp in Vermont over the weekend. On the way back we stopped at the Timex Museum in Waterbury, Connecticut. It’s surprisingly worthwhile, and it’s closing at the end of the year, so if you’ve ever thought about going, now’s the time. Ba-dum-dum.

If you go, pay a little more attention to your surroundings than I did. I tripped over one of the exhibits and pulled a muscle where I sit. A real pain in the you-know-what.

Speaking of pains, the market’s been giving investors and traders plenty of them lately. Convertibles appear to be cheapening a bit—a relative term, to be sure—not an unusual occurrence this time of year. But trading from the short side is no picnic—witness the difficulty of borrowing in Illumina convertibles, which continue to lead the Ugly 20. Figuring out how to manage China has been just as tricky—some weeks Chinese paper has damaged portfolios, and others it’s saved them. As we go to press the market’s reeling from last night’s 8.5% mini-crash in Shanghai.

What about investors who’ve tried to make money in health insurers? Buy the rumor and sell the news, that old standby, seems to have been the way to go. It seems obvious in retrospect that the deals may have been too big, too subject to scrutiny, and too tricky to trade—at least in the short term. Then again, perhaps the opportunity is there for those who pick up the pieces now.

One of our readers pointed out that, unlike many previous years, there’s been very little convertible issuance this year by companies in laggard industries. The Whiting Petroleum deal, which weighed down the HOCS 20 last week, is one of the few exceptions. As a result, outright convertible performance has been reasonably good, reducing the natural redemption pressure we might normally expect in a tricky market. We’ll see how the rest of the year plays out.

I often preach embracing uncertainty—easier said than done, for me and nearly everyone else. The horse who seized the chance(s) of a lifetime in a lifetime of chance, American Pharoah, will be at the Jersey shore this weekend, and I’ll be there with my family to see him. Hopefully some readers of Hybrid Vigor will make it as well.

(This is the cover letter for the subscription-based weekly Hillside's Hybrid Vigor newsletter. For a complete copy, please contact John Anderson at + 1 (646) 712-9289 x 107).