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Aug 17, 2020

George Soros went against the flow as fast money ditched credit ETF

George Soros, billionaire and founder of Soros Fund Management LLC, speaks at an event on day three of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018. World leaders, influential executives, bankers and policy makers attend the 48th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos from Jan. 23 - 26. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

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While hedge funds largely rejected the age-old adage “don’t fight the Federal Reserve” in the second quarter, there were a few notable exceptions.

Soros Fund Management, the family office of billionaire investor George Soros, boosted its holdings of BlackRock Inc.’s iShares iBoxx US$ Investment Grade Corporate Bond exchange-traded fund, ticker LQD, by US$161 million in the period, regulatory filings as of June 30 show. That was the biggest bet among US$534 million of fast-money inflows, with Moore Capital’s US$109 million investment ranking second.

Still, the majority of fund managers pulled money from LQD even after the Fed announced in late March that it would purchase corporate bonds and eligible ETFs. Trading effectively froze across bond markets during the height of March’s coronavirus-fueled turmoil, but the Fed’s backstop sparked a torrid rally that sent billions into corporate bond ETFs. Despite the surge, hedge funds yanked US$1.87 billion from LQD -- the largest credit ETF -- with Elliott Investment Management’s US$468 million exit and Ken Griffin’s Citadel’s US$341 million reduction leading the outflows.

For Soros and other funds that piled in, the investment has paid off: LQD has climbed nearly 20 per cent since the Fed announced its support on March 23. The central bank has purchased US$8.7 billion worth of ETFs through July 31 after starting the facility in mid-May, according its latest disclosures, and is now the second-largest holder in the US$56 billion LQD.

“The purchases are due to the fact that it is the corporate bond ETF the Fed is buying most aggressively,” said Michael O’Rourke, chief market strategist at JonesTrading. “This is a market largely driven by liquidity and flows, as opposed to fundamentals.”