Paul Tudor Jones II founded Tudor Investment Corp. in 1980 at the age of 25. Since then this extraordinary investor has never suffered a losing year. His old-school macro approach is built on what he calls tape-reading, which involves analyzing price trends and riding momentum — with an uncanny knack for balancing risk and return — rather than obsessing over the fundamentals, as less intuitive or less self-confident traders might. Jones’s core belief is that often prices move and trends unfold only because of investor behavior (in this he and George Soros are similar). Business schools, Jones laments, are sometimes too steeped in teaching economic postulates and market theory. Through his Robin Hood Foundation, he pours millions of dollars into antipoverty and education programs in New York City. The Memphis-born manager, who began his career as a cotton trader, first made a name for himself in 1987, when he called the market crash and rode a heavy short position in stock index futures to a 201 percent gain. Today he oversees more than $18 billion in assets. Tudor’s flagship BVI Global Fund has returned roughly 23 percent annually since its 1986 inception.Although I haven't researched it, I believe he did end up breaking that "Never a losing year" string last year. He's still one of the best in the business. Here's the interview:
What’s so special about macro hedge fund managers?
I love trading macro. If trading is like chess, then macro is like three-dimensional chess. It is just hard to find a great macro trader. When trading macro, you never have a complete information set or information edge the way analysts can have when trading individual securities. It’s a hell of a lot easier to get an information edge on one stock than it is on the S&P 500. When it comes to trading macro, you cannot rely solely on fundamentals; you have to be a tape reader, which is something of a lost art form. The inability to read a tape and spot trends is also why so many in the relative-value space who rely solely on fundamentals have been annihilated in the past decade. Markets have consistently experienced “100-year events” every five years. While I spend a significant amount of my time on analytics and collecting fundamental information, at the end of the day, I am a slave to the tape and proud of it.
Is it possible to teach someone to be a tape reader — what some might call a trend follower or technical analyst?
Certain people have a greater proclivity for it because they don’t have the need to feel intellectually superior to the crowd. It’s a personality thing. But a lot of it is environmental. Many of the successful macro guys today, they’re all kind of in my age range. They came from that period of crazy volatility of the late ’70s and early ’80s, when the amount of fundamental information available on assets was so limited and the volatility so extreme that one had to be a technician. It’s very hard to find a pure fundamentalist who’s also a very successful macro trader because it is so hard to have a hit rate north of 50 percent. The exceptions are in trading the very front end of interest rate curves or in specializing in just a few commodities or assets....MUCH MOREHT: The Pragmatic Capitalist who highlighted that first question as his teaser. PC also has a link to one of his global macro posts that is worth checking out.
The advantage and disadvantage of global macro is It Is Not Easy. You have to pay attention and you have to understand the interrelationships of many markets and politics and weather and psychology and be facile in both words and numbers and in an ego-driven business be humble enough to learn the lessons the market will teach you.
It really helps to not take yourself too seriously, both to avoid the temptation to impose your will upon the market and to maintain enough perspective to spot opportunities ahead of the crowd.
Because global macro isn't easy the rewards can be tremendous.