Hedge Fund Reaps 66% Gain in Brazil on Oil Rally, Iron Collapse
(Bloomberg) -- A little known Rio de Janeiro-based hedge fund has emerged as a big winner from the crude oil rally and the brutal plunge in iron-ore prices.
The Vista Macro Master fund, with 2.3 billion reais under management ($417 million) is up about 66% in local currency year to date, the best performer among 200 local hedge funds tracked by Bloomberg. The average gain has been of just 6%, while the benchmark CDI posted a 3% increase. Globally, the Bloomberg All Hedge Index is up 9% in the same comparison.
The roller-coaster ride across commodities worked in Vista’s favor after it piled into oil and uranium and correctly bet against metals like iron ore and copper, according to a review of notes sent to clients. Some of the wagers it made over the year include shorting mining stocks like Brazil’s Vale SA, the world’s second-largest iron ore producer. It also piled into U.S. shale and global oil companies.
The Vista fund started betting on oil more than three years ago and expects prices to continue to climb, with the transition away from fossil fuels in developed countries taking longer than anticipated, according to its most recent note. Crude is currently the fund’s biggest position. It’s also bullish on uranium as an alternative to fossil fuels.
Vista has curbed its bet against iron after the recent rout, said a person familiar with the matter, declining to be named. Vista Capital, which manages the fund, declined to comment.
Iron ore prices have tumbled nearly 39% from a July peak while West Texas Intermediate crude oil has surged more than 70% year to date.
Behind Vista Capital is a group of traders mostly in their 30s operating out of a nondescript two-story house on a cobblestone street in Rio. The firm has about 30 employees, with the bulk hailing from other hedge funds in the city. Instead of a beach view, the office faces a small soccer field. It’s named after Vista Chinesa, a viewing deck located close to the firm’s headquarters.
Vista was created by Joao Lopes and Joao Landau in 2014. Last year, the firm announced the arrival of one of Brazil’s most renowned economists as a partner: Persio Arida, a 69-year-old former central bank president who helped mastermind the Plano Real currency stabilization plan. Arida, who also previously served as chief executive officer at Banco BTG Pactual, is Landau’s stepfather.
Joao Landau’s mother, Elena Landau, ran a privatization push in the 1990s while at the BNDES national development bank.
Betting against Brazil has also helped drive returns this year. In early 2021 when local markets still held a rosier view, Vista ramped up bets that higher inflation would force the central bank to raise rates faster-than-expected. They’ve also been skeptical that President Jair Bolsonaro’s reform agenda would get back on track.
The nation’s consumer prices surged to 10.25% in September from a year earlier, the highest since Feb. 2016. That’s prompted the central bank to raise its benchmark Selic rate to 6.25% from 2% since March, one of the most aggressive tightening policies in the world.
In their monthly notes to clients, Vista has said Brazil has “a disastrous environmental policy,” and that the government’s proposed tax overhaul is “is full of inconsistencies.”
Brazilian politics are currently a “noise-generating machine” and next year’s election could only bring a strong recovery to markets if a third candidate emerges, according to the fund. Currently, polls show Bolsonaro and former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva set to face off in a second round.
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