Be Like Jim Chanos With These ETFs
Today is a very good to be famed short-seller Jim Chanos, the founder and president of Kynikos Associates, a $6 billion hedge fund. Shares of Dow component Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ), one of Chanos's short positions, are off 12 percent on news that the company is writing down $8.8 billion of the $9.7 billion it paid for Autonomy last year due to what HP is deeming accounting fraud by that company.
The Hewlett-Packard short is just the latest in a long line of successes for Chanos and Kynikos and the trade underscores an important fact about Chanos. He is adept at spotting accounting issues. After all, he famously shorted Enron before the company spectacularly fell to pieces in what was, at the time, the largest corporate bankruptcy in U.S. history.
However, directly shorting stocks is not for everyone. There is unlimited risk and margin costs. Fortunately, there are several ETFs that investors can use to mimic some of Chanos's current shorts.
Direxion Daily Technology Bear 3X Shares (NYSE: TECS) Since the Direxion Daily Technology Bear 3X Shares is a triple-leveraged fund, this is not the type of ETF that should be turned into a long-term investment. Costs associated with rolling swaps, options and other derivatives that give these types of ETFs their leverage eventually eat away at investors' returns.
However, triple-leveraged ETFs, when properly used, make for excellent short-term trades. TECS seeks to deliver three times the daily inverse performance of the S&P Technology Select Sector Index. That is the index tracked by the Technology Select Sector SPDR (NYSE: XLK). That ETF just happens to be home to Hewlett-Packard and Dell (NASDAQ: DELL), two Chanos shorts.
ProShares UltraShort MSCI Brazil (NYSE: BZQ) This double-leveraged equivalent of the iShares MSCI Brazil Index Fund (NYSE: EWZ) helps investors kill two Chanos birds with one stone. Simply put, Chanos is not a fan of Petrobras (NYSE: PBR) and Vale (NYSE: VALE). He said as much at the Ira Sohn Conference on Monday.
Chanos called Petrobras, Brazil's state-controlled oil firm, and Vale, the world's largest iron producer, two of his favorite shorts. Various securities issued by those two companies combine for 26 percent of EWZ's weight. Said another way, being long BZQ is arguably more efficient and less risky than directly shorting Petrobras and Vale.
ProShares UltraShort FTSE China 25 (NYSE: FXP) The ProShares UltraShort FTSE China 25 is the China equivalent of BZQ and the double-leveraged inverse answer to the popular iShares FTSE China 25 Index Fund (NYSE: FXI). Chanos has long been bearish on China and while that view is expressed through individual names, any broader bearishness in Chinese equities should be good news for FXP.
As of September, China-related bets made up about 20 percent of the positions in Chanos's global short fund, according to Bloomberg.
iShares MSCI Spain Index Fund (NYSE: EWP) If Chanos is correct in his bear call on Banco Santander (NYSE: SAN), the iShares MSCI Spain Index Fund is probably in for more downside. The ETF devotes nearly 22 percent of its weight to the embattled Spanish banking giant.
Additionally, problems for Banco Santander will be perceived as problems for the Spanish financial services sector at large. That sector accounts for 41 percent of EWP's weight. The issue here is that EWP is a traditional long ETF, meaning investors will either need to short the fund or purchase put options to mirror Chanos in this example.
For more on Chanos's shorts, click here.
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