An upstart hedge fund achieved a whopping 163% return last year by betting Fed rate hikes would cause economic chaos, according to a report Wednesday.
Investment manager Neal Berger’s Contrarian Macro Fund, which controls about $200 million in assets, placed bearish bets on stocks and bonds that grew bloated by overzealous investments during a period of lax fiscal policy, according to Bloomberg.
Berger launched the venture — which operates under the umbrella of his larger firm, Eagle’s View Capital Management — in April 2021 based on a hunch that the Federal Reserve would take a hawkish turn with interest rate hikes after years of lenient policy.
“The reason why I started the fund was that central bank flows were going to change 180 degrees. That key difference would be a headwind on all asset prices,” Berger told Bloomberg. “One had to believe that the prices we saw were, to use the academic term, wackadoodle.”
Berger did not comment on the extent of Contrarian’s profits, but Bloomberg obtained an investor document which revealed the 163% return.
The Post has reached out to Berger’s firm for comment.
Berger’s windfall came as the S&P 500 plunged 19.4% last year and other major indices tanked as the Fed unveiled a slate of supersized interest rate hikes. Investors who grew accustomed to a flow of cheap money were crushed as borrowing quickly became more expensive, leading many to dump assets and move to the sidelines.
“The $19 trillion of sovereign debt trading at negative yields, the SPAC boom, the crypto boom, private equity valuations and public equity valuations — they’re all stripes of the same zebra,” Berger told Bloomberg.
Berger signaled he expects the economic turmoil to continue in the near future and will keep the fund’s short bets in place.
“You have your variations, your rallies day-to-day, month-to-month,” Berger added. “But big picture, everything is going down.
Fed Chair Jerome Powell has indicated the interest rate hikes will continue this year – albeit at a slower clip than what occurred in 2022. Policymakers currently see the benchmark funds rate peaking above 5%, up from its current range of 4.25% to 4.50%.
The US economy’s troubles are poised to intensify this year, according to some experts.
As The Post reported, researchers at the St. Louis Fed warned last week that the risk of a nationwide recession has increased as more individual states enter a slowdown.
A total of 27 US states have already shown signs of faltering economic activity – a tally that exceeded the historical threshold at which there would be “reasonable confidence that the national economy entered into a recession,” the researchers said.
Elsewhere, Michael Burry, the hedge fund chief made famous in the 2015 film “The Big Short,” cautioned this week that the US is already in a recession “by any definition.”
The Scion Asset Management boss predicted that inflation will spike again as the Fed cuts interest rates to stimulate economic activity.