Michael Hasenstab fund loses $3 billion in a miserable quarter

Total net assets dropped from $33 billion to $30 billion in the three months through September

Oct 16, 2019 @ 1:16 pm

By Bloomberg News

Franklin Templeton's flagship Global Bond Fund lost $3 billion in the third quarteras two of its biggest investments soured.

Total net assets in the fund managed by star investor Michael Hasenstab dropped from $33 billion to $30 billion in the three months through September, according to public filings.

The fund was heavily invested in Argentinian local-currency bonds which defaulted in August. It was also holding a huge short position on U.S. Treasuries as yields dropped to a three-year low.

It's not the first time Mr. Hasenstab, who oversees more than $100 billion and made his name staking large sums on contrarian trades, has been wrong-footed. But he's rarely been caught in two poorly-performing bets at the same time. Morningstar Inc. said in August it would stick to its top analyst rating for his fund despite the barrage of bad news because of its track record of picking winners in the long term.

The fund has returned 2.4% in the past three years, Bloomberg data show.

Mr. Hasenstab has consistently argued that economic strength in the U.S. will make today's low-yielding bonds less attractive, especially if consumer prices start to rise. He also predicted — like many other investors — that former Argentinian President Mauricio Macri would win reelection this year and continue to pursue policies aimed at curbing the budget deficit and stabilizing the currency.

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Templeton's Global Bond Fund has underperformed more than 80% of peers this year, losing 1% compared with a return of about 7% from Treasuries.

Average duration in the fund, a measure of sensitivity to shifts in rates, increased to minus 1.39 years as of the end of September, the filings show. At the end of June, it was a record low of minus 2.82 years.

A spokesman for Franklin Templeton didn't immediately comment when contacted by Bloomberg.

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